Laura Alix

Friday will mark six months since the Oct. 1 deadline set by Visa and MasterCard to switch to EMV from magnetic stripe cards, and nearly 42 percent of retailers have not upgraded their point-of-sale terminals to be EMV compliant, according to a new EMV adoption survey from CardHub.

If you think experience would be a good teacher, think again. CardHub also found that 43 percent of retailers who experienced a data breach in the past five years have not upgraded their point-of-sale terminals, either.

Is this some kind of an April Fool’s joke? I guess I can’t say I’m surprised.

Less than two weeks ago, I swiped my own EMV-enabled credit card at a Piggly Wiggly in the panhandle of Florida after the cashier informed me the chip reader did not work.

Closer to home, I chuckled when I read the note a South End merchant posted next to their card reader: “If you have a chip card you MUST dip your card. It’s the LAW!!”

Actually, it’s the liability shift, but I didn’t bother to correct them. Maybe the looming specter of “the LAW!!” is what you need to get the average consumer to pay attention to chip and PIN. (CardHub also found that about 56 percent of survey respondents didn’t really even care if a merchant’s payment terminal was chip-enabled.)

But it also occurred to me that chip and PIN isn’t even the most pressing financial need of the town of Apalachicola, Florida. (No, I did not misspell that.) I was visiting my sister, who works in the area as a wildlife biologist, and pointing to the only bank in town, she commented that said bank had turned down a co-worker of hers for a mortgage because he was technically a contract employee with the state’s fish and wildlife commission. Her colleague had the cash to just buy the house outright (and that’s what he eventually did), but he had hoped to establish some kind of credit history anyway.

So it was with interest that I read the CFPB had issued a new rule intended to broaden QM coverage for rural, underserved areas.

That rule, however, would apply to small creditors, and when I searched the FDIC’s site for the bank in question I realized that with nearly $10 billion in assets, it would not qualify.

Remember again that this was the only bank in a town. Consider, too, that the median household income in this particular city is $23,000 and that slightly more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

And not so much as a humble, one-branch credit union to serve as an alternative.

We have more choices in Massachusetts – and certainly in the heavily-banked Greater Boston area – but the wealth of banking options is not so evenly distributed throughout the state. And sometimes it’s not as straightforward as simply having the option of walking into a bank and opening a free checking account; there’s still a long way to go between that and qualifying for a mortgage.

It’s a tough position for even well-meaning bankers to find themselves in. You want to do right by your community and help the next generation purchase homes, build wealth and start businesses, but of course you must also maintain underwriting standards and invest in other areas of the business (like the aforementioned chip-and-PIN cards). I’m always encouraged to see many of the banks I cover investing in Gateway Cities and trying to better serve the underserved. All states should be so lucky.

But hey, if Apalachicola can’t lure another bank into its city limits, maybe at least they can get a working chip reader at the Piggly Wiggly.

Serving The Underserved: Chip And PIN Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg

by Laura Alix time to read: 3 min