Visa: If All Else Fails Speed-Wise, Cut Corners

For the last few years, the payments industry has made convenience a top priority. Promising it, not delivering it. Biometric authentication was the first attempt (when your slogan is "Don't Swipe. Just Give Cashiers The Finger," it's rarely a good omen), until vendors realized that no one wanted it. Contactless payment was the next effort. This effort has delivered lackluster performance; major retailers only offered it when the bribes exceeded the effort. Finally, Visa has hit on a convenience method that is actually likely to be faster. It's called cutting corners.

Visa on Monday (Feb. 8) agreed to waive the retail requirement to get consumer signatures for purchases costing $25 or less. "With the changes announced today, approximately 98 percent of all U.S. merchant category codes in the Visa system will be covered by the No Signature Required program," a Visa statement said. Although it could be seen as diluting a time-honored anti-fraud tactic, signatures have been fairly worthless for years; almost no chain asks its cashiers to spend the time even looking at a customer’s signature and comparing it to the one on the card. Without that verification, there's no reason to not waive the requirement for a lot more than $25 purchases. Set the amount at $200 or more, and not only will it truly accelerate lines, but it will allow chains to justify having cashiers really look at every signature for those purchases that still require them.