One year on from the easing of US sanctions in Myanmar, MasterCard and CB Bank have announced their first payment product in the country – a prepaid travel card for locals called the CB Bank EASI Travel Prepaid MasterCard card.
The reloadable prepaid card will be made available to Myanmar residents for when they travel outside of the country. It is the first such card product to be launched in Myanmar and is yet another stage in the evolution of the electronic payments ecosystem.
MasterCard has been working very closely to enable CB Bank (which it licensed in September last year) to roll out its very first prepaid MasterCard card. CB Bank is already certified and has undergone full system testing as part of its efforts to be connected to the global payments network.
Mr. Kyaw Lynn, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of CB Bank said, “CB Bank continues to be first in the electronic payments sector in Myanmar and we are pleased to be able to collaborate with MasterCard to launch this travel prepaid card. Just as our country is opening up to the world, at the same time, the world is opening up to our countrymen and we’re seeing more and more locals travel abroad. We are so glad to introduce this travel prepaid MasterCard card to help make their travels safe and hassle-free without the worries of carrying large amounts of cash.”
According to Matthew Driver, president, Southeast Asia, MasterCard, “Part of the allure of operating in such a frontier market is in seeing the vital steps of financial inclusion play out: a vast majority of people in Myanmar remain unbanked and don’t have access to financial services. But the payments infrastructure is rapidly developing – from the rollout of ATMs, point-of-sale terminals, and now the introduction of prepaid cards.”
“This presents an alternative option for the growing number of locals who’ve had to carry wads of cash when they leave the country for business or leisure travel. It offers them a safe and secure payment method while abroad.”
Overall consumer optimism is at an extreme high in Myanmar (96.0 Index points according to the latest MasterCard IndexTM of Consumer Confidence). According to the MasterCard survey of Consumer Purchasing Priorities, nearly two-thirds of people who have traveled abroad intend to do so again within the next 12 months, making the introduction of a prepaid travel card timely for the market.
“Part of our financial inclusion strategy in Myanmar is to educate the local population about the value of electronic payments – we would like to help them understand the benefits of doing away with cash,” Driver added.
US sanctions on exporting financial services to Myanmar were eased on July 11 last year, allowing the first US investment in the country in nearly 15 years. The launch of a new prepaid card marks another vital step forward in the country’s reform of its banking and financial system.
MasterCard was the first international payments network to issue a license to a Myanmar bank in September last year, paving the way international payment cards to be accepted in the country for the first time. In November, MasterCard and Co-operative Bank Ltd (CB Bank) teamed up to launch the first ATM transaction at one of the bank’s Yangon ATMs.
It is expected that more than 500 restaurants, retail outlets and hotels in Myanmar will be accepting payment cards by the end of the year, following the rollout of Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals in March this year with CB Bank.