Payment Methods

MasterCard Expands EMV Self-Certification Program

It’s been a tough road on the way to EMV terminal deployment here in the U.S.

The move has been complicated by the combination of most merchants getting a very late start to the EMV process – the Target breach was what many merchants considered their official starting line despite announcements by the card networks years earlier – and a complicated certification process that’s been tough for some merchants to navigate.

And even though there’s been some forward progress: 1 million-plus merchants in the U.S. that are already taking chip cards and roughly 300 million cards out in the field, the merchant acceptance side needs some relief to close the gap between merchants without EMV terminals that want them (or merchants with them that have not yet activated the terminals) and acquirers who must test and then certify that those merchants with those terminals are ready to accept chip cards for payment.

To that end, MasterCard is announcing today that it is reducing the volume of tests that it requires of terminals before bringing them into the field as certified to enable chip card payments.  In addition, MasterCard will modify its chargeback policy to limit the number of chargebacks that issuers can shift to each merchant, with no difference between card-present fraud or card-not-present fraud in terms of liability protections.

In an interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, MasterCard SVP Chiro Aikat, who looks after MasterCard’s product delivery operations, said that MasterCard is introducing a level of flexibility into the certification process that allows merchants to choose at least some of the testing that they do to ensure compliance and readiness to accept chip card transactions.

“What we are saying,” said Aikat, “is that [MasterCard tests] are now the recommended practice, and not the requirement. Merchants can have all of the testing … or they can look at what they can do on their own.” The only real test, he added, is that the quality of the transaction, in terms of speed and security, remain up to industry standards.

For VARs, said the executive, MasterCard is offering additional resources that will let VARs choose ideal terminal configurations and also give them enhanced ability to troubleshoot issues in the field, including timely documentation surrounding terminals that are not working properly.

It is important to streamline in order to get as many merchants running EMV terminals as possible, stated Aikat. In MasterCard’s case, the winnowing down processes has been a way to revamp the self-certification program that was put in place about 18 months ago and offered by MasterCard to its merchants. Aikat said that MasterCard “moved to reduce the test cases by 58 percent,” and the end result is that certification, as measured by length of time to approval, can move “from a couple of weeks to a couple of hours.” In the end, it will be up to the acquirers to determine just when the terminals are ready to be deployed and ready to begin accepting payments via chip cards.

MasterCard, in its push to give merchants the ability to tailor, to some extent, their own certification processes, has decided to do so in a market that Aikat said has been showing “a level of maturity and readiness” to embrace alternative forms of testing and processing that may speed merchant acceptance of the chip cards. Thus far, the company has said, 70 percent of all MasterCard branded consumer credit cards are chip cards, a threshold that marks a 58-percent increase in the marketplace since the October 2015 deadline passed.



The pressure on banks to modernize their payments capabilities to support initiatives such as ISO 20022 and instant/real time payments has been exacerbated by the emergence of COVID-19 and the compelling need to quickly scale operations due to the rapid growth of contactless payments, and subsequent increase in digitization. Given this new normal, the need for agility and optimization across the payments processing value chain is imperative.

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