Woolworths Accepting Debit Credit Cards Again [Updated]

Back in May 2010, Woolworths made the controversial decision to stop accepting debit credit cards, demanding customers with those cards select a debit EFTPOS option instead. More than two years on, it has quietly reversed that policy.

Picture by Marianna Massey/Getty Images

To be clear: Woolworths didn't make it impossible to use those cards; it just blocked using the 'credit' option to access them. The same money comes out of the same account either way, but the move was very unpopular with some shoppers, though there wasn't much evidence of a broader consumer backlash.

The most common complaint was from customers who only had a limited number of free bank transactions on their accounts. Other maintained that Woolworths should be willing to accept any type of payment, though in fact that has never been the case in Australia.

Whatever the issue, Lifehacker reader Kai tells us that this policy seems to have reversed:

Things seem to have changed recently at Woolworths. As of a couple of weeks ago, the "Credit" option has returned at all of the Woolworths stores (3 or so) that I've used, and with multiple debit credit cards (NAB, INGDirect).

We've contacted Woolworths to ask for confirmation if this change is Australia-wide, and will update if we hear anything. If you have found the credit option available to you again when using a debit card, tell us in the comments. Thanks Kai!

UPDATE: While we're waiting on an official statement, we understand Woolworths has indeed begun rolling out updates to its stores that will re-enable debit credit cards as a credit option. It hasn't hit all stores yet, but that should happen in the next few days.


    I had it on the weekend (in Wollongong), but I thought at the time it might have something to do with the new card I had only just got issued/used.

    Yep, I had the option to pay by credit when I used my visa debit card at woolies last night. It's a smart move, and one that I'm thankful for, as I only get 10 free transactions a month.

    Well thank god. I worked in a Woolworths Petrol station when they made it so you couldn't use the cards and you would not beleive the complaining. I realise its an annoyance but some people acted as if we had shot them. Worse were the people who would come in 6 months after the change and try and claim 'I used credit on this card and the Supermarket (woolies) yesterday". No. You didn't.

    God I hated that job.

      Whenever I see people complain like that I just shake my head. Clearly the person serving you at a large chain of service stations, would have no input into the company wide policy. Yet they whine and complain and want you to reverse the policy. It makes me question their intelligence. Even at franchise businesses, where it's obvious the 15 year old serving you wouldn't be involved - I've seen people complain. The worst was at Baskin Robins where a guy around 30 said to a girl who looked 14-15 all kinds of things - he wanted to use Eftpos, and the store did not have Eftpos (not just limits, etc. - they had no Eftpos at all) - she explained that, but he wanted to use Eftpos anyway and said he had all the other times he's been to the store (he even said in his little tirade he'll make her life a living hell) - Also there were 4 ATM machines (one from each of the big banks) 10m from the store. At Wendy's, which also has no Eftpos, an awesome chick serving spat in a guys drink when he wouldn't shut up about asking her why they didn't have Eftpos (all 4 working were about 16) - at least he didn't lie and said he'd used Eftpos there all the time (. I don't see what the big deal is anyway - no Eftpos. Walk a few metres to an ATM the 4 ATMs are about 30m from Wendys)

        The worst people were actually the ones that had Debit credit cards, but who would get pissy and claim their card 'doesn't have savings, its only credit' and would REFUSE to try it. No matter how many times I explained that for that card, in this case, the savings account and the credit account WERE THE SAME ACCOUNT.

        The other bad ones were the ones who knew they had a savings account "but I i don't bother to remember the pin, I only use credit." Well done, you're a complete moron.

        As you may have gathered, I wish Woolies had never instituted the damn policy, but it really didn't merit the level of constant whining it elicited.

          It's a little rich to hold the customer in contempt here.

          Although on debit cards the savings and credit accounts are the same, one of my old debit cards would only allow me to used the credit account.

          Out of curiosity, what was the procedure for when somebody couldn't pay for fuel which was already in their car because of this policy?

          That's not always true. I linked the credit button on my card to a different account.

        Hence the term, "faceless corporation".

    If you use PayPass/payWave then it defaults to credit on a debit card as that's the way that payment option works. Maybe as more registers changed to have EFTPOS machines with them included, they realised more people using credit with a debit card wasn't a problem?

    Switching to a visa debit card is one of the best things I've ever done. I don't really use the credit option on it anyway, but anything that makes them easier to use is two thumbs up as far as I'm concerned.

    Once witnessed a lady have to dump a big trolley of groceries in the store because she couldn't pay for them. Her Credit account worked, but she wasn't able to push Savings for some reason. Ouch.

    I'm also one who used to only get 6 free savings transactions a month (then it went to a whopping $1.20 per press!) so I'm thoroughly glad to see this greedy practice changed.

    this is very good news for me. There has been many a time I have stood in one stop to get good 3g reception in a woolworths, to shuffle money across accounts so I can pay for it on my one card that is not a debit card. I only have one Credit card and it gets me in enough trouble with overdrawing on it, so I keep all my everyday cash in my everyday account, which is only a debit card.

    well.. just when I had stopped complaining.. they change it.. still had stopped using woolies fuel because of it.. so good move to change it back..

    People still have accounts with transaction limits?

    I work for a regional bank who indeed have the main transaction account with a pay per use fee structure, there is a rebate at the end of the month though.. When you use the credit option on the debit card, these are fee free. I can only imagine how many customers went over their fee free limit because of Woolworth's decision. In the name of using your debit card however you need it, kudos to Woolworths for reversing their decision. Although I totally understand why they did it..interchange fees are excessive at best.

      Because their markups are so wafer-thin? Poor diddling Woolies, must be struggling to make a profit..

      Guess they were using the 1.5% fee saved to pay for their 15c/L they are offering right now.

    may be time to head back to woolworths again, if they're going to be customer friendly once more.
    though I would expect they managed to get a few dollars out of the banks for this change rather than seeing the customers perspective.

    By punishing you with fees, or luring you with points, the banks are getting you to help them rip off the shops via the credit card processing fees - usually 1-2 %.

    Imagine if your margin is 15% on a product, and 1.5% goes to the bank because everyone pushes "credit" you've just given 10% of your profit to the bank.

    Of course the shops can't pass on the merchant fee to the shoppers because then they'd have to call the Whaaaaaambulance for all the cry-babies who just want to drum up frequent flier points.

    I say collusion SHOULD be allowed where it leads to an equalisation of bargaining power, rather than an increased imbalance between the parties. & the shops should be allowed to collude and agree that they ALL pass on merchant fees to shoppers, because banks are effectively a monopoly in this regard.

    We think we're getting a free ride with the points, but really the shops just all put their prices up, and the banks are laughing all the way to the ... well you know.

    So when Westpac sends out your new EFTPOS card with a letter saying it's now got a credit/debit function, along with explicit instructions saying you should always push "credit" ... "for your protection" (year right), be aware there's a much more lucrative game being played.

      It is in your interest to use credit, if you've ever had to dispute a transaction you'd know how quickly you get the funds back with credit as opposed to debit on the same card/account.

      Our business passes on the merchant fee to customers with out any hassel. It's expected by nearly all customers these days.

      Woolies are allowed to charge extra for credit. Just like Aldi do.

    I would've thought that a business the size of woolworths would be able to get a discount on the interchange fees anyway, but i could be wrong.

    So glad they reversed this. I used to hesitate going into woolworths stores thinking about what i might be charged. Multiply my reluctance by millions of customers around Australia and i'm sure once they did their sums they figured it was cheaper just to allow it than lose millions in revenue. They probably also thought advertising the reversal wouldn't be necessary because word of mouth and Facebook and Lifehacker will do that for them. :D

    I used to deliberately use my credit card instead when they wouldn't allow the Cr option to be used for debit cards - unless I needed to get cash out, then I'd use my debit card in there

    The reason that they stopped accepting credit on debit 2 years ago was that it was costing them an absolute buttload to pay for everyones transactions. It was switched back on because they negotiated a better deal with visa and mastercard.

    This is indeed correct, I read a Memo at woolworths saying that the 'Credit' option is coming back.

    My guess is that if the woolworths stores have not yet updated the EFT machines ( store i work at havnt ) they will be recieveing the PayPass machines soonish... Which uses credit !!!

    So thats why they have brought it back. ( My guess ) :)

      Yeah, they seem to be rolling out sexy new VX series verifone pinpad terminals. Ive seen them at my local woolies and BWS in the last few days. They are very fast.

        You find EFT machines sexy?

    I'm guessing this is mostly to do with the fact that Woolworths have been rolling out new Paywave/Paypass enabled eftpos machines and want as many people as possible to be able to tap their cards.

      The update needs to b downloaded to the EFT machine via eft logon. It went live nation wide over a week ago.

      It is available on the old EFT machines as well, not just the new black ingenico machines.

    A few things:

    1) I, like a couple of others, didn't realise that people still had debit accounts which had limited transactions - how ridiculous! Get into your banks and demand unlimited access to YOUR money and if they don't offer it, move banks.

    2) Wasn't aware that they didn't allow credit - it's no bad thing - I always use debit - use money you have instead of eating your way into your overdraft.

      Umm, regarding 2), you've missed the point. It's a debit CC. It's comes out of the same money. They don't let you go negative.

    If you have a mortgage then you should never use debit, always use credit. Have your pay go into your mortgage and live off credit then pay the credit card in full every month from your mortgage. This way your money is reducingboth the interest you pay and the term of your mortgage while you live off the banks money for a month and pay them zero interest on the card. You even accumulate points! Credit all the way (but only if you have a mortgage)!

    Might sound like small change to some people, but it turned into a major decider when I was choosing which supermarket to go to. Even if the transaction fee was only a few cents, the original decision said that Woolworths considered extracting a few extra cents from their customers was more important to them than my ease of use. So Woolworths is now the supermarket I use only if Coles isn't available. I wonder how long it will take to change that habit?

    God debit cards with credit option annoyed me when paypass was released in Australia.

    I have my savings account linked to my CREDIT card, so when I give you my card to put through and request SAVINGS, I don't expect the attendee to paypass it and insist that it goes through savings because they have no idea how the thing works.

      What's the difference? And what businesses still swipe it for you?

        The difference is put it through on credit, I have to go home, fire up internet banking, and transfer the money back. Savings is my money and how I requested to purchase.

        I also find most businesses that do not have the eftpos linked to their till do the swiping for you, or any time I've gone through a takeaway drivethrough.

    Finally now I can go back and shop at Woolworths. I was so put off by this that I only went to Coles. Not sure who decided to go with the move to restrict this option.

    Wow I'm out of the loop, I always wondered why I didn't have the option to choose Credit with my debit card at Woolworths. Didn't bother me though, I always choose Savings anyway. Still comes out of the same account and I prefer using a pin instead of signing.

    Although it will be nice to now be able to use paywave with my debit card if the EFTPOS at my Woolworths is ever upgraded to support it.

      P.S. ANZ ftw - $5 a month for an account with unlimited EFTPOS transactions ($1000 a day limit but transactions using Credit don't count towards it) and a Visa Debit card with paywave, and easy as (and free) to replace your card when anything happens to it.

    Yet three years later they STILL don't have paypass/paywave.

    Get with the times!

    The reason for this is the upcoming change in the way that "interchange" fees work. Currently, every time we select CHQ or SAV, Woolworths and other major stores, are paid by their bank. This is a hangover from when EFTPOS was first introduced coupled with a decision by the RBA that they could decide what types of cards to accept. It was an incentive to get EFTPOS into the market. On October 1st, the position will be reversed. Woolworths will now need to PAY a fee to process CHQ/SAV transaction. So the original decision to block this on Scheme Debit Cards, is now no longer in their favour. Watch out as Woolworths profits decrease or their prices rise!!!

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