Tap to pay. Real-time fraud assessment. Seamless payments. EMV chips mean better security, improved customer experiences, and rising innovative applications in the digital payments ecosystem. Acquirers, merchants, payment processors, and other financial services firms are looking to capture the benefits, but they must also undergo rigorous testing — including EMV Level 3 certification — to ensure that their POS terminals are compliant with card brand rules and other standards.

Learn more about Blankfactor’s POS solutions and how we’re helping vendors and merchants reduce the dependencies for L3 terminal certification — all while significantly reducing their costs and time to market. 

EMV tech & contactless payments — only on the rise

Since Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV) worked to establish the EMV standard in the mid-1990s, its use and adoption is only growing — a trend due in part to the acceleration of digital and contactless payments during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Industry leaders now note that 93.91% of global card-present transactions use EMV chip technology, as of Q2 2023. (EMVCo

The benefits of the EMV standard are clear. Each EMV card contains an embedded computer chip that attaches a singular code for each new transaction — a fraud prevention measure that isn’t possible with magnetic-strip-only cards. From greater security to tap-to-pay contactless technology, the use cases and benefits will only continue to increase. EMV chip cards can power seamless transaction scenarios from public transit to IoT applications, which will only continue to boost consumer adoption. 

However, the payments ecosystem still has opportunities to increase EMV smart card adoption. 

  • Only 69.25% of issued credit cards contain an EMV chip.
  • In the US, EMV chip card adoption rate was still just 65% as of 2022; in Africa and the Middle East, the adoption rate for the same period was 92.3%. (EMVCo)

Blankfactor can help firms across the payments domain — from issuers, acquirers, merchants, card networks, and other FIs — implement and capitalize on the benefits of EMV card technology. But smart card tech demands several levels of POS terminal testing to ensure this complex technology is ready for the market. 

Level 3 terminal certification process for EMV cards

Getting an L3 EMV certification is required for terminals to take EMV smart card payments. Level 3 certification, also known as brand certification, consists of hardware that has already passed EMV Level 1 certification and EMV Level 2 certification.

For context, bear in mind the hardware supplier is responsible for Level 1 and L2 EMV certification. Level 1 involves the physical terminal where the testing ensures the device can meet the physical requirements and communication protocols required, including operating distance tests. Level 2 certification is concerned with validating payment functionality.

Level 3 certification confirms that an EMV-compliant payment terminal will work with merchant or bank systems to enable end-to-end transaction acceptance. The testing ensures that a new or upgraded device meets the specific requirements and recommendations of the individual payment system before it is deployed.

Achieving Level 3 EMV certification is vital to guarantee the security and protection of payment transactions from fraudulent activity. This certification not only lessens a business’s liability in fraudulent transactions but also guarantees that payment terminals can seamlessly work with various payment cards, irrespective of the issuing bank or network. This, in turn, enhances payment processing efficiency and elevates the overall customer experience.

To achieve a Level 3 certification, specialists and other agencies typically spend weeks or months designing and executing tests tailored to each terminal, region, and business’s needs — a process that can take up to two years or maybe more.

Why the typical terminal certification process takes so long

One of the common complications involved in terminal testing is the time-consuming nature of the process and the sheer number of parties involved in L3 certification.  

The rigorous multi-stage testing process includes:

  • UAT Testing: The user side of the system must be polished and deliver a quality experience, which requires running the terminal through thousands of test scenarios. Determining the business’s requirements, designing test scripts, and running test scripts is crucial to ensure that the system is fully functional.
  • Host Validation: This stage assesses whether the terminal transactions are successful, accurately constructing and formatting payment transactions and batch messages. 
  • Pre-Certification: Before the L3 certification test, teams should assess the tests for the terminal, middleware, and host. This entails creating a plan and testing for all card brands’ rules, regional requirements, and other terminal features. 
  • The L3: Formal certification means running the L3 test and producing Letters of Acceptance for all terminals in the project. 

And all of these processes typically are not conducted by a single solutions provider, which adds further delays and friction. 

To prepare for and certify, merchants typically must work with several third-party stakeholders and agencies at each stage of the process. This could include business analysts, a development team, a project manager, an L3 certifications specialist, and other parties — all working across different regions and charging separate fees for services.  

Of course, there’s the post-testing phase adding to the timeline, as the U.S. Payments Forum notes: “End-to-end testing currently can take weeks. The actual EMV test cases may be completed fairly quickly, but scheduling, reviews by the acquirers, and reviews by the payment networks (if required), along with receipt reviews, add to the calendar time.” (U.S. Payments Forum)

There are several approaches merchants and vendors can take to streamline their L3 certification process. Our recommendation? Work with a vendor that can complete all stages of the L3 testing and preparation process under one roof. That’s where our teams can help.

How Blankfactor delivers L3 certification faster

Instead of hiring and coordinating half a dozen agencies for your L3 certification, Blankfactor can handle it all. We have experts who support every level of the certification process, including: 

  • Engineering: Our engineers are experts in EMV card technology and can update terminal software throughout testing. You don’t have to work with and manage a separate development agency partner.
  • UAT testing, host validation, pre-cert, and L3 cert: Our team includes POS technology leaders who bring years of experience in EMV and smart card technology. You don’t have to work with four different agencies to understand your business’s payments needs, design relevant tests, and prepare for the final L3 test. We can oversee the entire process.
  • Project management and delivery: In every project, Blankfactor aims to drive outcomes. Our project managers have a deep understanding of payments challenges and ensure that you see the results you’re looking for.

Because we can deliver all of your L3 certification needs in-house, you can expect to see results fast, saving substantial production time.

Our team can handle certification projects for software providers looking to certify off-the-shelf terminal products and merchants who require additional L3 certification through a bring-your-own-device program.

End-to-end terminal certification for a major global acquirer

In a current project, our team is helping a large global acquirer to certify payment terminals to bring to market as well as work with large merchant customers to certify devices through a bring-your-own-device program. 

The client’s goals were to rapidly scale across new international markets, including Europe and Asia. They also aimed to free up internal resources by shifting the L3 certification project to Blankfactor. Our teams are now at work to deliver end-to-end certification services for the client, from UAT testing to host validation to formal L3 certification.

Get POS solutions from payments tech experts

At Blankfactor, we’re a technology partner delivering solutions tailor-made for payments. We’re working to drive merchants, issuers, acquirers, and other FIs into the future of payments and financial services — faster. 

From issuing and acquiring platforms to gateway consolidation to terminal certification, our payments and POS experts can help you see the outcomes you need to move your business forward. Contact us today to learn more and get a 60-minute solution session today.