The issuance of internationally branded ATM cards, is prevalent and it is mind boggling why banks in Ghana will continue to issue international cards for local transactions.
Once upon a time, when one could only use the ATM of his or her bank, there was reason for banks to latch onto the international card platform. This was just to create some amount of convenience for their customers who could have access to a few ATM outlets other than that of their banks. Is that excuse still relevant?
The banking industry has gone through phases and at one time, it was difficult to get banks to share a common platform, so that their ATMs could be used by all bank customers (interoperable). Some banks, possibly with the support of their parent banks, brought in international banks. The main advantage to the public was the fact that it enabled customers to use their ATM cards on other banks ATM. It was such a relief that customers were willing to pay a premium for that service.
Currently, thanks to the Bank of Ghana, we have a platform― gh-link, run by Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems, which interconnects all the ATMs of the banks (interoperable). This enables all ATMs to accept all local ATM cards , implying that with your local card, or better still your proprietary card, you can access every single ATM in this country. So why will banks continue to issue so much of international cards? In deed there are a significant number of banks who refuse to issue pr0prietary cards.
There is nothing wrong with having both proprietary and international cards; cust0mers will have the option to choose the most suitable for the various transactions they undertake. In fact it will even bring about healthy competition and logically, better service.
It is unfair for some of the banks to foist these international branded cards on the customer, without the option of a proprietary card. How many bank customers really travel abroad and even when they do, do they do use these cards?
If banks mean to serve the customers’ interest, then they owe it a duty to, at least, give them the option to choose between a proprietary and or an international card. Some customers will definitely use the international cards when they travel but they should have the choice of enjoying a proprietary card when in Ghana.
Today, a proprietary card, gives the customer access to over 1,300 ATM machines which no international card can give to customers in Ghana. The charges paid for using a local card to withdraw money is far cheaper than those charged on international cards. Meanwhile the proprietary cards can also be used on Point of Sales (POSes) terminals just as their international counterparts. It is so obvious that the bank customer in Ghana is several times better off using the proprietary card and so any bank that refuses to issue a local card, is definitely not serving the customer’s interest. It is important to note that some of the banks offer their customers the choice and that is good. Maybe customers will have to vote with their feet to these banks but even so, some of these banks which give their customers the choice, are better at marketing the international cards.
It is surprising why banks in Ghana will love international cards over their own. Could it be the preferential taste for anything foreign or there is a business case?
It is very possible that banks make higher margins from international card transactions after all, customers pay more. However they also pay so much for that service, when it would cost them less with proprietary cards. Since transactions on proprietary cards are processed locally, it costs less and financial institutions will save money if they turned towards local cards. Additionally, the new hybrid Point of Sale Terminal (POS) from GhIPSS, accepts both proprietary and e-zwich cards. This will allow both banks and merchants to get a lot more business from customers who use ATM cards for shopping as well as transactions.
It is not just the customer or the bank that is losing out, when proprietary cards are relegated to the background, the country loses as well. It really also borders on national security when volumes of payment transactions are processed outside the country, which is exactly what happens anytime one uses an international card in Ghana. The transaction takes place in Ghana but goes out of the country to be processed outside before it comes back to Ghana, albeit in real time. Why will a sovereign country allow its internal transactions to be processed outside when it has the requisite infrastructure to do so internally?
There might have been a reason for banks in the past to turn to international cards but those reasons are no longer tenable except for those who may travel abroad. Therefore banks’ insistence on issuing international card for domestic transactions is a sad mismatch after 58 years of independence. Some banks are even refusing to issue proprietary cards, hoodwinking their customers to use the international cards which comes with less convenience but with higher charges when used in Ghana. The Central Bank of Ghana will need to intervene to save the Ghanaian customer.
Worried bank customer