Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Smart cash cards ease economic transactions


A bank client uses an automated card.
The use of smart cash cards is quickly gaining pace since their introduction to the Rwandan banking sector last October, experts believe.

The firm behind the inter-operable bank cards innovation, RSwitch, believes these smart cash cards, which are similar to ATM debit cards, have offered better services and more choices to bank clientele, such as the ability to withdraw or deposit money from any ATM machine regardless of the bank they hold accounts in.

Speaking during the official takeover of RSwitch’s new board of directors last week, Konde Bugingo, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, said that introduction of the cash cards was part of the firm’s initiative towards ensuring financial inclusion for all Rwandans in line with government’s vision on e-payment.

“The cards being interoperable, once acquired from his/her retail bank, a client can be able to carry out any ATM transaction irrespective of the bank and also use it at any Point-Of-Sale or supermarket to pay for their daily expenses,” Bugingo said in an interview.

Several commercial banks, such Bank Populaire du Rwanda, BCR and BRD already started issuing the smart cash cards to clients, which are products closely rivaled by VISA cards.

Formerly known as Simtel, RSwitch is the country’s sole local facilitator, currently managing the inter-operable bank system that controls all automated money transactions- and plans to go regional in the near future.

As of end last year, RSwitch had issued over 300,000 ATM cards, installed over 250 ATM machines countrywide, as well as close to 500 points of sale to facilitate the economy.

 “The culture of people using electronic cards is still low. So we are concentrating on getting the cards to every Rwandan,” said Catherine Ngali, Rswitch’s Projects manager.

The new Chairman of RSwitch’s board Jyrki Koskelo, added: “It is a big challenge for banks to get financial services to the under-served and move to the cash-less society. The good thing with Rwanda is the government’s commitment and policy framework that are enabling the cash-less economy drive to be more feasible here than in other countries.”

Costs are currently very high, according to Koskelo, but RSwitch is working on bringing them down.

"The new smart cash cards would really come in handy. I normally find long queues at Bank of Kigali's ATM machines and end up using my ATM card as a VISA card in a nearby Ecobank machine which charges a hefty VISA charge of Rwf 1,500 per transaction," said Beata Ingabire, a client with Bank of Kigali.

Last year, the central bank welcomed the smart cash cards as yet another technological innovation that will facilitate the future operations of both banking and retail businesses.

The National Bank of Rwanda statistics indicate that a total of 330,185 credit and debit cards are currently in circulation.

In addition, under RSwitch, online payment continues to be boosted through swift inter-operable system.

Citing an example, Konde said that RSwitch aims at creating more automated and online money platforms for Rwandans.

“In the future, you will be able to send for instance money from MTN mobile money to Tigo cash,” he said.


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