Debit Cards Arrive in Burma with Credit by 2013

By May Lay 7 August 2012

RANGOON—Burma’s leading local banks are to offer Giro Billing Payment System (GBPS) and debit cards from this month with credit cards planned before the 2013 SEA Games, according to Co-operative Bank Managing Director Pe Myint.

Currently five of the eleven banks currently allowed to offer foreign currency accounts will introduce GBPS, which helps customers with the easy payment of utilities such as telephone or electricity bills. They will also start debit cards by the end of the month which will be the first step towards allowing credit cards.

“We have already passed many steps to reach a fully functioning banking system,” Pe Myint told a press conference on Monday. “At first, we started to open foreign currency accounts and then we also linked with external banks to offer remittance money from Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand where major populations of Burmese people are based.”

Pe Myint explained that, while at first money could only be sent into Burma, now local people can also move cash abroad for amounts less than US $10,000.

“If they wish to send in excess of $10,000 they have to show some documents to support the reasons of money transfer to the Foreign Exchange Management Department, an arm of the Central Bank in Burma,” he added.

A spokesperson for Asia Green Development Bank said they plan to make an all-in-one card so people do not need to hold many cards for different accounts.

“GBPS is aimed to provide an excellent service to customers who have no time to pay phone or electricity bills. They just need to open a GBPS account and the bank will give them their username and password,” said Oo Thein Myint, assistant general manager of Co-operative Bank, adding that there will be a 500 kyat service charge for each transaction.

“When they sign in with their username and password, they will see the amount that they have to pay for their bills and that amount will be deducted from their GBPS account,” he added.

Similar to the GBPS system, holders of debit cards must have sufficient funds in their accounts before making purchases at restaurants, shops or via the internet. The hope is that Burmese banks will be able to offer credit cards in time for hosting the 2013 SEA Games.

“Debit cards are a pre-paid system and people have to put money in their bank account first. Whenever they use this card for shopping or in a restaurant, their money will move to the business or shopping center account,” explained Oo Thein Myint.

“For credit cards, people can use them until the 21st day of each month when they must pay their bill. If they pay before the 21st, they can use the card without having to pay interest. Currently the Central Bank does not allow the use of credit cards, but I hope to offer this very soon.”