Bank Negara should be pragmatic, says MATTA

Kota Kinabalu: Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM)'s prohibition of surcharge on credit card payments can cause inconvenience to members of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), said its President Dato Tan Kok Liang.

Expressing unhappiness over the decision, he said unlike retail outlets in shopping malls, travel agencies and tour companies operated on low margins, adding that the additional fee was needed to recover the cost of the merchant discount rate (MDR) imposed by banks.

"The easy way out for travel agencies and tour companies is to embed the MDR into the pricing, but it would be unfair to the vast majority of customers who pay by cash, cheque or online," he said.

He said tour packages were usually purchased well ahead of journeys, and that customers had plenty of time to make payments through methods other than credit or debit cards.

"Few would take the trouble to go to a tour company and pay by credit card, and it is fair that they pay the MDR instead of getting all customers to pay more."

On Wednesday, BNM said retailers were not allowed to impose surcharges for payments using debit or credit cards.

It said the prohibition was provided for under the Payment Card Reform Framework introduced by BNM and under the rules of international card schemes such as Visa and Mastercard.

It also advised consumers who are slapped with surcharges to lodge a complaint with their banks or payment card issuers.

However, Tan said it would be better for BNM to explore the possibility of abolishing the MDR altogether or reducing the rate for large amounts.

"This would benefit both consumers and businesses immensely, and spur the growth of cashless payment in our country."

Meanwhile, Tan said the recently-concluded MATTA Fair on March 16-18 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in Kuala Lumpur attracted about 110,000 visitors with estimated total sales of RM210 million, compared to 104,000 visitors and RM205 million sales generated at the previous Matta Fair in September.

"The visitor turnout was very good, with the highest number in the history of MATTA Fair since 1991 despite campaigns by a certain industry player calling on customers to skip the long queues and purchase online.

It is amazing to see the continuous queues at the ticketing counters by the public.

"According to the visitors trend over the years, consumers are more engaged with the MATTA Fair to buy holiday packages instead of doing it online. This is due to the uniqueness of MATTA Fair as consumers will have the very best bargains with travel consultants.

"This year's commercial decision to partner with our national carrier, Malaysia Airlines, has allowed us to provide consumers with attractive value-for-money holiday packages with 246 booths promoting exciting domestic tourism destinations throughout Malaysia," he said.

Based on the summary report of the MATTA Fair's Buyers Contest, Tan said the leading domestic destinations are Negeri Sembilan, followed by Selangor, Johor, Terengganu and Kuala Lumpur. For international destinations, they are Japan, China, South Korea, United Kingdom and Turkey.

"This 45th MATTA Fair is the largest since it started in 1991, with 1,353 booths taken up by 254 organisations, including 175 travel and tour agencies and other travel-related services." - Nikko Fabian