How EMV payment cards can become “phygital”?

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[ This article was originally published here ]

Nowadays, everything goes faster in the digital world than in the physical, because physical products generally take more time to be developed and delivered than data.

This digitalization has led to a shift in customer expectations. First, they expect to get their hands on a product or service at their convenience, and can quickly get frustrated if they have to wait days or weeks. For example, most bank customers still need to wait between 3-5 working days to receive their new payment card and PIN code. Second, consumers expect digital solutions in their everyday experiences. In fact, a digital component to card management is a key consideration for consumers when choosing a bank or card.


What do customer expect when it comes to the wait time between applying for an EMV card to its activation? When applying, receiving, and activating a new card, cardholders want smooth digital solutions with minimal wait time. Technology is now available to reduce the wait time between card application and card activation from days to just minutes. These solutions include the Thales Gemalto Instant Issuance and Thales Gemalto Digital PIN Delivery, allowing a new customer to walk in the bank branch, apply for a new card, and get their personalised EMV card a few minutes later.

Customers receive their new PIN code as a message on their smartphone, using a secure delivery channel. Apart from reducing long wait times, the Instant Issuance and Digital PIN solutions mean that customers are able to use their new EMV card immediately.

What’s behind the move to ‘phygital’?

As of today, a small fraction of the billions of cards issued every year are issued using instant issuance and digital PIN delivery, but there are several reasons why these methods are increasingly becoming mainstream. The main one is that the ‘phygital’ experience removes customer friction, meaning that they will no longer be tempted to abandon the service. This means a higher cards activation yield, more transactions made with the card, and fewer lost or stolen cards and PIN mailers. It is a real win-win for issuers and cardholders alike.

Being able to reflect a change in consumer habits and behaviour is perhaps the main obstacle to the wider adoption of these services. While millennials are comfortable using their bank’s mobile/web app and can easily handle their new PIN receipt via the digital channel, older generations may not be using technology as frequently. But there’s no doubt that all other customers will get used to their new “digital branch” in their pocket (their smartphones) over time, especially as this means better experience, convenience and security. In the meantime, a strategy that combines both digital and personal interactions is key.

Taking the pain out of PIN recovery

This new “phygital” offering will be the main driver of the wider adoption of these services. Today PIN recovery (when one forgets their PIN code) is not a simple service to access and it also takes time. The current recovery scenario involves waiting days to get a new PIN code in order to be able to use the card again. But what if consumers could get their new PIN code instantly, received as a secured text message on their smartphones? Consumers value quick solutions to painful problems, and the Thales Gemalto Digital PIN delivery provides it. This service is also benefits card issuers because it means that consumers would be able to make more transactions since they can activate their card immediately.

Security is paramount to the successful widespread deployment of new services, like digital PIN delivery. PIN codes are sensitive information and the digital delivery mechanism needs to be bulletproof. Consumers need to be able to trust that they will receive their new PIN code in a secure way.

Currently consumers receive their new PIN codes on a piece of paper that anyone can intercept, steal or change. It also costs money to send, it travels slowly and can easily be misplaced. Solutions such as SMS or in-app/web delivery are secure because the message received is encrypted and cannot be seen or accessed by anyone but the cardholder.

With consumer expectations growing quickly towards faster and more seamless service delivery, and technology rapidly developing alongside them, banks need to continue to innovate. Today not all PIN codes for newly issued EMV cards are delivered digitally, but one day soon, all consumers will be able to enjoy the convenience of receiving PIN codes in an instant, a life a more phygital life.