NFC & EMV: Payment or Painment?

Over the last couple of months I have been using the new Android Pay as well as started to experience increasingly frequent use of credit card EMV payment process during retail purchases. This experience has brought up a thought…….Will the smartcard EMV adoption in the US actually help accelerate phone-based NFC payment use?

Let me explain. I have been using Google Wallet NFC pay for couple years now, at least in the locations supporting this technology. Not the smoothest and most reliable experience, but for a techie it is (when it works!) certainly more convenient, faster and more secure than using mag-stripe card payment. Now that Android Pay replaced Google Wallet, the experience seems to be smoother (when it works!), although in the heterogeneous Android environment you just never know what type of experience your combination of hardware and OS may surprise you with. In any case, Android Pay seems to be an honest effort by Google to get closer to Apple Pay, which is the benchmark for NFC phone payments.

Over the last 6 months  nearly all my payment cards have gotten replaced with the chipped EMV versions. Over the last couple of weeks I have also started to use them in the actual smartcard readers which are now available and enabled at major retailers. I am going to ignore the confusion this transition is causing about when and where you as a customer use the smartcard payment process versus our Pavlovian habit of mag(or mad) stripe swiping. This will wear off as we get used to the new process (eventually….). So I am going to focus on just my personal experience with the EMV card payment process.

After hours of wondering isles and chambers of a retail dungeon, and picking something you want to take home, you finally make it to the checkout, get your $total$, and it is time to pay. You correctly identify this payment will take place in the new mysterious slot, usually on the bottom of the payment terminal and insert your card. Message flashes up with some instructions on the payment terminal. Instinctually, flashing or change on the screen could mean to someone (like me) that what needed to happen, happened, and it is time to yank the card and get out of dodge. Sorry, transaction cancelled. On to Round 2 – repeat inserting but this time you actually have to concentrate on this Minecraft resolution display and read what it actually says, like “while the bla blab la blah blah blah bla, do not take your card out…”. Ahhhhhh, I see what happened. So we stand and wait….. All of a sudden signature window shows up, time to yank the card, sign, and get out of dodge. Sorry, transaction cancelled. Damn it! On to Round 3 – fast forward to signature, but DO NOT touch the card. Sign aaaaaand wait. Wait, wait a little more. And finally again whole bunch of instructions in a Minecraft font telling you that “Bla Bla Bla Blah done Blab la Blah blah  remove your card!” By now what you bought is out of warranty and someone else moved into what used to be your home. I feel secure about my payment, but am ready for assisted living.

Even if you get this routine all correct the first time around, it feels like you are waiting for a home mortgage approval. Today’s consumers, especially in America (me in the top 10) are after convenience (or lazy…). NFC contactless phone payment, when it works, is like the difference between power windows and manual wind down windows.

So maybe EMV finally arriving in North America will be the best thing that ever happened to NFC payment. Someone just needs to teach all the Android smartphone users what it is… Apple has been doing a decent job.

What do you think? Tell us @gototags

-Jan Svoboda