I acquired my Google Beba card last month. I bought the card of a guy in a Beba tee at Kencom. I didn’t actually buy the card. I offered to top up KES 200 (USD 2.50) to my Beba account and I was issued with a card. Next the card was linked to my Google Account – which also doubles up as my Beba account.
When I logged in on Beba.co.ke, my account had been indeed topped up with 200 bob. You are supposed to receive a text message every time you top up your card or a deduction is made to a phone number you give at the time of registration. I did not, though I suspect that has more to do with Airtel than Google/Equity. All sorts of notifications and confirmation codes are never delivered to my line.
I first inquired at Equity’s Supreme Center branch across the road from Yaya. The lady at enqueries informed me that they don’t stock them. Equity staff seem blissfully unaware of what BebaPay is all about. It’s like it’s not their product. Next a lady at their Kimathi St. branch non chalantly refered me to “Equity agents” visibly bothered my query.
I used the card for the first time on a route 58 MOA Compliant matatu. They even allowed me to pay fare for my companion. Way it works is you give the tout your card he takes out an NFC enabled (Huawei?) phone places your card over it, NFC voodoo happens, the exact fare is deducted and you are handed your card back. You then get a text to your line.
They seem to let everyone else pay in cash first before they get to the card carrying commuters. This actually makes sense. First time I used it the tout took my card and held on to it until he was done with everyone else then brandished out his “BebaPay” phone. It was my first time actually seeing NFC at work.
So I got to use the card today for the second time on my way to the CBD for the monthly NairobiLUG meetup. Thanks to an out of service ATM (no thanks to you CfC Stanbic) I found myself cashless with just the card to ride on. I sat at the back of the matatu. If I was going to be embarassed at least it would be out of everyone’s sight.
When the conductor got to me I handed him my card. He took out his phone and the transaction went as smoothly as before.
Curious I attempted to use it later in the evening, this timeon route 23 MOA Compliant matatu. When the conductor got to me and brandished the card he skipped me and collected fare from the cash carrying passengers first. He got back to me last. The transaction again went as smoothly as before.
Three out of three times. My initial fears about the card “not working”, the legendarily rude Nairobi matatu conductors refusing to accept the cards or not having the NFC enabled BebaPay phones were firmly laid to rest.
I am yet to check my balance so I cannot say for sure how much I was charged for each trip but a back of my head calculation indicates everything adds up.
Here is what you need to know before using your BebaPay card:
1. It works!
2. Remember to check your Beba balance on Beba.co.ke before boarding a matatu or brandishing out your card. You don’t want any nasty and potentially embarassing surprises.
3. Plan your trip well in advance. If you are heading to the CBD you want to leave early. Not every other matatu accepts BebaPay and they could be far in between. Within the CBD, matatus accepting BebaPay cards are fortunately a lot more plentiful.
4. So far I have noticed that they are in use on selected Citi Hoppas, City Shuttles, MOA Compliant matatus, and UmoInner Sacco matatus.
5. Carry cash, if you have some, just in case.
That’s about it.