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    Jan 29, 2016

    Use Uber often? Check your credit-card statements

    THAT Uber ride that you took may have cost you more than you think.

    Although passengers pay for their rides here in Singapore dollars using locally-issued credit cards, the payments are processed overseas, making them foreign transactions.

    The little-known procedure attracts additional fees that do not show up on the receipts that Uber e-mails to passengers after the rides.

    Instead, the extra charges - about 1 per cent of the fare - appear only on the credit-card statements passengers receive from their banks, sometimes a month later. Uber accepts only credit cards, not cash. The payments here are processed in the Netherlands.

    Its spokesman, Karun Arya, noted that it is "common practice for multinational companies to run different parts of their operations in different parts of the world".

    "Some card-issuing banks may levy an additional fee on their customers for these international charges coming from Uber," he added.

    Asked if Uber passengers are told about the charges, he pointed to the fine print on receipts that reads: "Fare does not include fees that may be charged by your bank."

    But local banks and major foreign banks told The Straits Times that they do not impose the extra fees.

    Said Carol Alisha Chan, Standard Chartered Bank's corporate communications senior manager: "The prevailing charges are imposed by the relevant (credit card) schemes and not the bank."

    A DBS spokesman said: "Credit card processing networks charge around 1 per cent for these transactions and this fee is billed to customers."

    OCBC assistant vice-president for group communications Lim Zi Hao explained: "The fees are 0.8 per cent for Visa and 1 per cent for MasterCard. These fees, imposed by Visa and MasterCard respectively, are for the additional cost associated with processing cross-border payments."

    But Ooi Huey Tyng, Visa country manager for Singapore and Brunei, pushed the responsibility back to the banks, saying that it does not set or collect cardholder fees and that "pricing structure" for foreign transactions is a matter between cardholders and their banks.

    MasterCard Singapore's group head and general manager Deborah Heng also defended the 1 per cent that it charges banks for international transactions, as "a global practice that is not unique to Singapore".

    But the extra charges have annoyed some Uber passengers.

    Businesswoman S.L. Chan, 45, who uses Uber about once a week, said: "The amount may be small but it is not like I can avoid them because Uber only accepts credit-card payments."

    For business development director Wei Chan, who uses Uber about 10 times a month, the issue is the lack of transparency.

    "The Uber receipt shows one figure and the credit-card statement another," said the 43-year-old who started noticing the higher charges last year.

    "Not everyone may check their credit-card statements so closely like me because the amount is small."

    Meanwhile, passengers who want to avoid paying international transaction fees for their local trips can turn to GrabCar, which processes its payments in Singapore, accepts cash and allows passengers to charge their credit cards.

    At least one credit-card company is reviewing its charges.

    Uber passengers in Singapore who use the American Express credit card issued by Citibank and Ez-Link now pay 0.4 per cent in foreign transaction charges.

    An American Express spokesman said: "While the fee is part of the card issuer's terms and conditions, American Express now realises in some circumstances that it may not be clear and easily understood by consumers. We are in the process of removing this fee."