Garage on Beyers Naude Drive now takes debit cards
South Africans still can't pay for petrol by credit card, but we may finally be able to cancel our consumer-unfriendly garage cards and use debit cards instead.
A BP garage on Beyers Naude Drive yesterday became the first in the country to start accepting Visa or MasterCard branded debit cards. The petrol giant plans to invest R20million to make debit card readers available on all its forecourts by the end of the year.
Visa International's head of marketing for sub-Saharan Africa, James Clarke, said BP's investment would not only offer convenience for domestic motorists but would reflect well for SA's image with tourists.
Many tourists have been frustrated by South Africa's weird laws banning the use of credit cards to pay for petrol.
It is important for South Africa to finally change these laws before tourists flood in for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
During the 1970s oil crisis, laws were introduced in South Africa making it illegal for garages to accept credit card payments for petrol.
Local banks stepped in by offering their credit card holders second cards.
Since garage card bills tend to be merged into credit card bills, only consumers who scrutinise their bills carefully realise what a bad deal they are getting.
Petrol transactions start clocking up interest charges immediately, unlike credit card transactions which have a 30 day or more grace period.
Savvy consumers have taken to drawing cash from the ATMs which are becoming common on garage forecourts. These ATMs have also enabled tourists with MasterCard or Visa cards to work around South Africa's weird petrol regulations.
Forcing garages to only accept cash instead of plastic has resulted in BP alone suffering 345 robberies at its service stations.
"We recognise that crime continues to be a major concern on forecourts and we have elected to absorb the associated costs for now with a view to reduce the risks associated with handling cash on site," said BP's chief operating officer Sipho Maseko.
Maseko said the company was still negotiating with government and banks to eventually include credit card payments.