Home / Credit News / Should we expect taxi cabs to accept plastic?

More and more taxi cabs around the country are accepting credit cards, especially in America's largest cities. Do we now expect all cabs to accept credit cards? Or should some purchases still be reserved for old-fashioned cash.

I recently took a trip to Boston and, despite my efforts to avoid cabs at all costs and stick with the cheaper (and more...adventurous?) strategy of public transportation, still found myself in at least three different taxis. Of these three cabs, two of them accepted credit cards. One driver was happy to do so, while another driver looked like he would have preferred I pay him my $12 fare in change.

Look, I try to keep cash around when I'm traveling. But unfortunately my bank was nowhere to be found in Beantown, which meant every time I took cash out I would be forced to pay two fees: one from the ATM, and another from my bank. Rather than pay $6 just to get my own money, I found myself more often than not paying in plastic. Normally this is fine, but in my mind cabs are still part of the old school that not only prefer but sometimes require cash payments.

As it turns out, that mindset is becoming more and more outdated.

Many cities, including Boston, Philadelphia and more recently Washington, D.C., require licensed cabs to accept credit cards. That's convenient for us, but can prove to be a raw deal for the driver, especially if you're putting the tip on your credit or debit card, too. 

I stumbled upon this article from the streetwise blog Bostinno explaining why some Boston cab drivers (illegally) fib about their credit card machines being broken. Frankly, cash is still king in the taxi cab industry because of the delay in payment processing. This is a similar gripe among those in the restaurant and service industry, but (most) restaurants have long been established as a plastic-friendly environment.

Increasingly, there is a push for more cities to adopt credit card payments as a requirement by law in taxi cabs. Miami is one city that has yet to pass such laws, a fact that frustrates both tourists and officials at the Miami Airport who, according to the Miami New Times, receive numerous complaints from unhappy visitors forced to deal with unfriendly cab drivers.

In the end, while there's certainly a case to be made on both sides of the taxi cab credit card debate, it's still worthwhile to carry some cash around when you travel, especially if you plan on hopping in a cab. Odds are you're saving the driver time, money and hassle, and you sure can hop out of that cab quicker if you're paying in bills. That said, in 2013 with plastic the preferred way to pay, you're now correct to assume that the cab you're riding in can - and should - take credit or debit as payment.