Uber customers can now breathe a sigh of relief as contactless transactions have again been enabled amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the form of automatic trip-end payments through bKash.
In November last year, the Bangladesh Bank had instructed banks to block payment for the purchase of goods and services originated and sold in Bangladesh through international credit cards. Subsequently, banks barred their customers from paying for Uber rides with their credit cards as the ride-hailing service debits the fund from the foreign currency quota of the card.
This left Uber customers with no other option but to make payments in cash.
Even during the pandemic when handling cash is deemed to be risky because of the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus, Uber customers could not go cashless.
But now, Uber's partnership with bKash, a first-of-its-kind for the global ride-hailing giant in Bangladesh, is solving a part of the problem.
Bangladeshi cardholders travelling abroad are unable to pay for Uber with their credit cards as local banks have suspended all kinds of payment to the ride-hailing platform because their system is incapable of distinguishing between domestic and foreign rides. This has put Bangladeshi tourists in an inconvenient position as Uber does not accept cash in many countries.
But to avail the new service for rides taken in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet and Cox's Bazar, customers have to go to Uber's app payment option and tap on "wallet" or "payment" and then "Add Payment Method" before selecting bKash and adding their account information.
A notification will inform of a successful linking of bKash to Uber. For automatic payments, customers need to ensure that bKash is set as the default payment method on the app.
The amount of money in the account needs to be slightly higher than the charge shown before the ride.
"With this partnership, we hope to promote more digital transactions, reduce cash dependency on the platform and improve the country's digital financial infrastructure," said Nandini Maheshwari, director for business development for APAC at Uber.
During an ongoing global pandemic and especially as cities start moving again, the importance of safer, cashless transactions to help maintain physical distancing cannot be more stressed, she added.
The payment service for world leading ride-sharing company Uber will enhance the existing network of diversified digital payment solutions and services bKash provides to local consumers," said said Mizanur Rashid, the chief commercial officer of bKash.
The customers of ride-sharing platforms Pathao and Shohoz can also make their payment through bKash. However, only Uber users have the option of automatic payment from the mobile financial service.
Launched in 2011, bKash, a joint venture of BRAC Bank, US-based Money in Motion, International Finance Corporation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Ant Group, operates as a payment service provider offering a broad range of digital financial services under the regulation of the BB.
The partnership with Uber comes on the heels of its announcement last month of introducing digital loans to Bangladesh in partnership with City Bank.
After a three-month-long suspension of operations due to the coronavirus, Uber has resumed services with an on-demand "Uber X" car service in Dhaka earlier in June after a hectic battle with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) over enlisting vehicles under the authority.
According to a BRTA notice issued on 1 July, only 6,846 cars, microbuses and ambulances affiliated with various ridesharing services are allowed to resume operations as they got enlisted with the regulatory body.
Of the permitted vehicles, Uber topped the list with 6,365, suppressing rivals by a massive margin.
Currently, four services of Uber are available for customers: Uber X, Intercity, rental and connect and a package delivery service.