Visa, Account Identifiers and EMV Acceptance

Sometimes Visa can’t get out of their own way.  In June 2016, Visa issued attempted to “clarify” merchant policies and in the process managed to slow down EMV adoption, anger merchants and frustrate consumers.  Nicely done.

The EMV chip on your Visa, Mastercard or Discover contains two account identifiers (AIDs).  The AID provides information necessary to route the transaction across a payment network.  Two standards exist:  a global AIDs and the US Common Debit AIDs.

  • Global AIDs allow access to only one of the global payment networks.
  • The US Common standard allows access to all US debit networks enabled by the issuer.  There are many payment networks in the US including:  AFFN, ATH, CO-OP, Jeanie, NETS, NYCE, Presto!, PULSE, SHAZAM, and STAR.

The general approach in the industry based on Dodd-Frank regulations is to use the US Common standard for all debit transactions inside the US and the global AIDs for all cross-border transactions.

As EMV terminals rolled out in 2013,  the goal was to permit continued competition and choice by allowing a merchant to choose between global AIDs and US Common standards for routing debit card traffic.

Fast-forward to June 2016.  Does this screen look familiar?


The Visa debit choice required a signature and routed your debit card across Visa’s global AID, overriding the merchant debit payment network.

The bottom line here, like most bottom lines, comes down to money.  Payment networks charge fees.  More use, more fees.

Consumer frustration and complaints to the FTC helped nudge Visa back in the direction of fair competition.    Visa had to back-track in November, 2016.  Read the statement HERE.     You should no longer find the screen prompts in use.




Pin Pads in the Wild #4

Located at favorite seafood vendor.  The owner of the operation offered thoughtful points on why the machines are sometimes more of a hindrance than a help.

  1. The machines are difficult to set for dual chip/no-chip authorization.  Currently, her machine is set to chip which means she a) needs to pay for a second line, machine for non-chip holders or b) send non-chip card customers away.
  2. The pin pads are not set for visually impaired customers.  The machine on the left has a single raised orientation dot on the number 5.  Plus, the raised rubber gets worn with use and leaving the choice to either do nothing or buy a new machine. Guess what businesses do. Similar to the reports of many visually impaired customers, the owner reports her staff frequently end up asking for and entering the user’s pin.   In her words, “how secure is that?”
  3. Authorization times are longer.   Chip/pin authorization is longer than using the slide method.  The owner reckons it could be her bank – Chase – but anecdotal experience suggests she’s onto something.  I suspect it’s the software.  The code for the chip reader was likely just bolted on to an existing program and that situation is always clunky at best.
  4. Visa and MasterCard have different protocols.  If you have a chip-only machine with a bank issued MasterCard branded debit card, the protocol will **only** accept the card as a debit card.  Visa branded debit cards will go as either debit or credit.  Why is this a big deal?  Debit means entering a pin, which means more time;  debit means visually impaired customers run into the pad button location issue; and, debit means the machine needs to be handed to the customer and passed back to the staff (an ergonomic issue due to counter height, display case width).

The owner agrees that a standardized process is sorely needed.


Pin Pads in the Wild #3

Typical pad at Giant Eagle.  Issues?  Let me count the ways:

  1.  Situated very low. Inserting the card into the chip reader is awkward.
  2. “Insert or slide” is inaccurate.  For most transactions the mantra is Thou Shalt Not Slide.  But there are no clear directions until the consumer performs an action the machine dislikes.
  3. If you need to sign, the position is awkward and any pressure on the screen pushes the entire structure in the vertical direction.
  4. If you need to enter your PIN, the position is awkward.  I think I’m detecting a pattern here.

Cash anyone?  The prime reason for the lot of ergonomic an procedural deficiencies is the layered nature of the technology.  The checkout lane is old, the Windows (they just updated to Windows 7 not too long ago)* system came next, then the card reader and so on.


*Don’t laugh.  Mid-2016 I was in a Levin furniture that used XP for customer credit entry kiosk systems.  The system had zero security.  And people wonder why they get hacked.