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Chip Card Readers Are Painfully Slow. Square’s May Be Faster

Chip cards started rolling out in the US about a year ago, and, as we know by now, they’re glacially slow.

Posted on September 26, 2016, at 11:01 a.m. ET

Square, the mobile payments processing company led by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, is introducing a chip card reader it says will process the payments in 4.2 seconds, compared to the industry average of between eight and 13 seconds. That’s big news for a couple reasons.

Giphy / Via

Chip cards started rolling out in the US about a year ago, and, as we know by now, they’re glacially slow.

Giphy / Via

They are, however, more secure, according to Square's head of hardware product development, Jesse Dorogusker. That’s why they exist in the first place. Or, rather, why the government mandated that US stores have chip-card-accepting technology by October 2015, which still hasn’t really happened, yet. As much as we want the speed of the old magnetic stripe, our money is safer with the chips, for the most part.

Here’s what a faster credit card chip reader could mean for your life:

1. Maybe you won't lose your card

Chip cards are so slow that people have been leaving them at cash registers in droves. Maybe a faster reader will keep people’s attention.

2. A path to the future

Square’s new readers can also process payment methods like Apple Pay and Android Pay — which means you don’t even have to touch your card to the reader. According to Square’s Dorogusker, these are “far superior technology” because these methods typically require a second piece of authentication like a fingerprint.

The US desperately needs more secure credit cards. We have 25 percent of the world’s credit cards but 50 percent of all credit card fraud.

Dorogusker blames the risk of fraud squarely on the magnetic stripe technology. “They’re like cassette tapes,” he told BuzzFeed News.

Giphy / Via

3. Shorter lines

During a lunch rush or the holidays at a retail store, every second counts. You might be quick to abandon a line if it’s not moving. Retail workers of the world, rejoice: much less awkward small talk with frustrated customers.

Giphy / Via

Don’t expect to see Square’s readers at H&M or Whole Foods any time soon, though. Sellers who make over $500,000 per year only account for 14 percent of the company’s business, according to its Q2 2016 investor letter. However, the company hopes to bring the transaction speed down to three seconds in the near future — maybe that’ll attract more big clients.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.