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TECHNOLOGY

Hundreds of German banks make Apple Pay service available for first time

Together with some German banks, Apple is pushing for a change in Germany’s cash-loving culture by making contactless payment via mobile phones more accessible to users.

Hundreds of German banks make Apple Pay service available for first time
Photo: DPA

It’s been a year since the launch of Apple Pay in Germany, and significantly more consumers are now able to use the mobile payment service than ever before. 

READ ALSO: Apple Pay finally launches in cash-loving Germany

On Tuesday, 371 out of a a total of 379 Germans savings banks made the service available for a total of 50 million customers.

Commerzbank, Norisbank, and LBBW (Landesbank Baden-Württemberg) are among the banks now offering the use of the service to their clients.

Integration of popular girocard system still in the works 

As is typical for German banks, only credit cards and debit cards issued by the banks themselves can be integrated into the service.

A system which uses the very popular girocard, previously known as the EC card, is still in the works. This interbank network and debit card service connects virtually all German ATMs and banks. 

The logo of the popular girocard brand, formerly know as EC-Karte. Photo: DPA.

Jennifer Bailey, the head of Apple Pay, said that the service will be integrated into the girocard system in the coming year. 

Extra security 

Apple Pay allows customers to pay using the iPhone or Apple Watch as if they were using a contactless card. The payment method also applies for internet purchases. 

Users are able to unlock and approve the transactions through face identification or fingerprint scanning technology. Bailey emphasized that this technology ensures that the fraud rate is virtually zero with Apple Pay. 

Contactless payment at the cash register relies on the NFC chip technology. NFC stands for “near-field communication,” and works by allowing various devices equipped with the technology to exchange data. Apple's Jennifer Bailey gives a presentation about Apple Pay in Cupertino, CA earlier this year. Photo: DPA. 

 

It is especially secure due to the fact that communication between devices is only possible within about 10 centimeters. 

The banks can only access the NFC via use of Apple Pay, due to Apple’s possession of the special high-security chip within their devices called the “Secure Element.”

German regulation challenges Apple’s dominance 

Germany passed a law in late November that requires platform operators such as Apple to provide financial services, such as banks who use their technology, full access to the infrastructure, such as the NFC, which makes the system work in exchange for a small fee. 

The law ensures that Apple’s rivals in the mobile payment market would still have access to the technology that makes it work. 

The regulation is just one part of recent actions in Germany to regulate US technology companies and their market dominance. 

Commerzbank was one of the banks to adopt the Apple Pay service recently. Photo: DPA.

Apple criticized the law but feels confident overall about accommodating it from a legal perspective. The company emphasized that it already provides access to the NFC chip infrastructure to financial service providers, thus meeting the requirements of the law. 

“When a card is added to the Apple Wallet, banks can decide whether to use it to trigger secure payments from their own apps via NFC. No new law is necessary for that,” the statement said. 

Banks ‘voting with their actions’ 

“Banks are voting with their actions by working with us on Apple Pay,” Bailey said of the bill, in regards to the latest additions and the development of a girocard solution. Apple’s system is still the safest way to pay with the iPhone. 

“The only way to the NFC chip today is via Apple Pay,” Bailey said, expressing concern that any other system would jeopardize user data and security. 

Translated by Kate Brady. 

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TECHNOLOGY

12 useful bureaucratic things you can do online in Germany

Germany might be notorious for its paperwork and bureaucratic office wait times, but there are increasingly more things you can take care of from the comfort of your home.

12 useful bureaucratic things you can do online in Germany
Photo: DPA

Moving to Germany from a country that has fully embraced the digital age can mean being surprised at having to buy a stamp instead of filling out an online form. Many have lamented Germany’s less than fast transition onto the online world. 

Partly due to Covid-19 contact restrictions that have been in place in recent months, more and more things in Germany have now gone online and many hope that Germany is, as one Twitter user joked, ‘’slowly approaching the technical level of 1996″ and now entering the 21st century.

READ ALSO: How the pandemic is bringing German bureaucracy out of the 1980s

Before the pandemic, many German offices (including the Bundestag) used fax machines. Photo: DPA

Coronavirus specific:

Ummeldung

Obtaining a document that proves you have a residence in Germany is often the first step to registering for multiple other essential services.

Prior to the crisis, this meant obtaining an appointment and waiting in line. Due to the pandemic, you can now register by post or email. 

However, you can only do this if you have previously registered, and so it only applies to those changing their address – an Ummeldung.

You can email or mail the documents necessary to the Burgeramt in your new district, and they will take a few weeks or days to reply.

Registration of entry into Germany

Those travelling back into Germany from a risk area have to register upon entry to ensure proper quarantine regulations are upheld. Due to the pandemic, this process can be done online via a form found here.

Opening a bank account

Some banks, such as N26, let you open a bank account entirely online. You may be required to verify your identity, which you can also do online via webcam or email verification code.

Benefits

Elterngeld

If you and your partner recently welcomed a baby, you might be able to receive parental allowance (Elterngeld) which is a benefit given to all new parents to subside potential loss of earnings caused by the birth of a new child.

The benefit is shared between parents to give both the time to spend time with a newborn. This can now for the first time be done online, by following this form here.

Kindergeld

On the same note it is also now possible to apply for Kindergeld via an online form. Kindergeld is a monthly benefit given to all parents in Germany, to ensure that their basic needs are met.

Both Kindergeld and Elterngeld can now be filled out in one document – a Kombi-Antrag online – although they must still be printed out, signed and sent to the relevant office. 

READ ALSO: From Kindergeld to tax benefits: What changes for families in Germany in 2021

Arbeitslosengeld 

Most people are entitled to Arbeitslosengeld if they have lost their job, and also in some cases if they have quit and are on the lookout for a new position.

An important part of receiving this unemployment benefit is registering in time (usually around three months) which you can do online here. It is important to note however, that you still have to book an appointment at your local office to finish the process.

BAföG

BAföG provides crucial financial support to students during their studies. Whilst foreign students are only eligible subject to certain requirements, the application process can be done online by following this link.

READ ALSO: How to finance your master’s studies in Germany as an international student

Medical

Prescriptions via QR code

From July 1st, patients will receive their prescription from their doctor via QR code and app and transmit it to the pharmacy. The pharmacy can then inform the patient whether the preparation is in stock or when it will be ready for collection. 

This model is to be mandatory for people with statutory health insurance as early as 2022, and is set to completely replace the paper prescription.

Sick notes submitted electronically to health insurance

Until now, employees had to submit their sick note (Krankenschein) to the insurer themselves when they called in sick at work.

An ‘Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung’, or sick note, which until now the employee submits directly to their employer after receiving it from a doctor. Photo: DPA

As of January, this can be done electronically: the doctor will then send the so-called eAU (electronic certificate of incapacity for work) directly to the insurer. However, the patient will still receive a paper certificate which they can pass on to their employer.

From 2022, the employer will also be able to retrieve the sickness notification directly from the health insurance company.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to ditch paper sick notes for digital ones

Tax

Register and pay your TV tax

Although the majority may not enjoy having to pay TV tax monthly (especially if they don’t have or use a TV) you can make the process less painful by now registering your flat and setting up a payment method online.

Apply for a tax number

Your tax number, or Steuernummer can also be collected online. It is useful primarily for freelancers and businesses. The form can be filled out online and submitted to the Finanzamt, or tax office. You can find help filling out the form in English here. If you own a business, and it moves to a different Finanzamt’s area, your tax number will also change. 

File taxes

Again, especially relevant for freelancers or those self-employed, you can use ELSTER, an online tax office system designed by the Budeszentralamt fur Steuern, or the Central Tax Office to submit your tax returns online.

The first step is to create an account and either choose to auto-fill in the form or fill it in yourself. You will receive a digital signature and be able to fill out your forms and submit them online.

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