EMV after 10 years: What have we learned?

Twitter recently turned ten, but more important for the world of payments, it’s been a decade since the UK moved to EMV. The arrival of chip and PIN cards was one of the biggest changes to consumer payments in a generation. So what have been the results and what have we learned from the process?

Card spend up

New figures from the UK Cards Association show that the last ten years have seen a massive rise in consumers using electronic payments. When the switch was made in 2006, just over half (55 percent) of retail spending was done on card. By the end of 2015, the figure had risen to more than three-quarters (78.5 percent).

Check use plummeted, with officials even toying with the idea of ditching them altogether. This plan was eventually abandoned in the face of stiff resistance from check users, but it showed just how strong the push for card payments was for a while.

Cash has been very resilient – cards only overtook cash for consumer payments last year in the UK.

Nevertheless, the introduction of EMV cards was a seismic shift, as Richard Koch, head of policy at The UK Cards Association, explains: “It was the biggest change to consumer behavior since decimalization and it has been hugely successful in tackling counterfeit cards and reducing the threat of fraudsters using lost and stolen cards on the high street.”

But was EMV the cause of this rise in card spending? Making card payments safer certainly helped but really the shift is down to the amazing growth in e-commerce. The move to online retail, at the expense of the high street, has undoubtedly fuelled card payment growth.

Contactless catalyst

But it’s not entirely down to Amazon and the like that we’ve seen card payments grow so much. The move to EMV made it much easier for the industry to introduce contactless payments, which are now soaring in the UK. This has displaced some of the smaller payments that would have been made in cash before. In fact, the overtaking of cash last year is almost certainly driven by the massive rise in tap-and-go payments.

In 2015, the total value of contactless spending was more than double the previous seven years combined. No wonder that cash finally lost its top dog status. In places like the US, which are only just moving to EMV, we could expect similar outcomes, although it’s a very different market to the UK, not least because many issuers are rolling out chip-and-signature cards – hardly the change for the 18th Century way of doing things talked about by Mr Koch.


Perhaps the biggest shift has been in the fraud space. Fundamentally, chip and PIN removed the signature as the default authorization method – something that we’ve been using for hundreds of years.

Mr Koch said: “Chip and PIN was introduced a decade ago to combat the rising levels of counterfeit and stolen card fraud in the UK.

“Chip and PIN was deliberately designed so it could deliver significant technical innovation and these successes have included contactless and mobile payments, which use the same robust security features.”

Counterfeit card fraud losses duly tumbled, down £81.9 million a year between 2004 and 2014.

Of course, there has been a tilt towards to the cardholder-not-present (CNP) space instead.

While fraud from counterfeit cards in the UK declined 56 percent from 2005 to 2013, CNP fraud increased 79 percent from 2005 to its peak in 2008, as a report from the Federal Reserve shows.  Better fraud detection and security measures have helped the industry get a handle on it since.

But again, like the rise in card spending, is that purely down to the arrival of EMV, or just because online shopping has become so easy?

As a report from Javelin Strategy & Research found, CNP fraud in the US is going up anyway, regardless of EMV.

EMV has played a big role in the cards payments industry over the last ten years, but there are many other factors at work and it would be wrong to lay all the praise (and blame) at its door.

Written by Andy Brown

Andy Brown

Andy is marketing director for payments at NCR. He has nearly 30 years' experience in e-payment systems from the delivery and support of systems in the Far East and Europe, from both the product management and marketing perspectives. Based in the UK, Andy is responsible for marketing NCR payment solutions.

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