American Express tells us not to leave home without out, but in Hungary, it is essentially a wallet stuffer. Other than higher class hotel and some expensive restaurants, the likelihood of getting to whip it out is close to nil. The only use for a Diners Club card without the MasterCard logo is for admission to the Diners Club lounge at the airport. Diners Club outside of the US is only a Diners Club card.
As the financial road narrows, it is causing more obstacles still. VISA is feeling Hungary troubles. According to Portfolio.hu, VISA is struggling along. They claim that “Visa Europe has been constantly losing ground in Hungary every year; the number of Visa cards in circulation dropped by more than one million over the past three years. The company has found itself in an exceptionally difficult position on the Hungarian card market due to an agreement sealed with the European Commission earlier.”
The article does not make it clear how Hungary is different from the rest of the EU in regard to these regulations. However, the interview is with Mark Antipof, Managing Director Growth & Emerging Markets at Visa Europe. Mr. Antipof was asked if VISA could reasonably leave the Hungarian market? To this he responded
“We are unable to compete effectively and are losing market share as a result of factors which are not related to our performance, neither over which we have control. We thoroughly explained the issues we face in this regard to the ministry and related authorities, including the implications if nothing changed regarding Visa Europe’s position.
In practice, the Hungarian banking card market is becoming monopolistic. We believe if the situation remains as it is, the lack of competition will be harmful for all parties in the banking card sector: banks, merchants and consumers. Competition on level-playing field is beneficial for the players and will also help the introduction of various payment innovations, such as contactless, e-commerce and mobile payment.”
My gosh, if you visit Hungary without a MasterCard, what will you do? Traveler’s checks are no longer used here. How will tourists survive? They actually have to figure out the zeros on Hungarian bills and use forints as a last resort. It figures, as of June 1st, Visa stopped charging the international exchange fees for purchases made in currencies other than the US dollar.