Optimizing Transaction Speed at the Point of Sale

Publication Date: October 2017

With the U.S. payments industry’s ongoing migration to EMV chip technology for more secure payments, the U.S. Payments Forum continues to identify and provide guidance on the areas essential to moving the transition forward.

As chip cards continue to be issued and chip-enabled terminals continue to appear at merchant locations across the U.S., many cardholders and merchants are having varied responses to their chip transaction experiences. A common response heard across the industry is the inconsistent speed observed during an EMV transaction, where a chip transaction might take a couple seconds at one merchant but 20 or more seconds at another.

Any payment transaction can pass through several distinct networks and stakeholders in the payment ecosystem, and stakeholders can optimize each segment for maximum speed throughput. This payment system complexity is especially pronounced in the U.S. and is causing inconsistent experiences at the point-of-sale (POS) which directly impact cardholders and merchants.

This white paper focuses on several categories of approaches to help speed transactions and discusses their potential impacts for each stakeholder group in the U.S. payments ecosystem: “Faster EMV” solutions for terminals, faster card-terminal communication speeds, contactless/Near Field Communication (NFC) solutions, and EMV checkout optimization practices. For each category, a detailed description and analysis are presented, including considerations and implications for various stakeholder groups.

  • Faster EMV Solutions. “Faster EMV” is an umbrella term used in this white paper to describe the optimized online-only EMV transaction processing solutions announced separately by American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa. These solutions retain the security features of EMV, while removing dependencies which can negatively impact the cardholder perception of transaction time.
  • Faster Card-Reader Communication Speeds. In conjunction with Faster EMV, a section is included on faster card-terminal communication speeds, which allows cards to operate at higher transmission speeds. When combined with “Faster EMV” significant improvements to the card’s time-in-terminal may be achieved. However, issuers that adopt this option are advised to consult with their card vendor, payment network and EMVCo standards for additional guidance.
  • Contactless/NFC Transactions. The adoption of contactless transactions in the U.S. can greatly improve the cardholder experience. Cardholders benefit from being able to tap and quickly put away the contactless-enabled payment device. Merchants and cardholders benefit from both perceived and actual reduced transaction time compared to contact methods.
  • EMV Checkout Optimization. Both merchants and issuers can implement tactics that can help to optimize the EMV checkout experience. In the course of implementing EMV support, merchants have worked to provide an efficient checkout process for cardholder interaction with the terminal and for system processing time. Different techniques may offer benefits in various checkout scenarios. These techniques arise from both new learnings in implementing EMV, and from traditional approaches to optimizing checkout throughput.

The goal of the white paper is to educate payments industry stakeholders and offer a sufficient level of detail about each set of solutions to provide the reader with a starting point for pursuing one or more of these solutions. The solutions described are generally compatible with each other and this white paper can be considered a primer for different optional techniques that may be used to speed the EMV transaction process at the POS. The Version 3.0 white paper adds a new section on faster card-reader communication speeds.

About the U.S. Payments Forum

The U.S. Payments Forum, formerly the EMV Migration Forum, is a cross-industry body focused on supporting the introduction and implementation of EMV chip and other new and emerging technologies that protect the security of, and enhance opportunities for payment transactions within the United States. The Forum is the only non-profit organization whose membership includes the entire payments ecosystem, ensuring that all stakeholders have the opportunity to coordinate, cooperate on, and have a voice in the future of the U.S. payments industry. Additional information can be found at https://www.uspaymentsforum.org.

Please note: The information and materials available on this web page (“Information”) is provided solely for convenience and does not constitute legal or technical advice. All representations or warranties, express or implied, are expressly disclaimed, including without limitation, implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose and all warranties regarding accuracy, completeness, adequacy, results, title and non-infringement. All Information is limited to the scenarios, stakeholders and other matters specified, and should be considered in light of applicable laws, regulations, industry rules and requirements, facts, circumstances and other relevant factors. None of the Information should be interpreted or construed to require or promote the establishment of any solution, practice, configuration, rule, requirement or specification inconsistent with applicable legal requirements, any of which requirements may change over time. The U.S. Payments Forum assumes no responsibility to support, maintain or update the Information, regardless of any such change. Use of or reliance on the Information is at the user’s sole risk, and users are strongly encouraged to consult with their respective payment networks, acquirers, processors, vendors and appropriately qualified technical and legal experts prior to all implementation decisions.

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