German card processor Zentraler Kreditausschuss (ZKA) is aiming to create a 'Euro Alliance of Payment Schemes' with partners in Portugal, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands in an effort to interlink national debit card systems to process cross-border transactions.
The ZKA has signed letters of intent with Eufiserv, a European supplier of processing services for card payments, and Sibs, the operator of the Multibanco ATM and card payment system in Portugal, as well as Raiffeisen Landesbank Südtirol and Südtiroler Volksbank as partners in a collaboration with the Italian banking industry. A further letter of intent with Euro6000 will follow in the next few days, while Interpay of the Netherlands has also signalled its approval of the scheme.
Hubert Piel, board member of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken (BVR), which is ZKA's lead association this year, describes the initiative as "one of the most important milestones in the development of the European card market of the last 15 years".
It follows the recent decision by the Belgian banking industry to can its national debit system in favour of the Maestro international network from MasterCard.
The Euro Alliance scheme, by contrast, marks a decisive break with the international card networks, enabling direct pan-European acceptance of debit cards without the need for an intermediary.
ZKA says it expects all German cards to be accepted at partner terminals no later than the first quarter of the 2007.
This will make transaction processing more efficient, says ZKA, and protect the investments made in domestic systems over the past 15 years by banks and retailers.