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Egypt's Banque Misr conditionally suspends card usage abroad amid currency crisis

Ahram Online , Tuesday 18 Oct 2016
Banque Misr
File photo of Egypt's Banque Misr.
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Egypt's second-largest public lender Banque Misr's credit and debit cards are now limited to local use unless customers travelling abroad provide documentation such as travel tickets and travel visas in order to use the cards outside the country, CEO Mohamed Eletreby said on Monday.

In an interview with Egyptian TV host Lamees El-Hadidi on Hona El-Asema, Eletreby said that in the fiscal year 2015/16, the credit and debit cards – cash withdrawal and purchases abroad – amounted to $300 million even though the bank imposed limits on the cards up to $52 million in 2014/15.

He added that credit cards can only be issued six months after a customer creates their deposit account at the bank.

The Egyptian pound has held steady against the dollar in CBE weekly auctions since a 13.5 percent devaluation in March.

Egypt has faced a shortage in hard currency since the 2011 uprising and relies heavily on imports of staple foods to feed its population of 90 million

Banque Misr's CEO said that the new regulation, issued on Monday, aims to curb the “misuse” of cards, as “in the past two weeks, $10 million were withdrawn using debit and credit cards.”

Egypt's central bank deputy governor Gamal Negm said on El-Hadidi's show that one man was caught with 320 credit cards, which he used to buy US dollars abroad and sell them on the black market in Egypt at inflated rates.

Banque Misr limits USD withdrawal for the classic credit card to $100 and purchases to $1,000 monthly, while gold credit card withdrawals in USD are limited to $100 and purchases to $2,000.

The public lender sets a limit for debit card holders at $100 for cash withdrawals per month and purchases at $500 per month.

The dollar’s rate on the black market registered EGP 14.80 on Tuesday, up from EGP 14, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported.

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) kept the Egyptian pound stable against the US dollar at 8.78 on Tuesday’s weekly auction, state news agency MENA reported, although the pound continues to weaken on the parallel black market.

Negm said that credit and debit card spending in 2015/16 was up to $2.5 billion from $1.8 billion in 2014/15.

The number of credit cards issued increased from December 2015 to June by 600,000 cards, while debit cards increased by one million, according to the CBE deputy governor.

In June 2016, the number of issued debit cards in Egypt was around 13.2 million, while credit cards were up to 3.8 million, he added.

Other Egyptian banks have put limits on debit and credit card purchases and ATM withdrawals abroad.

Customers of the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), the largest public lender, still have the same limits on both debit and credit cards, according to the bank’s data.

For credit cards, NBE customers with a classic card have a purchase maximum of EGP 15,000 ($1,690) on both a daily and monthly basis, and a maximum on ATM withdrawals of EGP 1,600 ($180) a day.

Gold credit card holders have a maximum purchase capacity of EGP 30,000 ($3,378) per month and EGP 9,800 ($1,103) in ATM withdrawals per month.

Al-Ahli debit card holders have the equivalent of EGP 1,000 ($112) in maximum ATM withdrawals per day and the equivalent of EGP 5,000 ($563) in maximum ATM withdrawals a month.

Maximum debit card purchases per day are set at the equivalent of EGP 5,000 ($563) and the equivalent of EGP 10,000 ($1126) per month.

Egypt's largest private bank, the Commercial International Bank (CIB), lowered its usage limits abroad on Tuesday.

CIB limits classic credit card cash withdrawals to $1,000 and purchases to $3,000 monthly, while gold credit card withdrawals in USD are set at $100 and purchases at $6,500 monthly.

For classic debit card users, CIB set a limit for purchases abroad to $50 and cash withdrawals are not available, while the bank sets the purchase limit abroad to $300 for platinum cards, though cash withdrawal services are also not provided.

HSBC Egypt says that all credit and debit cards have a limit of $100 per month, though it does not specify whether this is for cash withdrawals or purchases, according to the bank's website.

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