Is paying for a discount card to get reduced train fares is a form of Kafalah fee?

rail-cards

Assalamualaikum Dr Azman,

I am writing to ask you whether paying for a discount card to get reduced train fares is a form of Kafalah fee.

I saw your presentation on Kafalah and it’s application in PIDM, so seeing that you are well-versed in the area, I hope you could provide with a short reply.

I have paid £30 for a rail card (discount card) that gives 16-25 year olds 1/3 discount on train fares (I study in the UK). However I recently heard that the card is a form of Kafalah and payment for the guarantee of reduced fee is prohibited.

1) I searched the Internet and didn’t see any similar examples of this. The types of Kafalah explained were on financial obligations ie debt.
2) As you have argued, a Kafalah fee would result in a form of riba. However I see this £30 charge as a payment for services rendered ie the benefit I get from them providing me with a discount in reduced fares.

A short answer on the permissibility of this discount card would be really helpful. I travel a lot by train so this would significantly impact my spending.

Thank you.

Best,
Nadira Zaiman
BSc Accounting and Finance
London School of Economics (LSE)

 

Answer

Dear my sister Nadira,

The Rail card is a sort of discount card to get discounted prices of train fares for young and elderly people in the UK. (Bearing in mind that some of discount cards are not Shariah compliant, because of excessive fees or because of non halal services). It is different compared to the issue of charging a fee for al Kafalah which amounts to riba for a number of reason:

  1. The discount card provider is not giving a guarantee in a sense, if you do not have enough money, to buy train tickets, they will not advance their money for you to make the payment and ask you to pay later. That will not happen. Instead, you have to pay your own money to buy the discounted tickets.  They only charge you for the membership. This is different from Bank’s Guarantee, Bill of Acceptance or credit card.
  2. The element of guarantee in discount card is not so clear. Even if it is a clear guarantee, since the arrangement does not involve lending/advancing money from the guarantor, the will be no Shariah issue.
  3. Discount card is not for the purpose of exchanging it with cash (which can amount to riba because of exchanging money with money not at par). Its very purpose is to get discount in purchasing goods and services.

Hence there is no issue of riba, or taking advantage over a loan. It is not haram.

Wallaua’lam.

Dr Azman Mohd Noor

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