Cash or charge? joins Visa to launch Express Payment Service

Arby’s ready to ask patrons: cash or charge? joins Visa to launch Express Payment Service

Karen Bruno

Arby’s ready to ask patrons: Cash or charge?

Joins Visa to launch Express Payment Service

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Hoping for higher check averages and increased traffic, Arby’s has entered into an agreement with Visa International to test a speeded-up form of credit at 17 locations here.

Called Express Payment Service, the technology developed by Visa provides virtually instant authorization of credit card purchases, eliminating signing or imprinting of the credit card as well as the need for cash. A receipt is given only if the customer asks for it.

“Our goal is to be faster and simpler than cash,” said Einar Asbo, manager of technology application at the San Francisco-based Visa International. “But we have to find out how people react to not signing,” he added.

Beginning in September, an Arby’s customer here can hand his credit card to a clerk, who will pass it through a machine and hand it back to him, completing the transaction.

Unlike more complex debit or bank card systems tested by other fast-feeders and by convenience stores, use of a credit card precludes getting back cash or scrip with which to make a fast-food purchase. Nor is the customer able to check his bank balances by accessing an automated teller machine.

Arby’s conducted a six-month test of traditional credit cards at several stores in the Cleveland area where card imprinting–and signatures–were required. The company found that transactions using a credit card averaged $7 to $8 compared with $3.50 for cash transactions.

In addition to fast-food outlets, Visa is targeting other cash-based businesses that have a low-ticket and low-resale value, such as movie theaters, parking lots, and convenience stores.

“There’s little risk to us,” Asbo said. “If someone uses a stolen credit card, how many sandwiches would they buy?”

One drawback of Visa’s new service may be customer reluctance to eliminate signatures, according to Asbo. “There have been cases where the customer balked at not signing his name,” Asbo said. Arby’s and Visa plan to launch a direct-mail campaign in the Phoenix area to eliminate the “surprise factor,” he said.

Moreover, 7-Eleven, the convenience store chain, has installed in many of its stores automated teller machines, which accept both credit and debit cards.

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