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Postepay is a pre-paid card used exclusively in the Italian market. The service was first introduced in 2003 by the Italian post office as a re-chargeable card for people to use as an alternative to cash, and as a convenient way to make payments online.
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It is a relatively inexpensive service. Because it is a pre-paid card, there are no credit fees or interest charges, plus there can be no overdraft fees because you can’t get into debt. There is an initial charge of €5 to set up the card, but no ongoing management or annual fee for the standard issue card. Renewing your card is also free. There is a small fee for loading the card, which is €1 per transaction. Customers are also charged a Euro for each cash withdrawal from the card.

As these cards can be loaded with cash at any Italian post office, they were particularly useful for customers who did not have conventional banking arrangements. This is still the case today of course, but in recent years Postepay cards have also become increasingly popular with customers who do have bank and / or credit accounts. This is because it allows consumers to pay for goods online without having to reveal their personal banking details. It is therefore an ideal solution for people wary of the increasing prevalence of online fraud and data and identity theft. Indeed, by 2015 (the last year for which figures are available), around 15 million of these cards had been issued to Italian consumers.

The lack of the need to operate a bank account makes these cards attractive to many Italians. Instead of being linked to a current account like conventional debit cards, Postepay cards must be pre-loaded with cash. This can be done in several ways. Italian post offices will load the card at any branch – you can do this by simply handing over the appropriate amount of cash. For customers with conventional banking arrangements, they can also be pre-loaded via MasterCard or Visa credit or debit cards. Postepay cards can also be loaded online via the service’s website using any kind of device, including smartphones.

At the time of writing, around 35% of online payments made in Italy are carried out using this method, so it really is a very popular option for Italians.

In recent years, further versions of the card have been issued, including a premium card which can act as a credit card, plus other technological improvements such as a contactless version for making simpler point of sale purchases and a card which customers can link to their mobile SIM card.

Postepay’s progress toward being one of the foundations of Italian consumer spending has been greatly assisted by the introduction of the service to school children as an introduction to controlling their own finances. Cards can be issued to children as young as ten. They are distributed free of charge by their schools, and can be converted to standard Postepay cards at the age of 18.

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