Payments through Visa cards will be re-introduced in ComfortDelGro taxis from next month, almost three years after Visa started phasing out its service from all cabs in Singapore.
But, as with the use of all other brands of credit cards in taxis, Visa-swiping passengers will have to pay a 10 per cent levy - a surcharge that Visa had wrangled with cab firms to remove in the past. This led to Visa payment services being stopped in ComfortDelGro, Trans-Cab and Prime taxis in July 2013, with Premier and SMRT following suit.
Visa's country manager for Singapore and Brunei, Ms Ooi Huey Tyng, said that following a review, it has decided to re-introduce card payments, including its contactless payWave option, for taxis.
This is because the taxi industry landscape has changed, she said, with the popularity and availability of third-party cab booking apps such as Uber Taxi and GrabTaxi.
Through the apps, passengers can pay with Visa, and without a surcharge. There are close to 700,000 such transactions every month - an eightfold increase from a year ago, the company said.
Ms Ooi said that while many Singaporeans have this surcharge-free option, tourists and business travellers may not be familiar with the apps and have to rely on using credit cards, so Visa hopes to cater to them.
While the 10 per cent levy will prevail, Visa remains firm on its no-surcharge policy for all its transactions. "We are very disappointed that we have not been able to remove or reduce the 10 per cent surcharge after longstanding discussions with Comfort," said Ms Ooi.
"However, it remains an important option we need to provide for our business travellers coming to Singapore. We still believe... it is the best decision for our cardholders."
Before Visa removed its payment service in taxis in 2013, there were about 140,000 transactions each month.
ComfortDelGro group corporate communications officer Tammy Tan said its taxis will start accepting Visa card payments from Jan 1, with the full roll-out across the entire fleet of 17,000 cabs taking about three months.
Asked if Visa payments will be re-introduced in cabs run by the island's four other operators - Premier, Prime, SMRT and Trans-Cab - Ms Ooi said the company is open to working with them.
Cab companies have said previously that the surcharges are needed to cover a fee they have to pay banks for every card transaction - estimated to be between 2 per cent and 3 per cent.
Mr Amer Subhi, 39, an international sales manager from Israel who travels to Singapore about once a month, said the return of Visa payment in taxis is a good move. "But the 10 per cent surcharge is a bit high. About 1 per cent to 2 per cent should be acceptable," he said.
Cabby Henry Tay, 45, who drives a MaxiCab, said: "My fares are higher than for... normal taxis, so customers generally want to pay using credit cards. Having Visa back as one of the options will be welcomed by my passengers."