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The ubiquitous Bancontact

Written on November 1, 2010.

I strongly believe that one day we will ge the zero-note wallet. Your debit card (or your phone, or the RFID chip implanted in your arm)  will take over notes and coins.

In Belgium, the main actor in the debit card market is Bancontact/Mistercash. It is virtually anywhere. I had my croissant and coffee in Le Pain Quotidien this morning and tried to pay with Bancontact. The lady told me that I could not pay if the order is less than10€. What ? How many persons have a +10€ breakfast ?

I went to the local McDonalds to have another (much cheaper) coffee. Big sign on the cash machine For your comfort and our safety, pay by debit card. Ok. Fine. When I gave my card, the cashier showed me sign in his back. No Bancontact under 10€. Coffee is 1.75€. He let me pay by card but still.

What's wrong with Bancontact ? Are the fees per transaction so high that shops lose money when the transaction is less than 10€ ? If they want to be ubiquitous why are putting such a high barrier ?