Burma’s Banks Prepare Phone Apps for Easy Money Transfers

By The Irrawaddy 5 January 2013

Just more than a year after Burma installed its first ATM, local banks are preparing a new system that would allow people to transfer money through mobile phone applications.

Leading local banks are expected to launch the new mobile phone services early this year, a banking official said on Thursday.

The services are intended to ease money flow as businesses rush into the long-isolated country, which is opening up after decades of military rule.

Pe Myint, managing director of the Co-operative Bank, a leading private bank in the country, said on Thursday that he met with state-owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT), the country’s only telecommunications operator, to discuss possible plans.

“When we start this service in Burma, all local leading banks that operate ATMs will do the same,” Pe Myint said.

He said the new system would allow people to transfer money with a mobile phone application, with account holders receiving a secure code number to withdraw and deposit funds in an ATM.

“Right now we’re just discussing how to provide this service in Burma, and we’re hoping to start rolling it out as early as April,” he said of the Co-operative Bank, which operates about 50 ATMs in main cities around the country. “If we run up against technical problems or operating problems, maybe we won’t start until June or July this year.”

“I don’t know when other banks will start, but all of them are trying to introduce this service as quickly as possible because of the market share,” he added.

He said that because the country still lacked an extensive ATM network and many account holders in rural regions did not have access to mobile phone networks, the Co-operative Bank would continue to keep representatives at local banking locations for money transfers.

Burma’s first ATM was installed in November 2011.

In 2012, ATMs in major cities began accepting transactions from international credit giants Visa and MasterCard, though there are still some technical problems with cards issued in Singapore.

“Singapore banks increased security for Visa and MasterCard, so tourists [in Burma] with cards from the city-state can’t take out money yet,” Pe Myint said. “But we’re working on fixing that to make things more convenient for them very soon.”