Wal-Mart To Support Smartcard Payments In U.S. Stores

Wal-Mart tried the "self-checkout" thing for awhile, and those kiosks still exist in some stores. But by and large, it's easier for most consumers to just head to a real person in case of trouble. But that snafu isn't stopping the world's most recognized retailer from starting something else: smartcard payment support. According to a new report, the giant is planning to make every last one of their payment terminals in the U.S. compliant with "a smartcard-based credit card technology that is widely used around the world but isn't common in the U.S."

The plans were unveiling at a smartcard conference held last week, with Storefront Backtalk quoting Jamie Henry, Wal-Mart's director of payment services, as saying that the retailer was "working on making all payment terminals in its domestic stores chip-and-PIN-capable." The reason why? Because signature-based credit card processing (what they use now) has become "a waste of time." And we largely agree. Think of the small bits of time that are wasted with each customer needing to sign a screen, and add all of that up. Throughout Wal-Mart's stores, that's a big time sink.

Frankly, this move is badly needed. Other developed nations, including Japan and the UK, have been using smartcard payment operations for everything from grocery checkouts to getting on/off trains for years now, and it has improved efficiency greatly. The technology is there, it's cheap, and it's widely adopted globally. But the U.S. has refused, for whatever reason, to "get with the program." But if Wal-Mart takes the first giant step, there's a great chance that the rest of the nation will follow suit. Wal-Mart is largely credited with promoting RFID in a big way when they started to track their logistics using these chips, and the same could probably happen in this scenario.