Nearly 10 years ago there was an acronym that became a buzzword that completely consumed the fitness industry … PCI or Payment Card Industry referencing standards that were introduced in September of 2006 concerning credit and debit card transactions.

PCI was everywhere and gyms and fitness centers were utterly immersed in identifying whether or not their business was PCI Compliant.

The health and fitness industry had lots of advance notice and were well prepared when the new mandates came down. In turn, software vendors touted the fact that their software solution were certified while noting that facilities that didn’t use their solutions risked being thrown into a Rikers Island-like penalty box after being fined millions of dollars by the mysterious “Credit Card Police.” These police officers turned out to be credits card brands like VISA, MasterCard and American Express.

Fast forward a few years and, surprise, these credit card brands are at it again.

Welcome to the new EMV smart card based payment world and the end of magnetic-strip cards.

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Credit card with embedded microchip.

What’s different this time is no one in the industry is talking about EMV standards for credit and debit card swiping even after President Obama introduced the BuySecure initiative that will drive the US to transition to EMV cards in October 2015.

EMV, named after the companies that developed the standard; EuroPay, MasterCard and VISA, is a global interoperation standard for authenticating credit card and debit card transactions. EMV authenticates credit and debit card transactions by using both an integrated microchip and a personal identification number (PIN) that is used by the consumer. Why? The US makes up only 24% of all credit card sales but is responsible for nearly 50% of fraud worldwide. This new chip and PIN process is touted to end that trend by delivering up-to-date, secure payments. Home Depot and Target have already agreed to use chip-and-pin terminals by January 2015.

In fact, many of you who have received an updated credit card as a result of an expiration or theft might have noticed that your new card now has an embedded microchip in it.

So what’s all the fuss?

If you swipe credit or debit cards at your facility, your business is required to update and purchase new credit card swipe terminals at every point of sale. If you have an existing signature capture device with integrated card swipe, guess what? You’ll need to purchase EMV terminals. If you haven’t built in hardware purchases in your 2015 budget, figure on spending $29 for the new EMV updated Square Reader and $195 to $250 per EMV terminal.

Because your facility is using a member management software package the work doesn’t stop after buying new terminals and teaching people how to use them. Given that data entry is involved when the consumer enters their PIN, your software company and or processing partner will also need to release updates to their software products to properly capture and send transaction data so that transactions can be authorized and settled.

Motionsoft recently released an EMV enabled iPad swipe and signature device that will roll out across all BLINK and Equinox Stores over the next few months. And while there is work to be done, there is less that a year to make it all happen.

Is your fitness center ready to switch to chip cards?