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As I approached the taxi stand at (Uber less) Frankfurt International Airport, I quickly enquired “do you take credit card?”. After barely audible grumbles, the staunch taxi driver replied “you have no cash? Yes, yes, we take credit card”, followed by a perfectly audible sigh. I get it- drivers prefer cold hard cash, but it’s the 21st century surely…

“How long are you in town?”

I could’ve taken the very efficient “S Bahn” train from the airport into the city, but I had a specific destination in mind and after just coming off a long haul flight I wished to unwind on the journey in. 20 minutes later we had reached our destination- a hip coffee shop for a quick recovery beverage.

“That’ll be 30 Euros”

As I passed my driver my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, I began wondering if I was hallucinating from the jet lag. The driver pulled out a credit card machine, which I believe I last saw appear in the film “Pretty Woman”. Yes, we’re talking about an entirely non electronic, zero connectivity credit card machine which simply takes an imprint of the credit card. With rampant fraud- ripe for abuse, I thought these had gone the way of Windows 95.

“Your card doesn’t work”

Uh, yes, it does. Here’s the kicker- the design of the utterly sharp looking Chase Sapphire Preferred card does not have the traditional 16 numbers raised against the front. It instead is a sleek-name only front, with numbers in an unusual place on the reverse side. The driver then attempted to persuade me to see if the coffee shop would be happy for me to charge an extra €30 and give him cash. That sounded ridiculous, so I protested that surely- we could call the taxi center and they could process the payment electronically.

“No”

Yes, travelers should whenever possible carry at least some cash – in case a situation arises, where you enter the twilight zone, and technology has reverted to the 1980’s. But I didn’t have any, I was only going to be in Germany for the day and forgot my debit card- figuring 3 credit cards would be able to cover any needs. Beginning to think this was going to become a painful situation- it all changed when the driver continued just a minute down the road to the taxi stand. A partner taxi had a modern machine, processing the payment promptly. All resolved.

“You Take Credit Cards?”

Shockingly, on the way back, the driver attempted the same “you sure you don’t have cash” grumbling, showing that his machine did not work, before reaching into his glove compartment to reveal a brand new digital machine, like those found in European restaurants, when I said there were no other options. Was it all a game?! Of course, I accept some blame for not having cash- but as a frequent international traveler I’ve always been confident that if credit card is accepted (something I ask before going anywhere) that I can take part without issue. This was certainly amusing, thanks to the lucky result.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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9 Comments

  1. You are lucky. The old machine (non electronic) are prone to fraud. Either the driver failed to do that or he’s also charge 3% by the bank, that’s why he is unhappy. Maybe next time you can pull cash from atm using credit card?

  2. You can run into these issues in NYC a well. All the cars have perfectly working credit card machines but the drivers don’t like you to use them. Especially on airport trips. I’ve also had them say the cost is higher than the stated cost because I’m using a credit card. I am so glad UBER and Lyft were introduced!

    I haven’t seen anyone pull out one of those imprint machines though!

  3. This is one benefit of Uber and Lyft. All the money changes hands in the app. No grief from the driver because I want to use a card, no problems because the card does or doesn’t have a chip or a PIN, or is made of metal, or won’t scan on their network, and no bother about a proper receipt.

  4. You have to be careful when you engage a prepaid taxi in Indian Airport. For example this happened to me few months ago in Hyderabad airport. The agent at the prepaid taxi counter said they will accept credit card as a form of payment, when I tried to pay using the credit card, the agent said do not pay now pay to the taxi cab driver when he close out the meter.

    When I arrived at the destination the taxi cab guy said he would not accept the credit card as a form of payment he will accept only cash. He told me I have been misinformed by the person at the airport counter. There is a heavy competition at the Indian airport for prepaid taxi cabs so they will say any thing to attract your business.

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