The most annoying thing that can happen on your trip to Europe is not being able to pay by credit card in supermarkets, shops or restaurants. What? Are there places where credit cards or overseas debit cards aren’t accepted? Yes! But no worries there is a solution. Let me tell you about the benefits of a Maestro card.
What is a Maestro card? Is it a debit card?
Maestro is a payment brand created by MasterCard. It consists of debit cards and prepaid cards. Maestro cards are the most popular type of bank card in various European countries, for example, The Netherlands and Germany.
This means that many point-of-sale machines in shops, restaurants and supermarkets only accept Maestro cards. It simply is the payment standard in these European countries.
What is the difference between MasterCard and Maestro?
If Maestro is a MasterCard brand can I use my MasterCard credit card in payment machines in shops that accept Maestro Cards? Unfortunately not. Maestro and MasterCard are two different type of cards and payment systems:
- Maestro is a debit card that can be used to pay in shops or to get cash money via an ATM
- A MasterCard card can be a credit card, debit card or a prepaid credit card. Payments via this system are always processed as a credit card payment (from the perspective of the back-end/merchant).
As Maestro is the leading payment card type in these European countries regular MasterCard or Visa credit cards aren’t accepted. Why? Because for the shop, a Maestro card payment is a lot cheaper than a credit card payment. Therefore, the majority of shops in these countries only accept Maestro cards. It is easier and cheaper for the merchant aka shopkeeper.
Which countries use the Maestro payment standard?
In the following European countries, Maestro is an important payment card or even the leading payment card.
- The Netherlands
How can I get a Maestro card for my next trip to Europe?
If you have an overseas bank account it is highly unlikely that your bank supports or issues Maestro cards. In most countries worldwide MasterCard and Visa credit cards and debit cards are the leading payment system.
Here’s how to get a Maestro card when residing in the USA, UK, Australia and many other overseas countries around the world.
- Open a free Revolut account. Revolut is a modern online bank alternative and payment provider. It is the perfect payment solution for travellers or digital nomads, basically anyone travelling.
- Via the app, you can apply for a Maestro card. Make sure to select a Maestro card when ordering a card and not MasterCard or Visa. Revolut offers a wide range of card types, that’s why they are perfect for travellers and global citizens.
- You’ll also get a free online debit card that you can add to Google Pay or Apple Pay.
Revolut offers more advantages to travellers and digital nomads. These advantages are all listed here, so we don’t need to repeat that info here.
Who can get a Revolut Maestro card?
If you are living in or are a resident of the following countries you can open a free Revolut account and can get a Maestro card, if it is supported in your territory.
- United Kingdom (UK)
- United States of America (USA)
- European Economic Area
- Republic of Cyprus
- Czech Republic
More countries will be added, so keep your eyes on the supported countries page if your country isn’t listed yet.
How does the Revolut Maestro card work?
A Maestro card is just as easy to use as any debit or credit card.
- Contactless payment (tap & go, payWave etc) – simply hold your Maestro card close to the dedicated contactless area of the payment machine and the payment will be processed. You will receive an instant notification via the Revolut app that you have made a payment. Easy and a great security feature.
- Pay via chip by putting your Maestro card in the payment machine. Enter your pin code and the payment will be processed. You can set your own pin code when you order your Revolut Maestro card. You will also receive an instant notification via the app. The first payment with your new Revolut Maestro card must be done like this to unlock your new card. From then on you can also use the contactless payment option.
What is your experience with Revolut? Is it safe?
The advantage of a modern online payment system like Revolut is that you are in control. Via the app, you can see what happens to your account and Maestro card(s). Every payment is logged and you’ll receive a notification. If you do lose your card you can simply freeze or lock the card via the app. Much easier than with a traditional bank.
Security is key for these modern online banks and the same goes for Revolut. They safeguard their customer’s money by keeping it separate from their own money. In the unlikely event the company goes belly up, your money is always safe as it is stored outside the company.
And there are heaps of security features built-in their app and systems, for example, 2-factor authentication when you want to transfer money.
Are there other online banks and payment providers that support Maestro?
There are several other online banks or payment systems that offer services similar to Revolut. Some are direct competitors, while others are more complimentary. However, the big question is, do they also offer the option to get a Maestro card?
Wise (formerly TransferWise)
Wise is the online bank account alternative that is complimentary to Revolut. Some of their services are similar to Revolut but they also offer services that Revolut doesn’t offer yet.
The reasons to choose a free Wise bank account alternative are:
- It is free to open a Wise account
- Wise offers you a free local bank account in these countries or areas:
- United Kingdom
- United States
- New Zealand
- …and several other countries
- You can manage more different currencies via the Wise app (you can keep and pay with lots of currencies worldwide)
Does Wise offer a Maestro card? Unfortunately not. Wise offer Visa or MasterCard prepaid aka debit cards, but they don’t offer Maestro cards.
N26 – free bank account and a Maestro card
N26 is a German online bank that is popular in Europe as it offers a free European bank account. They are more like a traditional bank (money guaranteed via deposit protection) but with all the advantages of bank alternatives like Wise.
N26 also offers its customers the option to go for a Maestro card. And they have implemented the services of Wise so customers can transfer money worldwide at a super low fee. Their app rocks and is so easy to use. N26 is also a perfect banking solution for travellers and digital nomads.
Anyone in the following countries can open a free bank account with N26.
- the Netherlands
Do I need a Maestro card when travelling in Europe?
As Maestro is popular in various European countries, it is a must to have a Maestro card in your wallet. You won’t be able to use your credit card or overseas payment card. Especially as it isn’t common to pay by credit card in supermarkets and small stores in Europe.
Yes, Maestro will be phased out from 2023 onwards and many European payment terminals in shops will be able to accept MasterCard and Visa cards. However, Maestro will remain popular until the switch is completed in full, which is still many years away.
As it is free to open a Revolut account and a physical Maestro card can be ordered for free (depending on the plan you select), it makes sense to have a Maestro card in your wallet when you travel to Europe. Better safe than sorry.
Take for example the Netherlands. You won’t be able to pay by MasterCard or Visa credit card in these popular chain stores.
- Albert Heijn supermarkets, the biggest and most popular supermarket chain in the Netherlands.
- Card machines at train stations don’t accept credit cards but only Maestro cards. Train ticket machines in big cities and at airports have made the switch and accept foreign cards, but many machines still accept Maestro cards exclusively.
- Small shops, like bottle shops, cheese shops or mum ‘n pap stores, don’t accept credit cards. There are so many small and independent shops in The Netherlands that only accept Maestro cards.
For travellers and digital nomads, it just makes sense to have a backup payment card in their wallet. Just in case but also to be able to deal with all the different payment systems around the world.