Didi Chuxing

Didi Chuxing to accept cashless payments in Hong Kong cabs for first time

The Chinese ride-hailing giant will now allow passengers to pay their fare by Visa, Mastercard or American Express on its mobile app

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 6:45am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 3:44pm

Hong Kong’s taxi drivers have frequently faced criticism for their refusal to move with the times and fully embrace electronic payments as an alternative to cash.

That has not stopped some of the biggest players in the mobile payments game trying to capture market share in the hope that one day more customers will be reaching for their smartphones instead of their wallets to settle their cab fares.

In that spirit, Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing announced on Wednesday that it will from now on accept cashless payments for the first time in the city, allowing passengers to pay by Visa, Mastercard or American Express on its mobile app.

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The move intensifies competition between e-payment providers to persuade taxi passengers – and drivers – to make the move away from cash. 

The international credit card companies are up against Chinese mobile payment platforms Alipay and WeChat Pay vying to sign up local cabbies. Octopus, Hong Kong’s dominant stored-value contactless payment system, is also trying to capture a share of the increasingly crowded market.

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The advantage of mobile payment over cash for both customers and drivers is obvious, according to Caroline Ada, Visa’s country manager for Hong Kong and Macau. 

“[With cash] time is wasted as both passengers and taxi drivers need to wait for change,” she said at a press conference announcing Visa’s tie-up with Didi on Wednesday.

Didi’s smartphone app is the third ride-hailing platform to accept credit cards as a payment option in Hong Kong, after local companies HK Taxi and SynCab added the feature earlier this year and in 2015, respectively. 

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Didi said it is looking to add commercial bank cards to its payment options in the future.

Didi’s Hong Kong team has been teaching its drivers to adapt to the e-payment systems in the past few months, said Lin Li, the firm’s general manager of North Asia. 

The city’s cab drivers have long been reluctant to accept anything but cash, resisting the contactless payment systems that have become a part of everyday life in mainland China.

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“For now companies are not focusing on earning money from taxi fare payment since they need to persuade Hong Kong people to adopt the new payment method,” said Wilson Chow, mainland China and Hong Kong TMT industry leader at PwC. 

“Once that habit is established, payment companies can expand on other monetisation initiatives, such as performing data analytics to derive meaningful information on consumer spending patterns.” 

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As an added incentive to kick-start the new payment capabilities, Didi will offer customers a saving of HK$100 per ride on the next three consecutive Fridays if they pay using the in-app payment feature. Didi will subsidise the special offer on the first two Fridays, while Didi together with Visa will cover the last one. 

Each passenger can take up to two discounted rides per day during the promotion.

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The launch of the in-app e-payment feature comes as Didi’s Hong Kong app absorbs that of Kuaidi Taxi three years after the mainland merger of their parent companies, Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache.

The Kuaidi Taxi ride-hailing app ceased to operate as a separate entity on Tuesday after serving the Hong Kong market for nearly four years. 

Didi says that along with Kuaidi Taxi, it has about 20,000 registered drivers in Hong Kong – half the total number of taxi drivers in the city.