With the hustle and the bustle of the holiday season underway, there’s one thing consumers might not be thinking about — whether they’re shopping online or in store — as they rush to pick up those last-minute gifts.


But rest assured, says Carolyn Balfany, SVP and payments expert at MasterCard, “there is good news for those who have not willingly shopped since Dec. 2014.” She shared her take with PYMNTS on what’s changed this holiday shopping season and how consumers and merchants can benefit from the security upgrades.

That, of course, is what she calls the “secure, tech savvy” ways to pay that have gone mainstream. New cards (chip-enabled) and devices have come equipped with tokenization in order to keep those payment details safe.

So, what to do instead? She jubilantly writes: “Curl up by the fire and catch up on the trends, oh shopping Grinches, and see if we can’t get visions of shorter lines, faster payments and improved security dancing in your heads.”

Who in the payments space wouldn’t want that wrapped in a bow under the tree?

EMV For The Holidays

But alas, there are still some major changes that consumers have noticed in the past two months. For one, shoppers are asked, in some cases, to dip instead of swipe. EMV chip cards “tipped” to over 50 percent of U.S. credit and debit cards since last holiday season. 

In fact, Balfany noted that, as of Nov. 1, over 676,000 merchant locations have chip-enabled terminals, which includes 611,000 local businesses. But EMV isn’t the only new security offering gracing the market this season. 

Removing Friction With Tap-And-Go

Faster payments also mean faster lines, of course. Balfany points to the tap-and-go contactless payment cards that are being used for low-risk, high-volume purchases (sandwiches and coffee). 

“Technology has been applied to enable the use of these cards for everyday purchases, but that doesn’t mean the payments are less secure. Oftentimes, when you are tapping, it is still a ‘chip grade’ transaction being created, and fraud monitoring is still applied from the network,” she explains.

Deck The Halls With … Mobile, Mobile and Mobile

The year 2014 set the stage for mobile, but mobile payments have taken center stage this year, Balfany said. This means consumers are equipped with many ways to securely load their credit, debit and select prepaid cards, pay in-store via NFC-enabled terminals and verify their purchases with fingerprints, PINs, signatures or, sometimes, nothing.

“From Apple Pay and Android Pay to the Capital One Wallet and Samsung Pay, these latest mobile payment solutions are secured using tokenization — replacing your account data with unique, random codes, like chip cards,” she wrote. “With these layers of security, the device is uniquely identified, and the individual purchases are totally unique. For consumers and merchants alike, every purchase made with a tokenized MasterCard credit, debit, prepaid or small business card offers a new layer of security and the same security benefits as any MasterCard transaction.”

For Those Who Don’t Want Bricks — There’s Clicks

Besides mobile, the other buzzword this holiday shopping season is mobile (more and more of which is being done using mobile). 

“Buy buttons,” like MasterCard’s MasterPass, help shoppers more easily move through checkout online, Balfany noted. Digital wallet popularity, she said, is on the rise and has helped consumers eliminate the friction of needing to click through multiple screens to enter payment information.

“Online shopping becomes even more popular during commuting hours or to knock out gifts as the idea strikes you,” she wrote.

And for those consumers who are fearful of security issues this holiday shopping season, Balfany iterates that MasterCard’s ID Theft Resolution helps cardholders restore their identity if accounts are compromised — providing them with that zero liability promise.

Leaving us with a few final thoughts, Balfany writes: “Holiday shopping may never be fun for the retail-averse, but new technologies can make it less painful, more efficient and safer than ever before … and maybe even a little cool.”

balfany250Carolyn Balfany | MasterCard | Group Head, U.S. Product Delivery 

Carolyn Balfany is group head, U.S. Product Delivery for MasterCard Worldwide. Ms. Balfany has led the development and management of the Product Delivery function since 2005 and continues to be responsible for the team of experts that guide MasterCard issuers, merchants and processors through the successful implementation of MasterCard products and services. Her responsibilities include the delivery of all Consumer Credit, Debit, Commercial, Prepaid and Innovations Platforms solutions within the U.S. Markets.

Prior to moving into U.S. Markets, Ms. Balfany held the position of vice president, MasterCard Rewards Services with MasterCard Advisors. As a founding member of the unit, Ms. Balfany managed the strategic development of product offerings and alliances, generating incremental business opportunities and revenue streams in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and Europe. Ms. Balfany also managed new program implementations and existing client programs.

Ms. Balfany has over 22 years of experience in the payments industry and with MasterCard Worldwide. During her career with MasterCard, she has managed call center operations, directed the development of core Emergency Services offered on all MasterCard cards worldwide and played a key role in the definition and startup of new programs and services, including the MasterCard Rewards System. She is well-versed in solid internal business case development for new initiatives and has served as a consultant to other MasterCard units in this capacity. Ms. Balfany has led the successful expansion of programs into other regions by leveraging her diverse knowledge of solutions definition, project management and general industry experience crossing many functional units.

Ms. Balfany was named in the St. Louis Business Journal’s Forty under Forty in 2000. Ms. Balfany is active in a number of community organizations, including Washington University, the local school district and Junior Achievement. 

Ms. Balfany holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis. 



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