x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Visa's new 'combi-card' adds touching to swiping

A new kind of Visa card that can be swiped in stores but also touched against sensors to pay fares on Dubai's trains, buses and water taxis and at parking meters was announced this week.

The new cards will allow customers to pay fares on Dubai's trains with a wave.
The new cards will allow customers to pay fares on Dubai's trains with a wave.

A new kind of Visa card that can be swiped in stores but also touched against sensors to pay fares on Dubai's trains, buses and water taxis and at parking meters was announced this week.

This is the first time such a "combi-card" is to be made available in the Middle East.

While the card is intended to make life easier for commuters in Dubai, it is also expected to help boost the bottom line for Visa.

"We see transit as a huge opportunity," said Elizabeth Buse, the group executive for Visa in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Central Europe. "Consumers make transit transactions so frequently, it keeps Visa top of mind and top of wallet. It will increase our transactions, not just in the transit arena but in general, as this becomes people's primary payment device."

Similar two-in-one cards can already be found in places with more developed transit systems, including the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The new cards for Dubai, which are to be made available in the coming months to those who qualify for credit cards through Emirates NBD, will also feature contactless payment technology. Users will simply touch their cards to sensors fitted on buses and other forms of public transport, and to parking meters.

The combi-card is part of Visa's larger strategy to capitalise on different growth markets in the UAE and the Middle East in general.

An increasing number of young people are technology-aware, and there is a "tremendous amount of growth" among workers who use debit and prepaid cards for their purchases, Ms Buse said. "Each of those things spells opportunities for us."

There is also an opportunity in the UAE's growing e-commerce channel, she said. Even so, not all retail websites here offer consumers the option of making purchases by credit card.

Julien Pascual, the chief executive of the technology retailer EmiratesAvenue.com, said credit card issuers in the UAE "ask for so much commission on credit card payments, that I couldn't afford it. There is between 3 and 6 per cent commission, and a Dh70,000 [US$19,000] deposit. It's mad."

That's why EmiratesAvenue.com accepts only cash, cheques or bank transfers, Mr Pascual said.

Ms Buse said that Visa's products could help e-commerce sites to better manage online risk and fraud, and that the costs of handling and delivering cash also added up.

"We have seen in other markets that have moved from a cash-on-delivery system to fully online payment that there's a significant upturn in sales," she said.

nparmar@thenational.ae