Monday, October 4, 2021

EC Cards

EC Cards are a German thing and they absolutely drive me crazy.  An EC (electronic cash) card is basically a debit card that is linked up to a German bank account.  An EC card gets swiped, just like a debit or credit card would, and the money is deducted from your current account.  A "current account" is the same thing as an American checking account but just like Czechs, Germans don't write checks.

Most EC cards are also Maestro cards which means that they are accepted as debit cards in most places abroad.  

What drives me mental is that when you go someplace and try to pay with a foreign debit or credit card and your card doesn't work.  That's because the the business only accepts either cash or EC cards.  This has happened to me so many times over the years.  Your card doesn't work so you have to either have cash or go to the ATM and pull out cash.  This is because businesses don't want to pay the higher fees that are associated with Visa, MasterCard or American Express.  

What annoys me is that I'm not trying to pay by credit card.  I want to use my Czech debit card but it doesn't work in a shop that only takes EC cards because EC cards only work if you have have German bank account.  

Germans, in general, are frugal and usually prefer to pay with cash or debit card.  Buying things on credit is uncomfortable for most people in Germany.  

I don't know what the going rate is today but about 15 years ago, Visa and Mastercard used to charge businesses about 1,5% for transactions while Amex charged around 3%.  This is often why more shops in the the USA accept Visa and Mastercard than they accept American Express.  In the USA, this is just viewed as the cost of doing business.  

When I'm in Germany I just make sure to carry extra Euros on me.  When I go to the register and ask if I can pay by card, I always ask if they take all cards or only EC cards.

One thing I did notice this past week is that some shops which I know only used to accept EC cards are now accepting credit cards.  I asked Claudia about this and our theory is that Covid really changed things.  Many people had to put things on credit during the toughest times and so more places started accepting credit cards.  

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube that takes about Germans and their reluctance to use cards.

©Deutsche Welle

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