In a sign Canadian consumers continue to prefer to use debit cards to pay for small-ticket purchases, restaurant chain Tim Hortons Inc. is expanding acceptance of Interac debit cards to some 3,000 locations.

Tim Hortons announced Nov. 23 a merchant-services contract renewal with Chase Paymentech Solutions LLC that includes expanded Interac acceptance. The chain also accepts MasterCard-branded credit cards, including those that support the brand’s PayPass contactless function. The retailer also accepts its own closed-loop Tim Card at its 3,649 restaurants in Canada and the United States.

Canada is migrating to EMV chip-and-PIN cards, and the process is scheduled for completion by the end of 2011 (see story). 

Interac, which operates Canada’s only debit card network, plans to support contactless EMV cards starting next year (see story).  That move did not affect Tim Hortons’ decision to expand Interac acceptance, but the company is aware of the product and technology.

“We are always evaluating different products and services, but we’ll have to research [Interac contactless] as it comes into the market,” says Alexandra Cygal, a spokesperson for the retailer.

Tim Hortons in 2003 started accepting Interac-branded debit cards at its stores in Canada’s western provinces because consumers in the region showed a preference to use them to pay for purchases, according to Cygal. The company could not provide an exact number of stores in that region.

In 2009, consumers in the eastern provinces, which historically preferred to pay with cash, began to express an interest in debit cards as a payment option, Cygal says.

The restaurant chain last year conducted a six-month trial at its Manitoba locations and found adding chip-and-PIN debit as a payment option did not affect the speed of service inside or at the drive-thru window, according to Cygal. “It’s not just that the technology has gotten better, but our team members can do a lot of other things while you input that PIN,” she adds.

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