The way you pay for things at the register is set for a change this fall. After a string of high-profile data breaches, U.S. stores and credit card companies are finally pushing to switch from antiquated magnetic-strip cards to more secure cards with chips in them.
For consumers, this will eventually mean learning how to use the new cards — it's more of a dip than a swipe — and having a little extra patience as their fellow shoppers do the same. But behind the scenes, it's a potentially costly switch for retailers, which could be on the hook for damages from a breach if they don't upgrade their equipment. (So could card companies, which is why you may have received a new card in the mail recently.)
That spooks a lot of businesses, particularly smaller ones, many of which don't feel prepared to install new register technology or deal with the ramifications from a possible breach. Even more don't even know about the change, as my Post colleague Amrita Jayakumar reported. To help small businesses navigate this shift, Square has promised to cover any charges incurred from a breach — as long as the small business has preordered its latest reader.
The company had already announced that it would give 250,000 readers out for free as part of a broader education campaign. But promising to cover any charges their customers may face from the liability shift — essentially a big "don't worry" from Square — could help small businesses get on the bandwagon faster.
"Smaller businesses are often late to the game, and they suffer as a result," Dana Wagner, Square's general counsel, said. "This makes it cheap and simple for the corner store to have cutting-edge technology in their hands."
That means that there's a good chance that the fruit-seller at your local farmer's market could actually get new, fancy payment equipment before the supermarket around the corner.
The newest readers, which Square plans to ship this fall, will cost $49; businesses that buy the readers will get a credit of $49 in processing fees. The readers will also include support for contact-less payments, such as payments made through Apple Pay or Android Pay or from tap-to-pay cards.
Including those contact-less payment options, Wagner said, might help balance out the fact that EMV cards take longer to process at the register than the swipe cards — something that has raised concerns about the possibility of longer lines at stores this holiday season.
But while Square can't kill the stress that small-business owners may feel from seeing a long line of holiday shoppers, at least it can offer some peace of mind when it comes to worrying about what happens in the case of a breach.