Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) statistics from the first quarter of 2018 show that there are 120,000 locally issued credit cards and 18 million debit cards/ ATM cards. With interesting patterns of credit cards usage over the last few years, for various reasons, there are some new entrants out to take on ubiquitous Visa-branded cards in Kenya.
MasterCard:GT Bank Kenya is rolling out a series of World MasterCard credit cards. The Gold and Platinum cards come with perks of travel and rewards including international airport lounge access, complimentary nights at 175 Starwood Hotels, luxury apartment discounts and Hertz Gold Plus car rentals along with enhanced insurance benefits that are easy to claim and a 24/7 concierge who offers personalized travel services. There are also tailored dining offers for Diani, Kisumu, Malindi, Mombasa, Nairobi. Ukunda and Watamu as well as towns in Nigeria.
Previously, one of the most-popular MasterCards on the market was the prepaid global card by Nakumatt that was supplied by KCB and Diamond Trust banks. They have been inactive since early this year following Nakumatt’s difficulties that started before the supermarket chain went under voluntary administration.
American Express: Also, Equity Bank and American Express have just extended their 2013 partnership. The bank which issues the American Express Green Card and Gold Card is the sole issuers of the globally accepted American Express cards in East Africa. With the signing of a now exclusive merchant acquisition agreement, Equity will be the sole merchant acquirer of American Express card transactions and will manage all aspects of merchant relationships including acquisition, statements, and marketing. Equity Bank earned Kshs 278 million in AmEx commissions last year, a 54% increase from 2016. The Bank also issues Union Pay, Diners, and JCB cards in addition to Visa and MasterCard.
Advertising: A person without a financial conduct license cannot put out an advertisement for the provision of credit. This also applies to building owners (billboards?), or in newspapers, magazines, radio, television. Also, lender advertisements must be truthful. They cannot be misleading by deception.
Credit Limits – cards/overdrafts: Once a credit limit is approved, a financier can’t reduce the credit limits or decline to replace a lost credit card
Credit Reference: No release of credit reports to unauthorized people
In-Duplum: There is also roundabout way of reintroducing the in-duplum rule. There is a clause that if a loan goes into default, the interest, fees, and other charges to be repaid cannot exceed the balance of the loan on the day it went into default.
Insurance: Loans cannot require a borrower to get insurance from a specific company.
Guarantors: The new laws protect guarantors and requires that they be made aware of all clauses in loan contract before they give guarantees, and with no variation to guarantor terms allowed. This is probably inspired by one guarantor and default dispute involving a cousin of the President that has seen over a dozen cases litigated in several courts over 25 years.
Pre-Receivership Management: The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) can appoint a person to assist an institution to implement its directives when the CBK believes a bank or its officers are not in compliance with the act. The new law provides tools to assist troubled banks without shutting them down, and CBK can also order some shareholders to wind down their interest in institutions within a specific time.
Spam messages? Bank shall not communicate marketing messages to customers unless the customer loan agreement authorizes it.
Statements: Requires all borrowers to be given term sheets before signing for loans, and a copy of the loans contract afterwards. They are also entitled to a free statement every six months and other copies within ten days of a request.
Variations:loan agreements shall not have clauses to vary interest during the loan, or be based on a different rate other than the reference rate of the lender.
Wide Regulation: The new laws will apply to all providers of more than fifty loans and issuer of loans have six months to obtain the new licenses. What of loan apps?
Whether this new law which cracks down on unsavoury banking and consumer finance and behaviors will ease out the 2016 interest rate capping law while assuring parliamentarians who championed the setting of maximum interest rates that bank behaviour will be better-regulated remains to be seen. Also if the clauses will help borrowers who have shifted to other more expensive lending platforms regardless of the consumer finance terms and interest rates charged there.
But the bill also creates a host of new financial regulators including; (i) a Financial Markets Conduct Authority (ii) Financial Services Tribunal (iii) Conduct Compensation Fund Board (iv) Financial Sector Ombudsman (v) an Ombudsman Board who may trip over other existing financial regulators.The bill is in the public participation stage and interested persons can send in feedback on its clauses to ps_at_treasury.go.ke before June 5.
Going cashless enables travelers and tourists to avoid some hassles from using cash, such as trying to understand and use several confusing coins. Card users are also able to move around faster with more convenience and probably remain more loyal to their preferred brands and merchants.
This week, mVisa was launched in Nairobi. It had earlier debuted as a pilot with Family Bank nine months ago butis now live at eight other banks including Barclays, Cooperative, Ecobank, KCB, National Bank, NIC, Prime and Standard Chartered.
The roll out comes with free person-to-person (P2P) money transfers for mVisa customers at these banks to others registered mVisa members at any of the banks. For example, customers of Cooperative Bank can get mVisa by updating their MCo-op cash phone apps or those without MCo-op cash can get it by dialing USSD *667# on their phones and this will bring up mVisa which they can send to any other mVisa users and pay for goods and services at no extra cost.
mVisa depiction from Visa site.
For merchants, payment is by a QR code within a phone or via a card displayed at a shop or other places of business. QR codes enable transfers without the need for a smart phone and for merchants, they can accept payments without having to invest in expensive point of sale devices such as card readers.
There was a neat video shown about how a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) operator could have a QR code on the back of their safety jacket – and which a passenger could scan to complete a payment. mVisa aims to drive financial inclusion and a comment was made that one cost to using cash (which is not transparent) is that small businesses (SME’s) may have good sales and receipts, but can’t get credit from banks; therefore easing the processing of verifiable payments to a business will enhance its viability.
mVisa is now live in Kenya , India, Rwanda and Egypt with plans to launch in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Vietnam underway.
Have cards peaked? Statistics from the Central Bank (CBK) show that Kenya has 220,000 credit cards and 12.4 million debit cards, but that a decline in card usage can be attributed to increased usage of other payment channels like mobile money transfer services.
We all have ATM cards that are in effect debit cards. There are also prepaid-debit cards such as I&M (multi-currency), Bank of Africa (Toucan), Nakumatt (global) etc. They are good for making online purchases, payments as supermarkets, and sometimes for overseas travel payments.
Other notes about the cards:
They are not credit cards, but using prepaid/preloaded/debit cards badly may affect your credit history.
Many people didn’t realize what the difference was between credit and debit cards (which look the same) until companies like Uber (taxi) came about (which initially only accepted payments by credit card in Kenya)
Check that they work locally before you travel. Swipe the card as many times and in many places (supermarkets, local e-commerce, local taxi etc.)
Many new cards don’t allow users to re-set the pin to a number they are familiar with.
Using a card locally also enables you to see how the notifications work (email or SMS sent after each charge)
Watch you fees. Swipe as much as possible, and avoid going to the ATM, to withdraw cash as that may cost you about $4 (Kshs 400).
Ensure you get a statement from the bank to confirm the card usage charges.
Check with your bank or provider before you travel that the card will work in specific countries. Also, while they are not a credit card but it’s good to inform your bank ahead of time before you travel to a particular country where you intend to use a prepaid/debit card -as Via/Mastercard/AmEx/Verve may block transactions from unfamiliar places.