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Magstripe cards, feet and inches

Week 19, 2009

Europe has achieved a high level of success in switching to EMV cards, and many countries in the world are going into the same direction: Malaysia, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Venezuela, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, South Africa, and many countries in Africa and in the Middle East.

At the same time, Americans feel they are considered as cavemen when they travel in Europe with their magstripe-only cards. Many shop attendants do not even remember magstripe cards exist, try to insert customers’ cards in the smart card slot, and are surprised when they get an error message. When they know magstripe cards exist, they may not know how to use them, whether to require a signature, or to check the customer’s ID. Also many automats in Europe, accept only Chip-and-PIN cards. For instance, an American reports he was not able to buy a train ticket during the week end as his card was not supported by an automat, and the ticket office was not manned during the week end. The same kind of issue arises when travelers are faced with a fully automated gas station that only accepts Chip and PIN cards.

Maybe, as Americans increasingly face this kind of issue, they will increase the pressure on their issuing banks to be given Chip and PIN cards.

Alternately, the deployment of contactless cards may be faster in the US than in the rest of the world, and lead to the installation of a contactless infrastructure at each point of payment. Then, once the acceptance infrastructure is in place, this will open an avenue for NFC projects.

Then, in a near future, Europeans may be facing the reverse situation when they travel to the US with their contact credit cards, and only find contactless readers.

Thierry Spanjaard

Chief Editor

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