The new technology is designed to cut card fraud
Most major retailers and banks will not be ready to switch over to "Chip and Pin" technology until the end of next year, and in some cases not until the end of 2005.
The new payment method was meant to be well underway by Christmas and was widely expected to be universal within a year.
But BBC Radio 4's Money Box has found that some banks are yet to issue a single new chip card.
And only one national retailer currently has the right technology to read the cards in all its stores.
It has been hailed as a major step in combating the hundreds of millions lost each year to card fraud.
Consumers can enter a four digit pin number every time a purchase is made, making signing on the dotted line a thing of the past.
But there are 850,000 till points in restaurants, pubs, petrol stations, newsagents, supermarkets and department stores in the UK that need upgrading.
And every single one of the 122 million plastic cards in the UK will have to be replaced.
Money Box spoke to a number of retailers to assess the progress they were making bringing in the new technology.
Jeremy Wyatt has headed Safeway's Chip and Pin programme for the last three years.
Speaking to Money Box's Penny Haslam, he was clear about the commercial benefits:
"We will save 13,000 miles of till receipt... and it is quicker to use, so it speeds customers through our checkouts."
But he said some retailers may find it a challenge to implement the technology:
"Tills used in stores tend to be replaced on a fairly infrequent basis.
"At Safeway we have tackled this over a 14 month period, and that level of investment will be needed by other retailers to bring them up to standard."
New till system
The majority of high street chains will not have the new technology in place until the middle of 2004 - at the earliest - including Marks & Spencer and Tesco.
Some - such as Argos - will not have it ready until the end of 2004. And there are others who will not be ready until the end of 2005.
Denise Tait is the project manager for Chip and Pin at WH Smiths. She told the programme:
"Our Chip and Pin roll-out will start in February 2004 and we expect it to finish [towards] the end of 2005."
She added that the Chip and Pin solution is tied into the roll-out of the new till system, which will not be complete until January 2005.
Waitrose, Boots and Sainsbury's all told the programme they will not be ready until some time in 2005.
But from the end of December 2004, retailers and restaurateurs who do not have the technology installed become liable for fraud, rather than the card issuer.
With this in mind, Denise Tait said that WH Smiths has decided to focus on stores that experience high levels of fraud:
"The areas with highest card fraud will be the areas that get our Chip and Pin solution first.
"It is likely that fraudsters will go to the stores that do not have Chip and Pin, but we hope to combat fraud before the end of 2005."
Lloyds TSB's Chip and Pin expert is Helen Van Orten. She told the programme it hoped to have most customers rolled-out by the end of 2004.
And she continued: "All new customers will get a Chip and Pin card.
"As people lose their cards they will be replaced with a Chip and Pin card, and as they renew their card, all the new cards that we issue will be Chip and Pin cards.
"So certainly by the middle of 2005 we will definitely be Chip and Pin enabled for all our customers."
Lloyds is the first bank to start seriously sending out Chip and Pin cards, but even it will not be fully finished until 2005.
Halifax & Bank of Scotland says only half its customers will have the new cards by end of next year, and full roll-out will not be complete until the end of 2005.
HSBC meanwhile will take two years to get all of its six million customers up to speed.
And despite being involved in a Northampton trial, Barclaycard will not issue a single card until after Christmas, and cannot say when it will finish the upgrade.
BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 29 November at 1204 GMT.
The programme was repeated on Sunday, 30 November, 2003 at 2102 GMT.