SEPA Card Payments

Payment cards have already achieved considerable importance in SEPA and will play an even greater role in the future. High-level principles and rules for card payments and cash withdrawals were defined within the SEPA Cards Framework (SCF) as early as in 2006.

According to these principles, payment cards should be SCF compliant in every SEPA member country no matter whether they are used to make a cash withdrawal at an ATM or a card payment at a point-of-sale (POS) terminal. Like the SEPA credit transfer and direct debit instruments, SEPA card payments and withdrawals must be subject to uniform standards. In adopting the SEPA Cards Standardisation Volume, the European Payments Council (EPC) has established the functional and security requirements throughout the card payment value chain to ensure interoperability within SEPA. The SCF, moreover, defines uniform security requirements for cards and terminals that are to be implemented by card schemes and banks. The EMV chip (EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa) and the Personal Identification Number (PIN) represent supporting technology being phased in to standardize payment processing. The chip technology improves card fraud prevention for customers and merchants in SEPA member countries. The Eurosystem and the EPC regularly monitor progress in adoption of the EMV standard and compiles indicators.

The SEPA initiative aims at harmonizing Europe’s still largely national payment card landscape and to establish interoperability and broad standardization of card payments among payment service providers (PSPs) and payment service users (PSUs).

Austrian PSUs will hardly feel any change, as they may already use their payment cards in other SEPA member countries for most of the same purposes as in Austria, and as they will not have to exchange the payment cards issued in Austria to benefit from SEPA. As the number of points at which payment cards are accepted will grow further, the number of electronic payments by payment card will increase.

Because standardization initiatives have not progressed as far for card payments as they have for credit and debit transfers, card payments were excluded from the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 (SEPA Regulation).

In spring 2012, the European Commission published a Green Paper entitled “Towards an integrated European market for card, internet and mobile payments,” among other things to promote the integration of the European payment card market.