RANGOON — Burma’s KBZ bank and international payment provider Visa announced on Thursday that they would jointly issue new payment cards, after receiving the green light to do so from the Central Bank of Myanmar the day before.
The Central Bank announced on Wednesday that international payment providers could now offer products and services in Burma’s domestic market. Following the announcement, Visa and KBZ said that they would work together to launch financial services, including credit cards.
U Zaw Lin Aung, managing director of KBZ Bank said on Thursday that both KBZ and Visa would prepare the launch of new payment cards “very soon.”
“The latest announcement by the Central Bank is that all international payment card providers can work in the local market now, so it means local banks can work with them,” he explained.
“Local banks can now issue credit cards in Burmese kyat,” U Zaw Lin Aung added.
Prior to this announcement, all international payment cards in Burma were US dollar-denominated. The shift to kyat-denominated credit cards will mean that card holders will not need to worry about currency exchange rates when using the cards domestically, bank representatives explained.
“New payment cards will be credit cards, which will be different from the current debit card system,” U Zaw Lin Aung said. He added that both KBZ and Visa would have to prepare for the card launch, and that further details would be announced shortly.
Though there is still no credit bureau in Burma to check customers’ financial history, U Zaw Lin Aung said that each local bank had access to their own credit history of their customers.
“We will issue credit cards after checking our customers’ cash profiles and their finance history, that’s why it’s ok even without credit bureau here,” he said.
Arturo Planell, Visa’s country manager for Burma said on Thursday that “it is landmark” that Burmese people have access to electronic payments, which he said is more convenient than cash.
“It will also accelerate the country’s shift from a cash-based economy to a digital economy, supporting the Myanmar government’s national goal of inclusive economic growth,” Planell said.
He added that there would be further discussion with KBZ regarding investment, but that no public announcement had yet been made.
“We can’t tell how much we invest here, as it is confidential,” Planell said.
One of the largest private commercial banks in Burma, KBZ Bank was established in 1994 in Taunggyi, Shan State. It now has 440 branches across Burma, and opened international branches in Thailand and Singapore in 2016.
Visa is one of the world’s biggest payment card providers, with a network of approximately 40 million outlets, with more than 3,500 in Burma. It entered the country in 2012.