Someone’s rather upset about Delta (and other airlines) going to contactless/cashless payment systems.
Frommer’s Jason Cochran explains, “Customers will be able to use their mobile devices or credit cards enabled with tap-to-pay features, reducing touch points and speeding up transactions.” He’s referencing Delta’s announcement last month that the airline “is investing in touchless features throughout the travel journey and testing digital seatback menus on select international flights.”
The post is tagged “Inequality” as Mr. Cochran connects the issue to race and social issues. He also links to this op-ed piece.
“I don’t know who needs to hear this—apparently the airlines do—but not everyone has a credit card.”
Now, many airlines went cashless a long time ago — something Mr. Cochran acknowledges. Delta did so in 2012.
However, being offended by everything became fashionable only within the past five or six years. So maybe that’s the rub.
(And, no, I’m not writing this post as some advertisement for people to sign up for credit cards through my affiliate links.)
People are “Forced” to Use Credit Cards?!
“In the precise moment Delta decided to go all in on contactless transactions, a significant chunk of Americans are still locked out of the credit card market,” Mr. Cochran writes. “Worse, many of those who do possess cards have been hurtling headlong into a personal debt crisis… Is this really the time to double down on the forced use of credit cards aboard planes?”
I truly appreciate those who look out for fellow consumers. But I’m curious: who is being forced to use credit cards during flights? Are passengers required to order premium snacks or beverages? Must they buy $2 earphones or risk getting kicked off a flight?
Perhaps Mr. Cochran is better off leveling some of his gripes toward certain “budget airlines” that nickel and dime people for anything and everything possible.
(And while we’re at it, how about he have a chat with Major League Baseball? According to the Los Angeles Times, “all in-stadium transactions for food, beverage and merchandise will be cashless.” I haven’t seen his post yet about that. Let’s pray for those people forced to buy $16 beers and $45 t-shirts.)
“Good credit remains a privilege of those who are wealthy enough or well-positioned enough to qualify,” he says. Okay. That’s a bit dramatic, but I agree with the general idea: good credit can be difficult for some people to attain. There are also secured credit cards people can get — and start building credit that way.
What About Debit Cards?
Here’s something hardly shocking: lots of people have debit cards.
Someone familiar with Delta’s contactless payment system told me any card with a Visa, Mastercard, or American Express logo is accepted. That includes debit cards. (Heck, even Dave “Credit Cards are a Joke” Ramsey has a debit card.)
Passengers don’t need credit cards to buy stuff on Delta flights. A debit card should do just fine.
Some folks don’t have traditional checking or savings accounts — something Mr. Cochran points out. But several money management and payment services offer debit cards. Think PayPal. Or Sofi. The list goes on and on.
A friend who lost his job because of the COVID-19 pandemic shared this image of how California disburses his unemployment assistance payments:
Oh, look. It’s a debit card. So if (and when) my friend can afford to fly again, he can use that when he’s “forced” to buy something on a plane.
I know some people’s airfares are funded by others — perhaps friends, family members, or other acquaintances. (My parents paid for a few trips with miles or cash when I couldn’t afford it.) The recipients of those kind gestures may need to check bags — and several dozen Delta airports no longer accept cash. So if you’re carrying paper money — and no other form of payment — you have to buy a pre-paid debit card (which, of course, comes with a fee). And then use that for your checked bag or other transactions.
Or maybe ask the kind person who paid for your trip to pre-pay your baggage and you’ll somehow repay the favor.
Many of us are fortunate to afford travel — and much more. We have money to at least get by, if not live comfortably. We carry plastic (or metal) cards on which we can charge all sorts of expenses. Not everyone is as lucky. I understand that — and go to bed every night thankful that I have a safe place to live and food to eat.
But the world was going “cashless”/“touchless” for a while. None of this should be a surprise — especially in light of a global pandemic.
I understand a few people who find themselves on commercial flights yet somehow can’t get a PayPal account, “real” bank account, or a prepaid debit card. Life’s not fair.
This blog criticizes (and praises) airlines when necessary. Is their move to touchless payments malicious and intentionally discriminatory? I don’t think so. Sure, it’s another way for airlines to advertise cobranded credit cards — but they’ve been doing that forever. Plus, many consumers seem shaken by COVID and anything virus-related. So moving to touchless/non-contact payment methods may help restore some confidence.
Featured image: ©iStock.com/Prostock-Studio
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