Michelle Thornton has some advice for credit unions that haven't started planning their EMV conversion: Don't panic yet.

"From a credit union perspective, the liability shift date is just that-it has the potential to shift liability from an issuer to a merchant," said Thornton, who is manager of core products for CO-OP Financial Services in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. "It is not a mandate. ... If you look at the whole fraud picture, 50% is card-not-present fraud, which EMV does not touch."

Some credit unions may decide to delay their shift until late 2015 or even early 2016.

"They need to look at what works for their credit union," Thornton said. "They need to talk to their vendors and look at their budget. We are recommending small credit unions wait until 2016 because costs will come down as this becomes more business as usual. Early adopters always pay more for technology."

But does waiting mean more risk exposure?

"There is always risk," she noted. "The amount of fraud the credit union sees today needs to factor in to the decision-and remember there still will be card-not-present fraud."

Thornton advised CUs not to wait too long to make the conversion, however. "I would not want to be the last credit union that moves to EMV, because that would be a big mistake," she said. "I think all credit unions should move to EMV, but they have to ask what makes sense for them as far as timing. There certainly are some credit unions that are moving forward now because they want all of their cards to be ready by October 2015. That is their decision."

CO-OP is in the last stages testing of the final system, offering planning tools and budgeting tools to its credit union clients, and is providing member-facing materials to CUs.

Thornton's recommended EMV timeline depends on a number of factors. In general, she said CUs should ensure their core data processor is ready to accept EMV data, which may require format changes.

In addition, CUs need to consider the design of their cards and their issuance strategy. An institution could conduct a mass issue of all cards to EMV or just accelerate their reissuance cycle to issue all cards within one year instead of three years.

Budgets must also be taken into consideration. If CUs plan to be ready by October 2015, they need to be in serious planning mode now.

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