I’m looking for some enlightenement here.
Background: in germany, you can use debit cards and credit cards to pay in retail stores. The cashier swipes the card through a terminal, which then dials the payment service provider to authorize the payment. This sometimes takes quite a while (especially on saturdays, when everyone goes shopping – there’s no 24 hour shopping in germany…), and today it failed in my case due to a connection error. Mostly ISDN lines are used, but sometimes they even do dial-up with analog modems. The backup method was to print out a slip and do a direct debit (for you americans out there: this is like using a credit card, but instead of going to your credit card account, it gets billed on your checkings account directly). This is obviously more risky, as it can’t be authorized – the card might even be stolen, or the payment rejected due to lack of funds.
So, why do they still do this? Why don’t they use the internet with much faster connections and always-on mode? It can’t be security – there’s VPNs, and the payment terminals carry all kinds of crypto, anyway.
Is there anybody who can tell me why this is still so arcane?