It is often said that the UK and the US are two nations separated by a common language. To take that a bit further, there are also huge differences between European and US payments cultures and systems. In the news this week were two announcements that bring this into sharp relief.
Compatability of US Issued Cards in Europe
Like many US-banked travelers, for several years now I have had trouble with acceptance of magnetic stripe-only cards at EMV-only (chip and PIN) outlets across Europe. Although many merchants will have magnetic stripe capability at point of sale, it is rarely used and is clearly a hassle. But using a stripe-only card for automated points of sale, such as to pay for train tickets or parking, is a near impossibility. So in a positive step French security solutions company, Gemalto, announced that it will produce chip cards for US banks to allow customers traveling to Europe to use EMV devices. Of course, capability and availability from US banks are two separate things, and I suspect that 'lobbying' of banks by customers to request this service will be required to gain any traction. Certainly I'll be making the call to my bank.
SWIFT and the Privacy Issue
The other news item is that the EU Parliament has reversed the temporary order allowing authorities in the US investigating anti-terrorist financing to request information from SWIFT about suspicious funds transfers activity processed internationally across the SWIFT network. This is a lingering issue that has pitted tracking of terrorist financing against EU data privacy regulation. Both issues are vitally important but a sustainable solution is urgently required that accommodates both security and privacy concerns.