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.