Monday, September 25, 2017

Myanmar joins global payment network

Another step in the effort to better connect Myanmar to the global financial system has been taken, with AYA Bank becoming the first lender to offer bank cards with a stamp from global payment network provider JCB.

The bank is issuing debit and credit cards with a joint stamp from Japan’s JCB and Myanmar Payment Union (MPU), meaning it can be used in Myanmar and across a JCB network spanning some 31 million merchants in 190 countries and territories.

“It’s a move that will connect Myanmar’s card system with [those in] other countries,” said U Zaw Lin Htut, CEO of MPU, at a signing ceremony between AYA Bank, MPU and JCB yesterday.

U Zaw Zaw, founder and chair of AYA Bank, noted that an earlier lack of infrastructure and resources had held Myanmar’s banking system back from being able to join worldwide payment networks like JCB’s.

CB Bank also has an agreement with JCB International, which opened a Yangon branch in July, to issue MPU-JCB stamped cards, but it has yet to start issuing them. JCB International is in discussions with several other Myanmar banks to issue JCB cards, said Ayako Tanaka, from the company’s corporate planning department.

The Japanese firm signed a memorandum of understanding with MPU for joint branded cards back in January 2015. At that point JCB was focused on MPU member banks issuing JCB stamped debit cards, which the Japanese firm expected to appear that same year. Local IT issues in preparing for JCB cards in Myanmar pushed the timeline back, according to Ms Tanaka. But in the meantime credit cards reappeared in Myanmar, meaning that banks can now offer credit and debit cards with a JCB stamp.

True credit cards disappeared in the wake of the 2003 banking crisis, and until this year any credit cards provided by Myanmar banks required either funds in an account or pre-payment.

The return of credit cards to Myanmar has also coincided with the spread of international cards. CB Bank launched an international credit card in June branded with the MPU and UnionPay International (UPI) stamps, allowing it be to used abroad wherever UnionPay is accepted.

AYA Bank’s jointly branded MPU-JCB card, meanwhile, is one of three AYA Bank cards that can be used overseas, according to the lender’s managing director U Phyo Aung.

That bank also started offering MPU-UPI cards in July, and has arranged for customers to use both JCB -
and UPI-stamped cards if they wish, U Soe Lin, assistant managing director at AYA Bank, told The Myanmar Times.

JCB-brand cards can be used in the US at ATMs with a Cirrus logo. JCB International has an agreement with Myanmar issuers not to provide JCB stamped cards to anyone on the Specially Designated Nationals blacklist, but ordinary card holders should be able to use their cards in the US without issues, Ms Tanaka said.