Swipe or Dip?

Many local businesses are currently navigating the future of credit card technology

These days, paying with a credit card presents a dilemma: Do you swipe or dip?

As a growing number of Westchester merchants transition from accepting traditional magnetic stripe credit cards to chip, or EMV, cards, shoppers may find themselves fumbling to pay the right way. But for local merchants, the stakes are higher than an awkward moment at the register: Switching to EMVs is about cost versus security.

Chips provide “the security of a computer  embedded in the payment card,” says Philip Andreae, a vice president at Oberthur Technologies, a global digital-security company with expertise in EMV. 

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Although chip technology has been around for 15 to 20 years, it still hasn’t reached peak adoption here at home, explains Chiro Aikat, senior vice president of product delivery, EMV at MasterCard in Purchase. “The US is one of the last markets to migrate to chip technology,” he notes. 

There’s been no mandate from governments or banks for businesses to adopt EMV, Aikat says, but there are motivations — like policies that heighten fraud liability if merchants don’t accept chip cards. There’s also the matter of cost. EMV chip readers generally cost between $200 and $400 each, which can add up for merchants with multiple locations using multiple machines. Many options are turnkey and simply require new software, but for businesses with complex point-of-sale locations, new hardware may also be in order. 

“We have not only seen the big guys — the WalMarts, Targets, or Macy’s — enable the chip,” Aikat says, discussing growing adoption over the past year, “[Millions of adoptions] represent local and regional merchants.” 

One of those regional merchants is DeCicco & Sons, whose six gourmet supermarkets dot Westchester and Putnam. “All DeCicco & Sons locations currently accept chip cards,” says DeCicco’s IT director, Paul Heskestad, who estimates a total pricetag of $75K for upgrading to EMV cards. “We range from 6 to 11 registers per store, so cost, excluding customer chargebacks, ranged from $9,652.40 to $16,029.40 per location.

“These technologies will help combat fraud, so while they’re slower and a bit more cumbersome, customers generally understand why it’s become necessary,” he adds.  

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Rockwood & Perry Fine Wine & Spirits, on Warburton Avenue in Hastings-on-Hudson, is still waiting to upgrade. Rockwood’s credit-card processing company hasn’t switched to EMVs, explains Peter Rockwood, the shop’s president. 

“Anything that can help us avoid fraudulent activity is good,” he says. “I’d like to have more protection.” 

A couple miles up the road in Dobbs Ferry is the 83-year-old Rochambeau Wines & Liquors. General Manager Jeffrey Wooddy notes it’s often a merchant’s discerning eye, not chips or stripes, that spots fraud.

“If somebody is buying big jugs of liquor, and they look like they can’t afford it and pull out a Platinum American Express card — chances are that’s not a Platinum American Express card,” Wooddy says.

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