Not being able to pay

It's interesting how the same financial companies can come up with three incompatible and different methods of paying using credit / debit cards. In America we still have magnetic swipe cards which are awful when it comes to security. Visa have introduced (slowly) Paywave which is a contactless RFID-based system. Mastercard have a similar system. In Europe they have Chip+Pin which uses a surface-mount contact-read smart chip, and now V-Pay - also from Visa.
All of the above systems are incompatible with each other, which in short, means that if you travel to Europe with an American bank card, good luck trying to pay for anything. Whilst places in the UK will still read magnetic swipe cards if you insist, for the most part everything is done with contact smartcards now. On mainland Europe, to combat card skimming, they're phasing out magnetic stripe completely. This means that by the end of this year, not only will you not be able to pay for anything unless you have a smart chip in your bank card, you won't even be able to get cash from an ATM because all those are being converted to chip-only machines. Additionally, most automated ticket vending machines (trains, buses etc) are already chip-only. I can envisage hordes of US tourists stranded at the airports because they have no way to pay to get anywhere.....

Why can't the banking system settle on one technology that we can all use everywhere? It used to be so easy to travel and pay for stuff when the whole world used magnetic stripe readers. But those days should be long gone (and are, in Europe) and we should have a more secure system in place. Well - we do, but there are three competing technologies, none of which US banks have put in place.
My advice : open a bank account in the country you're travelling to and move cash into it before you go. It's the most chance you'll have of being able to actually pay for products and services.


Khatouche said…
Al last! Mr Longhurst has found something that is actually better in Europe than the US!
Chris said…
There's a lot of things, not least of which the cars. America builds crap cars compared to Europe and Japan. :-)
Paul said…
Hey Chris,

Coming from NZ, where a lot of the banking technologies have been tested over the years, I find the US banking to be so far in the past that it amazes me.
If I had a dollar for every time I mentioned the bank and retarded in the same sentence...

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