The two major retail industry groups have today pleaded for patience from both consumers and shops when, starting from tomorrow, credit card signatures are phased out and PINs become mandatory. The whole process will take three months, with the absolute last day for signatures being 31 October 2014.

“Both shoppers and retailers will need to be patient during the first few days of the new scheme as there are bound to be a few glitches as the PIN only system is rolled out,” said Trevor Evans, CEO of the National Retail Association. “There are more than 800,000 merchant payment terminals throughout the country that need to undergo a software update before they accept PIN only purchases.”

According to sources, around 20 per cent of credit cards in Australia — 1 million pieces of plastic — do not have a PIN number currently attached to it. To receive a PIN, credit card holders can either call their bank to have one mailed out or they can visit a branch to have one generated immediately. Evans acknowledged that teething problems with this scheme were bound to cause some frustrations but, overall, the end result is worth the effort.

“The introduction of PIN only scheme will frustrate some retailers and shoppers at first, but at the end of the day it’s about strengthening payment security across Australia so we can all be more confident when using our cards to make purchases.”

Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, urged consumers to remember their PINs before heading out to purchase products. He agreed that the confusion and irritation that may manifest itself at checkouts from tomorrow onwards is a minor cloud to the much improved security silver lining.

“The move to PIN is an important step to maintain a high level of integrity and security within Australia’s card payment system,” he said. “Not only is the move to PIN about strengthening payment security across Australia, this initiative will also help protect consumers and retailers alike from fraudsters.”

Both retailers and consumers should be aware that not all credit card payments will require a PIN. Only transactions currently requiring either a PIN or a signature will need a PIN to be completed. Contactless payment for goods under $100, online sales and telephone transactions will continue to be processed without any authorisation.

For more on this topic, read: Retailers and customers should be ready as credit card PINs become mandatory and signatures are phased out

This author is on Twitter: @Patrickavenell