Why ApplePay Isn’t a Big Deal in Europe

Aside from hardware in yesterday’s Apple announcement, the big new feature was ApplePay. Using NFC (near field communication), you can pay with your credit or debit card using your iPhone. The main advantages to this are security and quicker payments, but Europe uses chip-and-PIN cards, rather than swipe cards, so security is much better; levels of card fraud are substantially lower over here. Sure, it’ll be a bit quicker to pay with ApplePay, but contactless cards exist here, which smooth the process. (I have to admit, I have a contactless card, and have never used it; I think I’ve only seen one merchant who had a contactless terminal in the year and a half that I’ve lived in the UK.)

Yes, ApplePay is nifty technology, but many of its advantages won’t make a difference here. For example, one is always at risk, in the US, of having a card copied when giving it to someone to be swiped. Here in Europe, no one swipes your card; you insert it yourself into a card reader, then enter a PIN. If you’re at a restaurant, the waiter brings a portable reader to your table. So your card never leaves your sight.

There are some advantages to online purchases with ApplePay, but, again, most cards over here use some form of two-factor authentication when purchasing online.

ApplePay is a big deal for people in the US, which is decades behind Europe as far as card payments are concerned, but it may take a while for it to be used in Europe. There’s little incentive to banks or merchants here to adopt such a system. We’ll have to see how this pans out.

Update: Here’s a New York Times article, Apple Pay Tries to Solve a Problem That Really Isn’t a Problem, that says a lot of what I do above, and goes into a bit more detail about whether or not this is a problem even in the US.

App Review: FreeAgent Online Accounting Program Makes Accounting Easy

Update, April, 2017: My UK business has been running for four years now, and I’ve pretty much mastered the accounting I need to do (thanks to FreeAgent and my accountant). I’ve had a few issues with bugs in FreeAgent, mostly related to PayPal accounts in multiple currencies, but, on the whole, it’s been great. Support is still excellent; when I have a question about how to record something, I get an answer within a few hours. If it’s urgent, I call them, and they’ve very helpful.

When I moved to the UK in early 2013, I had to make a major change in the way I run my business. Having lived in France for a long time, I was familiar with French accounting rules, and I used a (very bad) Mac app to manage my accounting. in the UK, everything is different. I needed help setting things up (for which I engaged an accountant), and I needed a way to manage my books. I’d rather do this myself, and not pay my accountant for all the daily grunt work. Plus, I want to keep an eye on my income, expenses and bank accounts.

I couldn’t find anything satisfactory for Mac, so I decided to try a few online apps (there are dozens of them). A couple of them were so confusing that I gave up quickly. After trying FreeAgent, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this app was for me. It offers many advantages that make my work a lot easier. Here’s why I chose FreeAgent.


(Note that all the screenshots in this article were provided by FreeAgent from a dummy account; I contacted them prior to writing this review, since I did not want to publish screenshots from my own account, and blur all the interesting bits.)

The main screen of FreeAgent is an overview screen, that shows you cash-flow, an invoice timeline, expenses, banking, and profit and loss. You can rearrange these modules, and, while I don’t use them all, it’s useful to see them.


One useful item here is the Tax Timeline, a tab in the Profit and Loss section; this helps me understand when I need to file specific tax forms.

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