Continuing a payment trend fairly common in European markets, Siemens AG plans to establish a closed-loop prepaid card system for its staff members and guests to use when dining in the entertainment organization’s restaurants in Germany.

Easycash Loyalty Solutions GmbH will provide the contactless prepaid cards for acceptance at Siemens’ 250 payment terminals deployed throughout 60 restaurant locations, the Ingenico SA company announced March 13.

The prepaid card system enables guests to pay faster while reducing cash-handling by staff, Ingenico noted in a press release.

Companies throughout Europe, but particularly in Germany, historically have been interested in establishing “meal cards” or “company cards” that can be used only to pay for products within a company or for meals at a restaurant company’s sites, Zil Bareisis, a London-based senior analyst for research firm Celent, tells PaymentsSource.

Those companies generally seek cost savings by reducing credit card-acceptance costs from open-loop cards, Bareisis suggests. In addition, the companies save money because staff members handle fewer cash payments and avoid the processing steps involved in those transactions, Bareisis suggests.

Ingenico did not announce a timeline for completion of the Easycash project but stated in the press release that the final stage of the process would result in establishing 80 terminals specifically for Siemens staff or guests to add funds to their card accounts throughout the restaurant chain, with an additional 60 machines planned for deployment.

Easycash Loyalty Solutions processes the card transactions, while Easycash GmbH oversees the payment-network operations, Ingenico stated.

The prepaid cards also will work for staff members or guests from abroad who do not have card accounts in Germany, Ingenico noted. Easycash makes monthly direct debits from the card accounts for payment, Ingenico added.

Siemens programs terminals to read the cards’ chips to establish payment totals, automatically reducing charges for certain staff members. Staff trainers, for example, receive a lower rate when eating at the restaurants, Ingenico stated.

Establishing various payment rates for the different cardholders represents another reason companies like the closed-loop card systems, Bareisis says.

“Closed-loop systems usually allow more flexibility in putting such rules in place, such as charging discounted prices to trainers,” he adds.

Customer convenience can come into question with some closed-loop card models, Bareisis warns.

“A few years ago, I was in Switzerland and I couldn’t pay with cash or a regular card at a client’s restaurant,” Bareisis recalls. “I had to either get the prepaid card or ask the local host to pick up the tab, and that seemed very inconvenient.”

Siemens issues cards to staff members, while guests obtain their cards by making deposits through the top-up and card terminals, the release stated. The top-up terminals accept cash, debit or credit card payments for card-account deposits.

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