Banks to issue out International credit cards

HARARE – Three Zimbabwean commercial banks have been awarded licences to operate international credit and debit cards, a move that is set to improve efficiency in the financial services sector.\r\n

The use of plastic money as opposed to cash will allow local and international tourists to transact easily through their credit and debit cards.

Information obtained by this paper points to Barclays, Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe and Standard Chartered as the commercial banks that have been given the nod to reintroduce VISA and MasterCard systems as the sector steps up its efforts to restore confidence in the banking system.

Sources privy to the developments said the three banks are already campaigning to promote the use of plastic money instead of cash and will by end of this month roll out their services to the public.

“The move taken by Barclays, CBZ and Standard Chartered is a response to concerns raised by various stakeholders that clients, especially international tourists, were finding it difficult to enjoy their holiday due to the current system where most transactions are done on cash basis instead of via credit or debit system,” said the source.

The source added that more banks would soon be getting licences to operate the international cards provided they meet the required standards.

“There are technical issues that need to be addressed such as the configuration system, security, the availability of foreign currency to dispense for ATMs and other policy issues, which will see more banks joining the bandwagon,” said the source. A financial analyst noted that the positive move would need various stakeholders to come together to significantly impact on the prevailing US dollar cash shortage.

“The major challenge is the availability of the green back on the local market.

“We need to import the foreign currency into the country and that has been a challenge. There is a need for a paradigm shift in the way we think in order to strike a balance between the availability of cash and the use of plastic money as it is largely not a bank function but cross-sectoral.

“Use of plastic money requires a solid telecomms infrastructure, retailers, credit companies and banks for it to work properly.

“If telecomms is not working well, then banks cannot be on line. There is a need for retailers to have confidence in the cards.

“So it is really a national issue,” said the analyst.

The move would run concurrently with the re-introduction of Point of Sale (POS) facilities in most retail outlets as banks move to promote the use of plastic money that will see the exercise completed well before 2010.

A number of banks have already started installing POS machines in most shops after realising that the country cannot sustain the use of cash only.

Premier Banking Corporation became the first local bank to enable its ATMs to dispense foreign currency.
The bank is dispensing a minimum of US$1 and a maximum of US$500 at its Bulawayo and Harare branches, while Barclays will be dispensing a maximum of US$200.