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June 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 39, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Why Some Indonesia Liveaboards Don’t Take Credit Cards

from the June, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Undercurrent subscriber Dean Conrad (Flower Mound, TX) was planning a trip aboard the Indonesian liveaboard Arenui when "I was told by the owner that they cannot accept credit cards, so we would have to wire him the money. That's an unusual thing among dive operators, so I wanted to ask, why is wiring money the only option they give? Why can't they accept credit cards?"

Good question. In this age of the Internet, PayPal and other easy-to-use financial technology, we wonder ourselves why the Arenui still relies on wire transfers. Not to mention that credit cards offer protection if a trip deposit or payment doesn't go as planned. Wire that money overseas and you could be waving it goodbye, especially if the liveaboard sinks and the company goes under.

We asked Laura Goddard, Arenui's marketing manager, to explain. First, she says, her boat is not the only one with a wiring-only process. "I imagine there are other operators -- especially those based in Asia -- who have a similar system to ours. For deposits and balance payments, we ask for a wire transfer (which is usually done via Internet banking transfer) because Indonesian banks are very inflexible on credit card payments without the card shown in person, as they have had too many cases of credit card fraud in the past. We also don't feel it would be practical at this time to take card payments, given the level of fraud that still exists in the Indonesian banking system. We do have a PayPal system, but it is only a case of last resort for us, as the system is currently financially inefficient. There are high merchant and transactional fees, as well as very high fees for foreign currency exchange (we operate the business with Indonesian rupiah and a Hong-Kong based bank account)."

Goddard says the Arenui does accept credit cards for onboard payments. "At the end of the cruise, when guests need to pay their on-board bill of alcohol, massages and other extras, we can accept credit cards because we have the machine on the boat -- the card can be swiped and signed for in person. This system is acceptable to Indonesian banks. "We are still looking into other options, such as a separate merchant payment system via an agent, but at the moment we have not found anything that we feel comfortable with in terms of secure payment for our guests, so we prefer to continue for now with predominately wire/Internet transfers. We haven't found it to be a major problem for the majority of our guests; it must be a sign of an acceptable business practice that we find ourselves 75 percent booked until 2016."

We checked with Undercurrent webmaster Dave Eagleray, who lives in Bali, if the Arenui is unique. Not really, he says. The Pindito and Seven Seas require wire transfers. The Damai prefers wire transfers but will take credit cards -- and charge an extra 3.5 percent. Similarly, the Wakatobi dive resort discusses bad exchange rates for credit card payments. "Wire transfers are mostly the way bookings are done here," Dave says. "Indonesian banks are rather weird and strict on credit card use. Often, merchants want a photocopy of both sides of the card, plus all the usual info, in order to use it, say, for an Internet order. Checks are almost unheard of, and using credit cards always involves some additional fee, if they are accepted at all."

But here in the U.S., we recommend booking with credit cards, as you'll be protected by the card issuer if a transaction goes bad. Or book your Indonesia dive trip through a dive travel agent, which will gladly take your card and provide you some recourse if the trip isn't delivered as promised.

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