RTA adds more value to Nol cards with new feature

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By Rayeesa Absal, Staff Reporter  www.gulfnews.com

Dubai: The Dubai public transportation Nol cards will be good for buying grocery items and for payment of shopping from different outlets in the emirate.

    *  Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News     * Mohammad Yousuf Al Mudharreb
* Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News * Mohammad Yousuf Al Mudharreb

Before the end of the year, Nol cards, which are now used for public transportation, will be enabled to function as an e-wallet that will allow people to use them at groceries, Mohammad Yousuf Al Mudharreb, director, Unified Automated Fare Collection Department, said in an exclusive interview.

RTA is already in talks with prominent grocery and supermarket chains to seek their participation.

Unlike credit cards and debit cards, where customers have to wait in queues and sign slips, the touch-and-go technology used in Nol cards means customers can just scan and leave, similar to the way they exit Metro stations, Al Mudharreb said.

Maximum recharge

The cards can be recharged the same way as is done now. And the maximum recharge will continue to be Dh500.

Residents will not have to buy new cards but simply use their existing card after ensuring it has sufficient funds.

As the sale of Nol cards has surpassed RTA’s forecasts, the introduction of a micropayment option will invigorate use of Nol cards, officials hope.

“We want people to feel attached to their Nol cards. We want them to grow the habit of frequently using the cards. This will eventually encourage use of public transportation,” he said.

“Besides this, the government has invested so much in developing the Nol cards system that we want it to be leveraged beyond the scope of RTA services,” he added.

Nol cards are used in over 1.2 million traffic transactions in the city every day.

With over 500 sales points that also offer top-up facilities, the new feature of Nol cards could become popular, officials anticipate.

Four million Nol cards have been sold by the RTA since it was first launched in August 2009, of which three million are active users (who frequently use the card within a span of two months).

Positive response

“Majority of the Nol card sales were recorded in the first two years. Now the market is saturated and the sales are going down a bit, although it has surpassed our forecasts,” Al Mudharreb said.

“This led us to consider expanding the use of Nol cards beyond RTA services,” he said.

The initial response from merchants has been very positive, he said.

“Merchants would prefer use of Nol cards because cash handling costs them money as they often employ cash management companies.”

“And many credit card companies are not interested in these small amounts of money because it does not benefit them much,” he said.

What is Nol?

The unified automated fare collection card (UAFC) has been named after an old Farsi word nol. “Nol” means “fare” or “cost of using transport”. The word is not in common use these days.

Nol is similar to another Arabic word karwa — which is commonly used in Kuwaiti, Bahraini and Qatari dialects. Karwa means “fare” or “cost” of doing any service or certain job. In the past, nol was used to refer to fare or cost of using horse and donkey transportation. More info