RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
October 1, that would be tomorrow, marks the beginning of the end for some old technology. The magnetic-stripe credit card is being phased out in favor of a more secure card embedded with a computer chip. And as Charles Lane from member station WSHU reports, for many retailers, this changeover will be slow and disruptive.
CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: Since the beginning of credit cards, merchants were never liable if a thief used a stolen or counterfeit credit card to shop. The bank issuing the card usually made both the customer and the store whole. But starting Thursday, a subtle shift happens. If retailers don't follow new procedures for credit card security, then they will have to pay for what the thieves steal.
BOB GEREKE: It's another thing we have to deal with. You know, there's so many. And this one could be important.
LANE: Bob Gereke owns Mud, Sweat and Tears, a pottery studio in New York City. He's pretty on top of all the changes. But he's still not ready. The new cards that are coming have a unique microchip inside that makes them really hard to forge. In Europe, these type of cards are already in widespread use. But in this country, the industry is way behind. To read chip-enabled cards, Gereke will need new equipment. He signed up for a reader earlier this year, but because of unprecedented demand, it won't arrive until December. He says this whole process is frustrating.
GEREKE: For a small business, it's important. But it also takes a lot of our time as well.
LANE: Come Thursday, millions of retailers will suddenly find themselves on the hook for fraud. Holly Wade is director of policy for the National Federation of Independent Business. She says most businesses don't know this yet.
HOLLY WADE: It's frightening for small business owners, thinking that they might be hit with higher costs, more liability in their business and not knowing what they need to do to comply.
LANE: In the rush to make electronic payments more secure, the credit card industry has been diligently working to get retailers up to speed. They started with the big stores and the ones where fake credit cards are used the most, like electronic stores. Stephanie Ericksen is vice president of risk at Visa.
STEPHANIE ERICKSEN: And we're really where we expect to be considering that October 1 is really the start line. And we know it takes many countries about four to five years to get to greater than 90 percent of their volume being a chip card used at a chip terminal.
LANE: Critics say that not only will the new chip cards be an extra burden for small businesses; they also might not do much good. For example, the new chip cards will not prevent theft from online retailers who won't be able to use the new readers to check out your card. Also, the new cards don't prevent hackers from stealing credit card data from the computer systems of big companies like Target and Home Depot. But defenders of the new cards say the chips will help a lot. Jason Oxman is CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association. He says the new chip cards reduce the value of credit card data to hackers.
JASON OXMAN: It prevents them from using those stolen account numbers to make cards and then go out and use those counterfeit cards to buy goods and services at retail.
LANE: But retailers complain that strategy only works when the majority of stores are ready. Many say they're not. For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane.
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