Credit cards are charging into cabs 

Paying for taxi fares with credit cards would become universal in The City under a new rule being considered by the agency that oversees cabs.

Though many cab companies accept plastic as form of payment, the surge in passengers charging their fares has increased the cost of processing the payments. Several cab companies are trying to avoid taking credit card payments to skirt the processing cost, so the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is considering requiring all to allow riders to charge fares.

The system that’s currently in place leaves the decision of whether to accept credit cards up to each taxi company and driver, according to the SFMTA.

The requirement by the agency — which would only allow the processing costs to be passed onto drivers by special permission — is a move to provide more oversight and convenience, SFMTA spokeswoman Kristen Holland said.

“It’s an attempt to make [regulations] more uniform,” she said. “But we also want to find a solution so no one group — drivers, customers, companies — is penalized.”

Mark Gruberg, a driver and spokesman for the United Taxicab Workers union, said cab companies should take the burden of any fees regardless of the mandate.

“It’s a routine standard practice for any kind of business,” he said. “And we should be no exception.”

But he thinks all drivers should accept credit cards for safety and convenience reasons.

“There’s an obvious convenience for customers,” Gruberg said. “But there’s also a safety for drivers. Accepting credit cards means less cash in the cab and less chance for theft.”

Holland and Gruberg both said all cabs are equipped to offer credit cards as a form of payment since they are outfitted with special machines to take payments from disabled riders.

Charles Rathbone, assistant manager of Luxor Cabs, said the company prefers the cost of credit cards be included in the price of the fares.

“But we don’t really know the best solution,” he said.

The idea of having all cabs in The City accept credit cards has been discussed for years. During his October 2006 State of The City address, Mayor Gavin Newsom touted such an initiative.

In May, taxis that serve San Francisco International Airport were required to offer credit card options for fare payments, according to SFMTA documents.

If the proposal is approved today by the SFMTA’s board of directors, cab companies could be ordered to begin allowing credit card payments by mid-August.

Charge it

What the taxi rule would encompass:
- Force cab companies to provide cashier services to any driver for credit and debit transactions
- Require drivers to accept credit cards, including a minimum of Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover

Why change could be important:
- Creating universal system would allow customers to travel without having to find and carry cash
- Refusal of credit cards by drivers could result in stranding riders who have no transportation alternatives

Source: SFMTA

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