Chris Reed
Jul 16, 2013

Is Visa’s Singapore taxi ban just a PR stunt?

Singapore’s taxis have something new to complain about. Visa. The company has banned the payment method from all Singapore cabs. Is this just a PR stunt from Visa, or a serious play to be the people’s champion?

Is Visa’s Singapore taxi ban just a PR stunt?

Why have Singapore’s cabs been banned by Visa? Visa wish to have their transactional charges included in the taxi fare. Taxi companies, understandably, wish to pass on this charge to the consumer. If you want to pay for a fare with a credit card why should you pay the same as someone paying in cash?

Visa however thinks the cab companies should suck it up and not charge the customer any more than if they paid by NETS or by cash or EZ link. So now when you board a Singapore taxi there are signs saying Visa is no longer accepted. However all the other credit, bank and payment cards are still accepted, so the consumer still has a wide choice. Ironically only 1% of all cab transactions are with Visa anyway and most of them are from tourists so who are they hurting?

Many people on social networks have condemned Visa for the inconvenience and hypocrisy. After all they have been allowing cab companies and everyone else to charge surcharges since the 1990s without much of a protest. It is not illegal in Singapore, so why would a company absorb this cost when it directly affects their bottom line?

Seems that Visa want it both ways. Play people’s champion while also getting their fee. If Visa felt genuinely passionate about this wouldn’t they abolish the fee that they charge retailers or at least discount it to make the point. But they haven’t suggested this they just expect Cab companies to take the hit. Why would they?

What also seems like wanting to have it both ways is that Visa have not cut ties with retailers or restaurants or travel brands where the majority of spending on Visa happens in Singapore. Surely if they felt this strongly about it they would ban all merchants who imposed a transaction fee on the consumer rather than absorbing it? They’re really picking on one sector of one industry to make a point but it looks more likely corporate bullying than being the people’s champion.

This feels like a PR stunt that will have zero affect on cab custom or surcharges. You can still pay with Amex, Diners, MasterCard, NETS, Union Pay, EZ Link and good old-fashioned cash. If Visa wanted to be taken seriously they should stop picking on taxis (which they have clearly looked at because of the lack of business they do with them anyway) and roll out the policy for every merchant in Singapore…but what’s the bet that they won’t do that?

Have Visa heard the phrase “putting your money where your mouth is”? Every merchant or no merchant.


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