When Apple Pay started in Germany at the end of 2018, the savings banks waved them off and limited themselves to the role of observer. Now, of all people, the latecomers could help pay with the smartphone to make a big breakthrough in Germany.
Berlin – Contactless payment is experiencing a boom in Germany during the corona pandemic. Apple Pay, Apple’s smartphone payment method, also benefits from this. But at the bakery around the corner, at the parking machine or at authorities such as the Citizens’ Registration Office in Berlin, the iPhone or Apple Watch have not yet gotten very far. The payment terminals there support contactless payment, but they are completely geared towards the Girocard, which is popular in Germany, so that Mastercard or Visa are not accepted there. So far, however, Apple Pay could only be used in conjunction with these.
This will change in the future, at least for the customers of 373 savings banks in Germany: They can also use their Girocard for payments with Apple Pay. The long-awaited feature was activated on Tuesday morning. This means that Apple’s smartphone payment method is now available to significantly more customers in Germany than before – because until now, Apple Pay could only be used in conjunction with a credit or debit card from providers such as Mastercard or Visa. Now there are around 46 million Sparkasse cards, as the girocard is called at Sparkassen. That is almost half of the 100 million girocards in Germany.
Girocards much more popular than credit cards
“With the integration of the Girocard in Apple Pay, the savings banks are making a decisive contribution to ensuring that mobile payment is quickly established in this country,” said Helmut Schleweis, President of the German Savings Banks and Giro Association. This message has also reached Apple’s headquarters in California. Jennifer Bailey, Vice President for Internet Services at Apple, paid tribute to the start of the Sparkasse’s Girocard with Apple Pay with a statement: “We are very pleased to be introducing the Girocard, which is so popular in Germany, with the Sparkassen at Apple Pay, an even more secure and secure one confidential way to pay using iPhone or Apple Watch. “
In Germany, girocards, which many people still use the colloquial brand name EC-Karte, which was abolished in 2007, are much more popular than traditional credit and debit cards. Contactless Girocards and ApplePay from the Sparkassen can be used at more than 756,000 card payment terminals in Germany – including terminals that do not accept credit cards.
With Apple Pay, customers can use their iPhone and Apple Watch to pay at the checkout as they would with a contactless card. The users approve the transactions via the iPhone face recognition Face ID or the fingerprint scanner. According to information from Apple and participating banks, the fraud rate is practically zero.
Minor restrictions for customers
In Germany, according to a representative Innofact survey on mobile payment on behalf of Verivox, four out of ten respondents (39 percent) have already paid with their smartphone. For the vast majority of consumers, however, the smartphone is not their everyday means of payment: only 13 percent of those surveyed would pay for a 20 euro purchase in the supermarket with their smartphone (Apple Pay, Google Pay, retailer apps). 41 percent said they pay with debit cards, 36 percent with cash with bills and coins and 9 percent with credit cards.
“Despite the boom for contactless payment methods in the Corona crisis, the smartphone has not yet made it into the everyday life of most consumers,” said Oliver Maier, Managing Director of Verivox Finanzvergleich GmbH. This is also due to the fact that the payment services from Apple and Google have so far only worked in conjunction with a credit card. “Most consumers in Germany prefer to pay with the Girocard, where expenses are debited directly from the account.” The fact that the savings banks are now enabling the Girocard to be linked with Apple Pay could prove to be an important milestone for the acceptance of smartphones as a means of payment.
When using Apple Pay with a linked Girocard, customers have to accept minor restrictions for the time being. For example, Apple Pay cannot be used with the Girocard for purchases on the Internet, which is possible with a linked credit or debit card. In addition, it is not yet possible to use it abroad. The savings banks announced that shopping with Apple Pay and Girocard in apps or on the web will be possible from the beginning of 2021.
There is no money going to Mastercard or Visa
The service is free of charge for the customer. And for the retailer, too, the costs do not differ compared to the acceptance of plastic cards. Apple charges a small commission per transaction, the amount of which is kept a secret. Nevertheless, the savings banks have an interest in promoting the most modern form of cashless payment, also because handling banknotes and coins is associated with costs and security risks. And the variant with the Girocard is clearly the favorite because at least no money flows into Mastercard or Visa.
Apple Pay is supported with the iPhone from version 6s and with Apple Watch from Series 1. To activate Apple pay with the Girocard, Sparkasse customers still need access to their Sparkasse’s online banking system and the current version of the Sparkasse app.