Google announced last week that it would not be accepting Maestro cards as a payment method through Google Checkout, though it didn't explain the reasons for its decision.

On the face of it, it seems strange to deter potential customers by not offering as many payment methods as possible, especially one as popular as Maestro (it claims 540m cardholders worldwide) so why has this decision been made?

I suspect one reason for this is the fact that Maestro comes with 3D Secure, and that, while VBV is currently optional, Mastercard has been insisting that merchants implement this extra layer of security by the end of June or else risk a fine.

As I talked about in a previous post, online card verification schemes such as 3D Secure and Verified by Visa can be bad for conversion rates. This is one reason why Econsultancy dropped Maestro as a payment option, along with the fact only a small amount of customers used it.

3D Secure can be a usability nightmare for customers, as it adds another step to the checkout process, and many are likely to forget passwords and are therefore forced to answer security questions to reset them.

Since all that is necessary to reset passwords is the entry of the card number and birthdates, it is also arguable that it doesn't make transactions much safer, as these are details that fraudsters could easily access anyway.

A number of retailers, incuding Andy Redfern of have reported a drop in conversion rates after implementing such schemes, and it is possible that Google has decided to drop Maestro due to such concerns.

How will this affect retailers?

If customers begin to complain that they can't make payments as a result, and retailers are losing sales, this could be a concern. This comment from Google Checkout's merchant support forums suggests this could be an issue for some:

How come Google Checkout no longer accepts Maestro but you can still pay for Google Adwords using a Maestro???!!! This makes no sense at all. Many of my customers are now complaining about this.

Some customers have also complained about this:

Out of personal choice I do not possess any credit cards and rely solely on my Maestro debit card for all transactions, online or out and about. Unless google have a plan to support a direct debit system like PayPal in the near future or reinstate the usage of Maestro cards then they can wave goodbye to my custom.
This seems like a very strange decision on Google's behalf, whilst I realise they're under no obligation to provide an explanation, it would be the right thing to do. Personally, I have ONE card and it's a Maestro. I won't be changing my card, I'll be changing how I make online purchases.
I asked Trevor Ginn, who runs online nursery shop Hello Baby and uses Google Checkout, and he doesn't see it as much of an issue, since sales through this method are low:
I think that Google Checkout has been a bit of a flop and I get probably less than 5% of payment though it. By comparison PayPal (which accepts Maestro payments) probably accounts for about 40% of sales.
Even if Maestro payments through Google Checkout don't account for high numbers of sales, retailers would be wise to offer as many alternative payment methods as possible, especially if they have a significant proportion of customers that use Maestro cards, certainly relying solely on Google Checkout may be unwise.
While I can see why Google would have a problem with 3D Secure, it still seems a strange move, when it is looking to build marketshare for Google Checkout, to restrict the payment methods merchants can accept.
Perhaps there is another reason for Google's decision. If you have any theories, let me know below...
Also, see Econsultancy's Online Transaction Processing Guide for more information, advice and benchmarking relating to online transaction processing. 
Graham Charlton

Published 5 August, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (10)

Save or Cancel

James Scott (ChannelAdvisor)

PayPal has recently informed users that 3D secure will be required for Maestro card payments. I know PayPal had resisted 3D secure for a long time - so the banks must be upping the pressure to accept. I imagine Google is under the same pressure and has taken a different route to PayPal in order to protect its buyer / user experience.

almost 9 years ago



This is almost certainly due to 3D Secure. PayPal, Google Checkout, etc. have spent much effort making their user flows as smooth as possible. Additional steps like CVV2 checking or 3D Secure stick out like sore thumbs within their checkouts.

In recent months certain banks now seem to have stopped issuing Maestro cards to customers and switched to Visa Electron so this may become less of an issue as time goes on.

almost 9 years ago



You can also not do rebilling subscriptions through Maestro. i.e. £3.99 every month. Therefore can't be used as a payment system for subscription products.

almost 9 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

@Ben - that's interesting. I didn't know you couldn't do Continuous Authority (CA) on Maestro to do repeat billing. Yet another reason not to bother.

Aren't Amazon the other famous case of a massive retailer refusing to implement 3D Secure?

I heard that 'it's all going to be replaced with something new soon anyway' recently? 

almost 9 years ago


Derek Hardy

3D Secure is a conversion rate killer, partly because it's clumsy but also because Mastercard/Visa have done nothing to educate cardholders.

almost 9 years ago


Oli Allen

As a buyer, I can't stand any of these extra verification steps. I bailed out of a few transactions myself before I realised they were skippable without having to sign up to them.

almost 9 years ago



I can see why Verified by Visa is bad for conversion rates, and actually not much help for security. I hate it when this comes up, I have to enter three letters form my password, which for security reasons has to be at least 13 characters long and contain numbers. Rather than have to count on my fingers what is the 5th, 8th and 13th letters of my password I just have it written down near my computer so I can easily count through the letters. I know this is rather foolish to have it next to my computer but I have just decided to take this risk rather than have the extra annoyance of wasting my time filling this in. I wonder how many other people do this and have their password which they use for all other online accounts written down. Actually causing a greater security risk.

A couple of times I have been buying a cd or dvd on impulse then had to go through Verified by Visa, got the password wrong a couple of times and just given up. What is wrong with just asking for your pin number?

almost 9 years ago


Steve Klebe

These latest moves by MasterCard around diminishing the attractiveness of Maestro by mandating 3DSecure and eliminating recurring payments just do not make sense.  We have a large recurring merchant using our services who is going to have to inspire its customers to switch payment types.

almost 9 years ago



Isn't that just great. The onyl way I can buy apps from the Android Marketplace on my G2 Touch is through my google account, henceforth google checkout. For simplicity and convenience i have chosen to only have one card, Maestro. And now there is no way of buying apps for my phone as google doesnt support my card. Thanks a bunch, always thinking about the consumer I see.

over 8 years ago



Google are insane!!!

How am I going to buy (android) apps from Play Store?

almost 6 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.