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Chip Technology and the Self-Storage Operator

EMV (chip) technology has arrived, but few self-storage operators are embracing it. Should they? Here's a look at the pros and cons of making the investment in a chip-reader system.

Amy Campbell

September 15, 2016

4 Min Read
Chip Technology and the Self-Storage Operator

By Amy Campbell

By now, most self-storage operators have had some experience with EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) cards either personally or professionally. Many people are referring to them simply as “chip” cards because of the small square chip on the front. The technology is used globally in place of the magnetic stripe found on the majority of bank and credit cards. The little “chip” helps reduce card fraud by working via contact with a device commonly called a “chip reader.”

Last October, there was a shift in the liability for fraudulent credit card transactions. Rather than the card issuers taking the hit for false sales, the merchants who accept the card are on the line if an EMV card is swiped or entered manually. Merchants of all kinds—not just self-storage—have worked toward taking these new cards, which need to be inserted rather than swiped into a special machine. But the process has been slow and merchants and consumers alike have had to deal with any number of glitches.

Case in point. Last weekend while at the grocery store, one of the payment terminals was misbehaving. The cashier asked everyone paying by card to insert it quickly three times, then swipe it. It was a hassle for everyone and resulted in a longer payment process. The look on the cashier’s face—and his tone—screamed, “I hate this!” I wasn’t thrilled about it either.

Moreover, how many times have you whipped out your new chip card, looked at the machine and thought, “Do I slide or insert it.” And how many customers have asked you the same question? If you’re not accepting EMV cards, you’re likely tired of saying, “Just slide it.” Or “We’re not taking chip cards at this time.”

It appears the majority of self-storage operators don’t plan to implement the new technology any time soon, either. In a recent poll on the ISS website, 64 percent said they haven’t made the switch and don’t plan to. About 19 percent said they plan to add a chip-card terminal soon, and nearly 14 percent have already taken the plunge and report all is well. Finally, just over 3 percent have added chip readers but experienced difficulties in the transition.

This begs the question: Should storage operators invest in an EMV chip-card terminal? Well .. that’s not easy to answer. As of today, there’s no legal mandate that requires merchants to have a new chip reader to take payments. However, that could change in the future, so if a new point-of-sale (POS) system is in your future, it’s a smart move. You'll also better protect your business by installing these readers.

If you only handle a small number of in-person sales every month, upgrading your equipment likely doesn’t need to be a priority. Your current system will continue to operate and allow you to accept traditional magnetic-stripe credit cards as well as swipe those with chips. Also, not all of your tenants will even have an EMV chip card as many banks are still rolling out their programs.

If you're not making the switch any time soon, you'll be in good company. Many, many major retailers have yet to make the switch to chip-card readers. Small-business owners have also been sluggish when it comes to adopting the new technology. It often comes down to the cost of the investment versus the true benefits. Keep in mind, though, if the transaction is fraudulent, you’re on the hook for the charges. Plus, you'll have to continue fielding questions from customers about "swiping" or "inserting."

Although chip cards and their readers may be viewed by many as a hassle—myself included some days—you need to remember what the technology is really about: Protecting us all from those conniving credit card thieves who get smarter every day. Like all new technology, it pays to do your homework. ISS has several articles on EMV (just type “EMV” in the search box), and you can always reach out to your payment-processing or management-software company for guidance.

What do you think about EMV cards and corresponding chip-card terminals? Post a comment below or in this Self-Storage Talk thread.

About the Author(s)

Amy Campbell

Editor, Inside Self Storage

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