We’re living in a very exciting time in the world of payments. All across the industry – from security to efficiency to ease of use – companies are pushing the technological envelope to develop innovative payments solutions to meet the demands of consumers and serve as the engine that powers the country’s economy. And these innovations are coming at us fast. 

The rollout of EMV chip cards, which gained steam last year, has the potential to virtually eliminate counterfeit card fraud at the point of sale – a crime that accounts for the majority of all credit card fraud. Already, 70 plus percent of Americans have at least one chip card in their wallet.


New mobile payment solutions like Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Android Pay are being introduced constantly. By harnessing the power of smart phone technology, these services are providing new secure choices for consumers, by taking steps like using biometrics to verify your identity or “tokenizing” your information, which makes it useless to a criminal who tries to steal it.

These innovations are being driven by the desire to improve security and meet the demands of consumers who want to choose the payment methods that works best for them. In fact, new research from Morning Consult revealed that 82 percent of voters surveyed believe customers should have a choice in what type of payment technology they want to use. Additionally, 75 percent of voters said stores and retailers should accept as many different types of payment technology as possible.

And yet, instead of giving consumers the choices and security they want, many retailers have chosen to drag their heels and slow roll the implementation of new technology, in an effort to make a few extra bucks. Last year, some merchants turned off Apple Pay to protect their own proprietary solutions, while others decided to turn off chip readers during the holidays, eliminating a secure option for consumers.

Not only are retailers limiting consumers’ options today, but their political advocacy is limiting options in the future. Instead of pushing for an ‘all of the above’ approach to security, retail trade associations are putting all of their “chips” down on mandating PIN authentication, a technology that is already becoming outdated.  Just last week, the National Association of Convenience Stores launched an advertising campaign calling for a PIN mandate.

While some retailers claim that PIN can somehow eliminate all fraud, the truth is, it is far from a panacea.  PIN’s biggest challenge is that is a static data element, which makes it vulnerable to theft, and the criminals know it. In fact, a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that debit PIN fraud rates increased more than threefold 2004 and 2012.

Instead of reducing consumer choice by mandating a single authentication method – PIN – that is already becoming obsolete, we should embrace the idea that different technologies resolve different problems.

For example, when it comes to stopping people from making purchases at the register with counterfeit cards (which makes up 2/3 of all card fraud) EMV chip are the right tool.  The chips make it nearly impossible for stolen data to be used to conduct fraudulent transactions. But when it comes to stopping online fraud or keeping criminals from stealing customers’ information in the first place, the answer isn’t PIN or even EMV.  It is providing layered solutions that can work in concert with the EMV chip like tokenization, end-to-end encryption and biometrics that retailers should prioritize.

Innovation is an opportunity to provide enhanced security while also affording customers more choices. Whether you are concerned about consumers’ preferences or the need for enhanced cybersecurity, we need merchants to look towards the future and implement modern payments solutions that give the consumers the choice they want and provide the security that they deserve.

Wilkinson is the executive director of Electronic Payments Coalition.