Still No Change to the Cashless Mirage in Europe for Travellers

Mar 1, 2017
Posted by: David

The headline figures make it sound like going cashless in Europe should be ever so easy, after all there are some 15m Visa/MasterCard POS terminals in 2015 according to Timetric in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Rep, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

So why do I call it a mirage, well a mirage is something that appear to be there but as you get close it is not.  So let us look a little more closely at these POS points.  I have blogged previously around this whole issue of acceptance in Europe before:

  1. Will Acceptance of All Cards Become Equal in the New World of European Interchange
  2. Can Cash Usage Reduce in Europe - A Travellers Perspective
  3. Can a Town go too Digital for Payments

In many markets in Europe Visa and MasterCard are viewed as credit brands and thus stores only accept VPay and Maestro. 

Post the new interchange regulations it seems little has changed.    At a petrol station in the Netherlands called Berkman, this is a main high street brand, in a main tourist town with tens of thousands of tourist visitors not even VPay is accepted.  Maestro is accetped I would contend as this is the brand the old PostBank card that went on to become ING Group adopted on its cards.

So even though Visa has 28% market share in Europe as whole this is not evenly spread and the overall percentage skewed by the huge number of Visa Debit cards in the UK.  Domestic schemes in Europe according to RBR account for some 28% of all transactions by value and most of these cards are co-branded to meet SEPA requirements with Maestro, a brand that is almost impossible to find a card issued under in the UK.  

In fact according to RBR these national schems are dominant in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Norway  where they commaned some 60% of all spend. 

So what does this mean for the average cardholder. Well one of the key things is that in Europe just because somewhere takes cards, don’t expect it to take your card. Further if you are a traveller from the UK where Maestro is very rate animal indeed expect that accepting cards as in your Visa/MasterCard m