Giant Food says it will accept credit cards

November 07, 1992|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

Plastic is in at Giant Food.

The Landover-based grocery company, the dominant chain in the Baltimore and Washington markets, will accept Visa and MasterCard credit cards, as well as MOST bank debit cards, at 92 of its 96 Maryland stores by Friday, company officials said yesterday.

The decision came after a tryout last month at six or seven stores in Montgomery County was well-received by customers, said David Sykes, Giant's senior vice president for finance.

"It doesn't slow up lines at all," Mr. Sykes said. "It takes less time than writing a check."

He said it was still unclear whether accepting the cards increased sales.

The four remaining Maryland stores -- two in Salisbury and one each in Prince Frederick and Waldorf -- will be on line by early December, said a Giant spokesman, Mark Roeder.

The company's Virginia and Washington stores will accept the cards sometime after the first of the year, he added.

Mr. Sykes said the new service involves no major expenditure because it can piggyback on the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) technology now in place at most Maryland stores.

EBT is used by the federal government to transfer funds, such as welfare or food stamps, to individuals by making electronic "deposits" to their accounts.

Giant's decision to accept credit and debit cards came after years of viewing the concept with a wary eye. A year ago, Giant executives were expressing doubts about whether the public would pay for groceries with credit cards.

Since then, most of its major competitors -- including Safeway, Super Fresh and Basics -- have begun to accept credit and debit cards.

Jeff Metzger, publisher of Food World in Columbia, said Giant's move came as no surprise.

"It was one of those things that internally they weren't fond of, but the rest of the market has gone to it," Mr. Metzger said, adding that the question facing Giant is whether it can attract enough new business to offset the fee charged by card issuers.

Giant is moving ahead now because the company thinks the program can help with "customer retention," Mr. Sykes said.

He said that the question of whether a grocery store accepts credit cards was particularly important to people who hold airline-sponsored credit cards that award frequent-flier miles on the basis of how much is charged to the account.

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