Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chip and Pin

Kevin Drum:
Americans are already accustomed to using PINs, and would have no more trouble managing multiple PINs than Danes and Italians do. And while using one PIN for ten cards might not exactly be best practice, it's certainly better than no PIN at all. How could it possibly increase fraud? Signature cards can be used with nothing more than a scrawl.

And then we get to the last paragraph. If cards have PINs, banks and card issuers will have to spend a bit of money helping people change their PINs. 
And that seems to be what we're left with. Merchants are willing to make the switch. Consumers would get used to the switch pretty quickly. But card issuers don't want to bother because it might increase their customer support costs a bit during the transition.
 So clearly we are in a situation where there is not a really open market.  The quote from Capital One in another Kevin Drum post makes this even more clear: the banks are blaming retailers not wanting to adopt this system.  But I look at major events like the recent Target hacking and figure that secure payment systems would have huge market value.  Or the actual statements from retailers wanting the more advanced system and, again, ponder why this is so hard to arrange.  So why can't one specific bank just pioneer the new system (well tested in Canada and Europe) as a market advantage?

Well, the unified payment systems would seem to me to be the issue.  But that is an issue of infrastructure as we go to a post-cash world.  If fraud mostly affects merchants, the incentives for banks is to offload costs. 

Why can't we get to an equilibrium where everyone is better off? 

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