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A contactless Christmas

By Kurt Tojner, Visa Country Manager • Austria

December 14, 2017

This December, hundreds of small merchants have set up huts and stands at Christmas markets in every region of Europe. Consumers have been visiting them in their thousands – buying trinkets and gifts, while drinking mulled wine and eating local delicacies. And they have been paying for almost all of it with cash. Indeed, it doesn’t matter if we’re in Munich, or London – at a Christmas Market cash is King.

Yet, in my view, a Christmas Market is the ideal place for digital commerce – and particularly ideal for contactless payments. They’re all busy, and therefore in need of the speed contactless payments provide. They’re filled with tourists – often affluent tourists, and those from regions where they use card regularly and don’t carry much cash. They sell many small trinkets – which fit perfectly below the spend limit for contactless payments, and those stalls that sell more expensive gifts don’t have to worry if their customers are carrying enough cash as they can pay with card. Finally, the merchants at the market can feel secure that they aren’t going to lose any customers that leave in search of an ATM. Indeed, the benefits of contactless payments are so significant that 1.2 million merchants across Europe accept them. 1

With this in mind, we took a busy, cash-heavy, Christmas Market in Vienna – an already cash-heavy region – and worked with acquirer card complete to provide selected merchants with the ability to accept card and contactless payments.

Here is what some of the merchants and the consumers at the market thought:

Slide 1

“Before we took card payments, we had many problems. People couldn’t pay if they had no cash, they’d go to the ATM to get money out and wouldn’t come back. So it’s great that we can now accept card payments.”
Bebe, stallholder

Slide 3

“Before this project we never had any card system in use. We always had to ask customers to pay with cash – either in euros or in a foreign currency – and it was sometimes difficult if they didn’t have enough on them. So we’re very happy to be able to take card now, and will continue to use card at future Christmas markets, and also at the Easter markets in the Spring.”
Pamela, stallholder

Slide 5

“I really enjoy the fact that I can pay with my card at the Christmas market in Vienna. I’m from Germany and at home I can’t pay with card anywhere. You have to carry cash everywhere, and it’s horrible – it’s bulky, it’s not very fast, and I seriously wish we would have the opportunity to use our card.”
Janina, from Germany

Slide 6

“When you’re at the Christkindlmarkt and you see a nice present from a person you love, and you don’t have a lot of cash on you, it’s really practical to be able to pay with your card.”
Leonie, from Austria

Slide 7

“I travel quite a lot and I think that in other countries it’s much more common to use your card than in Austria. I really like paying with my card because it means you don’t have to carry as much cash with you all the time, and it’s safer – I’ve missed it here, and I think it’s a positive change that you can pay with cards at some of the stalls at this market.”
Marisa, from Austria

Slide 8

“When you travel you don’t have that much foreign currency. If you have a card, you don’t need to worry about the change and a lot of the difficulties that come with cash – paying with a card is very convenient.”
Firoze, from the USA

Slide 9

“I use contactless whenever I can – it’s not possible everywhere yet but it’s happening more and more, and it’s a great feature. It’s just a lot quicker, and the only thing that’s worse at a Christmas market than being cold, is having no Glühwein. So whatever helps me get my Glühwein quicker, is OK with me.”
Lucas, from Austria

Slide 10

“It’s lovely at the Christmas markets here, but it would be nice if you could use your card at more of them. You don’t always have enough money on you for some of the more expensive things, and you’re either too short on cash to buy something, or having to go to the cash machines.”
Lynda, from UK

1 Visa Processing Data, Jan 2017

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