How does 3D Secure affect international card holders?
Posted by Jonathan S on 18 Sep 2015 12:43

In order to fully answer this question, context about 3D Secure in the world needs to be created, so please bear with us.

Worldwide standard

3D Secure is not unique to South Africa and is a system in use throughout the world as per Visa and MasterCard guidelines.

Visa & MasterCard divide the world up into regions and standards are implemented at different times in different regions as per Visa & MasterCard and local authorities. The major ones in recent history are "Chip & PIN" (also referred to as EMV Compliance) and 3D Secure. In practice, Chip & PIN is implemented first and fraud moves online. Thereafter 3D Secure is implemented to deal with the fraud online.

Most of Europe now uses Chip & PIN as well as 3D Secure. South Africa implemented Chip & PIN a number of years ago, such that it can now be considered fully implemented, and next for us is 3D Secure.

Most issuing banks around the world have the infrastructure to process 3D Secure transactions and have been participants in the programme for a number of years. This includes banks in all regions.

Difference between "issuing" and "acquiring"

The disconnect comes though in that, "implementing 3D Secure" generally refers to implementing it for cardholder acceptance i.e. when someone pays. This is on the acquiring side and this is when the programme is actually seen.

So while issuing banks may have been ready to process 3D Secure transactions for many years (most SA banks implemented the standard approximately 10 years ago), it was only seen and used rarely by customers due to most online merchants not implementing it.

As of 28 February 2014, it is required for online merchants to implement the standard, all SA issuing banks are ready for it and it will be used for most (if not all) eCommerce transactions in the future. Customers will be aware of it as it will be in use at all online stores and the banks and merchants are together educating the card holding public about it.

International credit card holders

For international card holders where their territories have already undergone 3D Secure implementation (e.g. United Kingdom), there will be limited impact to them and they will mostly be aware of and familiar with 3D Secure authentication.

For international card holders where their territory has not yet undergone 3D Secure implementation (e.g. United States), there will be some education challenges. For these cardholders, most of their issuing banks are ready to process 3D Secure transactions, but because it hasn't been required by their local acquirers, card holders are generally unaware of the programme. Subsequently, the issuing banks have not expended energy to improve the experience of their 3D Secure processes.

This means that the 3D Secure page which appears from their issuing bank, will be unexpected by a US card holder and they will more than likely not be aware of the programme. They may also have challenges with regards to registration as their bank will not be used to fielding queries concerning 3D Secure due to it being used on a very limited basis. The US will be the last region in the world to see the introduction of Chip & PIN and 3D Secure, but the process is scheduled to start within the next few years.

The only approach that one can take to deal with this disconnect is to educate all buyers (but specifically foreign buyers) about 3D Secure, its benefits and what to expect from it; educating them that it is a Visa & MasterCard programme, that the 3D Secure page is served from their issuing bank and if possible, finding resources specific to their bank to assist them in successfully using the service (these can generally be found online).


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