Why SMBs Aren’t Ready For EMV

As the EMV-liability shift inches closer, the real question will be whether or not businesses are ready for the change. And as most surveys have show, most small businesses won’t be.

The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business index survey pinpoints the reason why: most aren’t even aware of the Oct. 1 liability shift deadline. In fact, the SMB survey showed that less than half (49 percent) of business owners who accept point-of-sale card payments are aware of the deadline. Of course, financial institutions are racing to get those EMV chip-enabled cards in the market, but it appears that a majority of businesses won’t be equipped to take advantage of the technology.

Of those businesses that accept POS card payments, just 31 percent of those surveyed said their payments processor can accept chip-enabled cards. Convincing merchants that upgrading their terminals has been one of the biggest pain points for payment companies since merchants have expressed not wanting to make the shift due to cost.

In that same survey, 29 percent of business owners do intend to make the change before the deadlines, and 34 percent said they will do so eventually. But 21 percent also responded that they never plan to make the EMV shift.

"While our industry has made great progress in the last year informing and preparing small business owners for the EMV liability shift, the survey findings show us that we have more work to do,” said Debra Rossi, head of Wells Fargo Merchant Services. “At Wells Fargo we continue to focus on providing business owners the support they need to get ready – from reaching out to business owners who are directly impacted to offering a wide array of resources that help business owners understand EMV, its benefits and the impact of the upcoming liability shift."

Business owners are also divided on whether or not they believe EMV will actually reduce fraud. The survey results show that 42 percent think it will improve protection, but 42 percent also do not believe it will help.

The reasons listed as to why some merchants are making the shift include:

  • 48 percent feel that upgrading their payment terminal will not impact their business.
  • 46 percent do not want to pay for the costs associated with upgrading.
  • 41 percent are not concerned about the liability shift in the case of fraud.

Regardless of if they plan to upgrade to EMV or not, the small businesses that were surveyed had one thing in common: Cash and check is still their preferred payment method.

According to the survey:

  • 94 percent of small business owners say they accept check or cash as a method of payment.
  • 41 percent of business owners surveyed accept debit card payments and 35 percent accept point-of-sale credit card payments.
  • 15 percent take payments in-person via a mobile-enabled credit card reader.
  • 25 percent accept payments online via credit card and 19 percent say that their business accepts online payments through a payment provider such as PayPal or Google Checkout.

To check out what else is HOT in the world of payments, click here.


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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The July 2019 Pay Advances: The Gig Economy’s New Normal, a PYMNTS and Mastercard collaboration, examines pay advances – full or partial payments received before an ad hoc job is completed – including how gig workers currently use them and their potential for future adoption.

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