Cash is (not) king!
Many bus services around the country now offer their passengers some form of cashless fare solution. PETA LEE asks what benefits these systems have returned and what the future may hold in this regard …
A cashless society is on the horizon – and South Africa is right up there with the rest of the world. Time is money, and money is time: dealing with cash invariably consumes precious time. Apart from this, in many parts of the world, including on this continent, wherever there’s cash, there’s the possibility of crime.
It makes sense, therefore, that less cash equals speedier transactions, and eliminates the opportunities for criminal activities. Increasingly, transport services have picked up the option of dispensing with cash fares and, instead, offer an alternative solution.
This trend follows international examples. In Poland, for instance, Warsaw City cards have proved that contactless technology is a highly effective means of fare collection in mass-transit environments.
According to a white paper published by Verifone, apart from accelerating the flow of bus and train travellers in stations, this form of automatic fare collection eradicates cash and fraud issues.
The paper cited other examples of widely used contactless smart cards: Hong Kong’s Octopus card, South Korea’s T-money (bus, subway and taxi), London’s Oyster card and Japan Rail’s Suica card.
Here in South Africa, the roll out for cashless fares has been slower, but is, nevertheless, moving forward steadily. Leading the charge into this modern era of e-ticketing was the successful rollout of the Muvo SmartCard in Durban in 2012.
Commuters using People Mover and Durban Transport buses throughout eThekwini municipality were the first South Africans to use this contactless stored-value card (powered by Standard Bank), to pay their fares.
The Almex Electronic Fare Collection system – in cooperation with the National Department of Transport and Standard Bank – developed the card on the basis of the EMV contactless credit cards from MasterCard.
It combines two essential functions: commuters can top up the cards with cash at charge stations (so it essentially works like a portable prepaid debit card). Bus fares are paid by passengers tapping the card against the electronic ticketing device installed on the bus, which automatically debits the correct amount from the funds, or trips, stored on the card and presents a receipt. Using the card is cheaper than cash or ticket fares.
Apart from being used as a smartcard for e-ticketing on buses, the Muvo Card can be used as a way of making cashless payments wherever EMV contactless cards are accepted.
In a country where many people live on, or below, the breadline and have no bank accounts, the Muvo Smartcard is hugely advantageous. Cash, as well as multi-journey trips, can be stored on the smartcard. Commuters can conveniently buy the cards from kiosks at depots, municipal Sizakala centres, and mobile Muvo smartvans.
The card can also be reloaded with cash, which can be used for retail purchases of up to R3 000 per month: the maximum payment per transaction is R200. For additional security, cardholders have to enter a PIN number at the time of card reload, or when making retail payments.
Then there’s Cape Town’s MyCiTi, bus service and its myconnect card – also providing a convenient way to travel. Every passenger needs a myconnect card to travel with MyCiTi, except children under the age of four, or less than one metre tall, who travel free.
This card-based bus fare system saves commuters the hassle of finding cash, cuts down on queue time at the ticket kiosk and, conveniently, passengers can also load enough money in advance to enable them to travel for a week, month, or more.
Vix Questek, “South Africa’s leading provider of solutions for public transport”, is a further option. With more than 25 years’ experience in the sub-Saharan market, Johannesburg-based Vix-Questek provides solutions for automated fare collection, fare evasion and even passenger counting solutions.
Its mobile P-Wallet is a secure, quick and convenient way for passengers to buy bus tickets via their cellphones, after which they receive an SMS confirmation. The payment is redeemed by presenting the card to a remote, unmanned load terminal at depots.
Bigger bus companies, like Greyhound and City to City, allow passengers to book tickets via their store account cards, like Edgars, for convenience purposes.
The future is open to amazing possibilities: in Hong Kong, more than 11 million Octopus cardholders can now pay for their groceries, as well as transport and parking, using a single contactless card.
In Britain, Oyster and Visa operate a co-branded, multi-application card for transit and retail payment. Under this arrangement, users benefit from Oyster and Visa‘s “wave and pay” function on a single card to quickly and securely pay for low-cost items while travelling around London.
In The War on Cash (Corbett Report, January, 2016) the author wrote that Norway was the latest country that had “jumped aboard the cashless society agenda with DNB, the country’s largest bank, calling for a total end to cash. The story sounds shocking only to people who haven’t heard the similar stories from Sweden, Denmark, India or Israel …”
While it’s highly unlikely we will ever see the end of cash in South Africa, or become a totally cashless society, the advantages of electronic transactions replacing some cash deals, particularly on this continent, are massive and speak for themselves.