Posted on March 19, 2015

A UAE-focussed prepaid card called ‘DubaiCard’ was unveiled at the prepaid payment industry’s leading forum, Prepaid Summit: Middle East, today (March 18) at Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi. Visa is on-board as the event sponsor.

The initiative is a tripartite effort from newly-launched National Pay, together with two of the industry’s leading companies, Atam, a market leader in kiosk-based solutions, and Tuxedo Money Solutions, an e-money solutions provider. The trio are calling DubaiCard ‘an unrivalled payment option’, as Tuxedo’s Frank Creighton and Atam’s CEO, Graham Foster introduced the concept, complete with a fully operational kiosk, to the Summit’s 150-plus delegates, comprising the ‘who’s who’ of the sector,

Unrivalled payment options introduced to UAE

According to Foster, DubaiCard is ‘a pioneering innovation in payment technology’. He explained that cards are instantly issued and activated from the self-service kiosks. “DubaiCard uses a new-to-sector technology, called Smart Issuance. We make use of the full KYC (Know Your Customer) strategy that is so well-tested in the banking and finance sector,” He said that the new card holder’s profile is taken from their personal Emirates Identity Card, and also through a passport reader.

Meanwhile, Creighton said that DubaiCard holders are able to make seamless cashless payments ­within the UAE and worldwide, at Point-Of-Sale (POS), as well as at ATMs and online. “Commencing from April this year, customers will be able to apply for personalised DubaiCards. Every card can be instantly issued, topped up with funds and activated via National Pay Smart Kiosks which will be strategically located throughout the UAE, starting with Dubai.”

National Pay’s Managing Director, Mr. Rashid AlKetbi said the initiative will kick off with 200 kiosks in Dubai, followed by expansion to all other Emirates. He confirmed that a GCC rollout is planned phase two. “We are thrilled to be part of this facility as it promotes accessible services across the Emirate and is perfectly in line with fulfilling the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai”, Alketbi observed.

Dubai gets into prepaid as DubaiCard 2 [].jpgRegional developments

Meanwhile, Fiona Duncan, Head of Prepaid for the CEMEA region at Visa Inc., representing the event’s title sponsor, noted that the growth of the prepaid sector growth in the region is driven by a host of different factors, including travel and tourism, increased preference and confidence in online spending, as well as the rapidly expanding corporate sector, where businesses prefer to use prepaid products to control operating costs such as incentives and per diem payments.

“Perhaps one of the most important drivers for prepaid card usage is the growing number of government initiatives committed to bringing about financial inclusion. These projects range from wage protection to delivering allowances and donations in a targeted manner. These demonstrate that prepaid cards are increasingly finding new and innovative uses in the Middle East.” Douglas Blakey, Group Editor, Consumer Finance, Timetric, agreed. “The region is set to make global head way and we are seeing a lot of development from Lebanon and Qatar.”

In terms of card penetration, Lebanon has the ninth-highest level of 0.4 cards per person. The highest is Iran (2.4), followed by the UAE (2), South Africa (1.3), Kuwait (1.3),), Oman (1), Bahrain (0.8) and Saudi Arabia (0.7). Recent research also indicates that Lebanon ranks seventh among MENA countries in the frequency of use of payment cards, with 31.9 transactions per card, followed by Saudi Arabia (95.3), Kuwait (47.4), Iran (46.5), the UAE (43.1) and Nigeria (38.2).

Dubai gets into prepaid as DubaiCard 3 [].jpgThe number of prepaid cards in circulation in Lebanon is poised for an increase from 107,702 cards in 2013, anticipated to increase to 2.3 million cards by 2018. Blakey went on to say that Qatar’s Doha Bank has introduced a new payment feature offering residents of Qatar the option to make payments on mobile websites using an ATM or debit card.” The debit card payment gateway, which meets the safety standards mandated by the Qatar Central Bank, has been initially demonstrated with the bank’s partner Q-Tickets movie ticketing platform and will accept debit cards issued by any bank in Qatar.

Timely platform to discuss regional trends and challenges

“It is indeed an exciting time to be involved in a sector and today we have heard from experts on a number of topics including efficiency from payroll systems, corporate travel expenditure management, creative use of corporate reward programmes and retail loyalty schemes, as well as innovative approaches to branding and marketing. The Summit is a timely platform to discuss regional trends and challenges and so to ensure the continued growth of prepaid MENA-wide,” Blakey concluded.

The one day conference, sponsored by Visa, one of the world’s leading electronic payments networks, also featured an award ceremony that recognised prepaid sector developments made and performance achieved over the past 12 months with specific selection criteria for each individual award.