If you happen to be running some errands in Dubai and you only have a credit card and an empty wallet, chances are you may not get a lot of things done. And if you don't have a car, that only makes the problem worse. The only option is to run to the nearest ATM machine — if there is still money in there.
Some public offices and commercial establishments still require cash payments in exchange for goods and services. Getting around Dubai with a taxi, for instance, is not possible if one's wallet is cash-strapped. Even if a vehicle is not the problem, getting petrol will be a challenge to those who don't have cash.
Taking the Dubai Metro may prove to be another source of annoyance for cashless commuters with empty Nol cards. Apparently, ticket vending machines, where commuters can top up their Nol cards, only accept cash. Commuters, are however, advised to go to the nearest "ticket office" where plastic money may be accepted.
According to Mohammad Yousuf Al Mudharreb, director for unified automated fare collection at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), the "credit or debit card functionality is available on all machines, but not yet activated."
"They will be activated in the future," he said.
At the Department of Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), those who are applying for a connection will have to pay their security deposit in cash, although credit cards are accepted for bill payments.
A Ministry of Labour employee also told Gulf News that most transactions, such as the processing of work permits and labour card renewals, also require cash-only payments.
Outside UAE government offices, there are numerous other establishments that accept only paper money. The list includes consulates and a hundred other shops that offer laundry services, car repairs, book rental, freight forwarding and removal services, and those that sell meals, groceries and other merchandise.
Merchants interviewed by Gulf News showed their reluctance to offer card payment facilities because of the fees involved in setting up terminals. They said they did not want to incur additional expenses because their profit margins were very small.
It's not surprising then, to see some shops and establishments charging consumers extra fees for credit card transactions. Certain gold shops in Dubai charge three per cent on top of the retail price, while insurance providers and removal companies charge 2.25 per cent to 2.6 per cent extra. At Dewa, over-the-counter credit card payments are charged a little over one per cent fee.
However, major retailers said they were not passing the additional cost to its customers.
"Additional charges on sales transactions involving credit cards are not charged back to the customers but are borne by the retailers.
"This is standard across the retail industry. Such charges vary from bank to bank and banks to retailers," said Mohammad Eqbal Yacoobali, general manager of Shoe Mart.