Last week, Visa announced a milestone of sorts: It has shipped one million EMV cards in the U.S. as of Dec. 31, 2011. That is a drop in the bucket compared to the 650 million Visa cards currently in use in the U.S. And obviously it pales in comparison to the number of EMV cards throughout much of the rest of the world, where it is the standard card type.
But perhaps this will only be the beginning, and adoption of EMV will grow exponentially in America over the next few years.
Proponents of EMV say it is more secure than the mag-stripe cards in use throughout the U.S. today. Further, EMV advocates say widespread adoption will also benefit American travelers abroad, as it would create more card payment interoperability among countries. Several U.S. banks, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and JP Morgan Chase have already begin issuing EMV cards to select customers who travel internationally.
Others argue that while EMV might help curb POS fraud, it could lead to a rise in other types of fraud. Then there's the issue of adoption. EMV won't become the dominant card type in the U.S. unless all the card schemes come together with a unified plan, and the merchants have to be on board as well. Visa is looking at a hard deadline of 2015 for EMV adoption. MasterCard, while offering its own roadmap for EMV, has not issued a mandate for adoption.
Ultimately, I don't believe EMV will be like the metric system: Used everywhere in the world other than the U.S. I think it will be adopted here sooner rather than later, and we will soon begin to see the card schemes and merchant groups coming together and putting forth unified plans for EMV implementation.