UBS and Swiss Raiffeisen banks have issued V Pay debit cards from Visa since 2014. The newcomer in the Swiss debit card space is now offered by Hypothekarbank Lenzburg as well. Many Swiss merchants welcomed the competition to established debit cards. So far, however, adoption of the V Pay card has been limited.
A new debit card
The V Pay card from Visa is a debit card which combines ATM card and checking card functionality and is linked to a private account (in Switzerland debit cards of this type are popularly referred to as EC cards). It is the most recent debit card type to enter the Swiss market, which has long been dominated by the Maestro debit card from Mastercard and the Postcard debit card from Postfinance.
Making payments and withdrawals with V Pay cards
Maestro cards, PostFinance cards and V Pay cards can all be used to make payments at point of sale (POS) terminals throughout Switzerland. They can also be used to withdraw money at automated teller machines (ATMs) in Switzerland and abroad. While other payment cards like credit cards and prepaid card can be used to settle payments at POS terminals, there are distinct advantages to making cash withdrawals using ATMs using debit cards.
Cash withdrawals and purchases from merchants (Migros, Denner or Coop, for example) are debited directly from a private account (checking account). Many Swiss online merchants accept payment via PostFinance debit cards, but do not accept Maestro or V Pay. Unlike prepaid cards, standard debit cards are only issued in combination with private accounts.
V Pay vs. Maestro
The primary difference between V Pay and Maestro is that V pay is primarily accepted in European countries, while Maestro cards can be used to pay and make cash withdrawals in many countries around the world. It is also possible that some merchants in Switzerland which accept Maestro or PostFinance debit cards will not accept V Pay cards. The main advantage of V Pay compared to Maestro is that V Pay is more secure.
V Pay vs. Postcard
The Postcard debit card from Postfinance can be used to withdraw money at ATMs around the world which use the Plus network from Visa. V Pay, on the other hand, is primarily accepted by ATMs in European countries. However, the Postcard is only widely accepted as a checking card (for payments at POS terminals) by merchants in Switzerland. V Pay cards can be used to pay at POS terminals at numerous merchants in many European countries. The Postcard is accepted by many Swiss merchants for online purchases, while the V Pay card is not accepted by Swiss online merchants.
Security advantages of V Pay
The V Pay card is a so-called smartcard – meaning it has an integrated microchip. Because V pay debit cards only have an embedded EMV microchip and not a magnetic stripe, they are less prone to skimming. Maestro cards, on the other hand, store card information on both an EMV chip and a magnetic stripe. This allows cardholders to use Maestro cards at POS terminals or ATMs which only accept magnetic stripes, but also makes them more prone to skimming. To date, no successful skimming attacks on V Pay cards have been discovered.
You can find useful information on how to safeguard your debit card information in the guide to protecting your money from card skimming.
V Pay cards at Raiffeisen banks
Since 2014, adult customers of Swiss Raiffeisen banks have been able to choose between Maestro and V Pay debit cards. The costs associated with both cards are identical. The annual fees of both the V Pay card and the Maestro card are waived during the first year for Raiffeisen members who hold a Private Account Plus.
Young adults and students do not have the option of obtaining Maestro debit cards at Raiffeisen banks. Only V Pay cards are issued to these account holders, but no annual fee is charged.
Cash withdrawals from out-of-network ATMs in Switzerland made using V Pay cards cost regular Raiffeisen private account holders 2 Swiss francs per withdrawal. Private Account Plus holders benefit from 24 complimentary out-of-network ATM withdrawals every year, with the standard 2-franc fee applying to additional withdrawals. Cash withdrawals outside of Switzerland cost 4.50 francs per withdrawal. Comparing individual debit cards and private accounts using a comparison tool which accounts for all possible costs can help you find the most affordable solution for your needs.
V Pay cards at UBS
UBS has also offered V Pay cards to its customers since 2014. UBS customers can be issued a Maestro card instead of a V Pay card upon request. UBS charges identical fees regardless of whether a V Pay card or Maestro card is used.