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PayPal buys iZettle – and Germany remains in the payment stone age

How mobile payment and contactless payment are still causing too much commotion

Anyone who still doesn’t believe in the future of mobile payment and contactless payment will certainly have changed their mind since last Thursday. Once again, an American financial giant bought out a promising European finance startup – in order to consolidate its business in Europe.

Last Thursday, I learned that PayPal had snapped up the mobile payment service iZettle for $2.2 billion; news I hardly found surprising to be honest. Because after the rollout of instalment purchasing for normal consumers, the PayPal Plus service for business customers, whereby consumers can pay by credit card, direct debit or invoice without having to have a PayPal account, PayPal has increasingly become an all-round payment service provider.

Now the US corporation is going one step further and in the most expensive takeover in its corporate history, it is taking over a company which has specialized in scanners for smart phones and tablets – if that is not a sign, I don’t know what is.

I deal with payment methods every day, and in this connection also with the preferences of end customers, and so I see this step as a logical move by PayPal in order to position itself on the European market and to consolidate this position. For me, it is only a matter of time until mobile card scanners are fully implemented in many countries and the mobile pretty much works as a cash register.

Looking at the Scandinavian countries, where mobile payment and contactless payment have already become part of everyday life, it makes absolute sense to invest in the European market and to push innovative payment methods. And then I look at the norm here in Germany, a country that always feels it is still in the payment stone age.

It is astounding the fuss that can be caused at a supermarket register if you don’t want to pay in cash or EC card [debit card] – at least at a German register. This is not really due to the supermarket, which extensively promotes the newly introduced and in Germany highly innovative payment methods, if these have been introduced at all, but often due to the employees who are clearly completely in the dark.

When I recently attempted to pay with a payment code from my energy provider or shortly after with an NFC chip, both the cashier and every other person in the queue looked at me as if I had just made a fire for the first time in mankind. No question, here in Germany we really are still in the payment stone age.

In particular, this was highlighted by my attempt to pay my bill at the supermarket with a payment code that I had received for my electricity and gas refund. The payment code from the Berlin-based company ‘Barzahlen’, with whom we at Arvato Financial Solutions cooperate, was initially looked at suspiciously and then simply returned to me because the technology was not playing ball. Before taking the cashier’s place, I explained to the lady how she could use this payment code to offset against my shopping, and that this was a new payment method and that her employer was working with this provider. Simply scan the code, the payment is charged – and that would be the end of it.

I have had better experiences with NFC chips so far, like when I paid at a petrol station and some other fast food restaurant using contactless payment and above all without a PIN. But I recognized in the faces of my baffled compatriots that I am still a bit of a freak in this area. My credit and account cards now have the four curved strokes promising quick payment, and more and more PIN pads are speaking wireless. The nervous “Do you have another 3 cents” questions are now in the past – I just love it.

The shop assistant at my favorite bakery recently looked at me completely confused when I had to shout “Stop!” at the last moment before she inserted my card into the card reader. I wanted to pay with wireless so that I would not have to enter a PIN, I told her. Astounded faces behind the counter “Can you do that?”. “You can.” Now that I have explained to her the benefits of the NFC chip, the conversation now goes quite differently. When I take my card out of my wallet, the question quickly comes: “Quick and contactless like last time?”, “Absolutely!”, comes my response.

I look forward to the day when I can pay with my (German) payment ring or even an implant – it will be great to see the faces of shop assistants and other customers!

And until innovative payment methods become the norm for my compatriots too, I will definitely be sharing my excitement about contactless payment with some of them. It may still take a while after PayPal’s move until more merchants jump on the bandwagon and customers become excited, but the majority of statistics and surveys do look promising.

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