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.