Debit and ATM Cards Slated for Use in Shops

People holding locally issued debit and ATM cards may be able to use them to check out at registers and withdraw money at cash machines owned by other banking institutions in the coming months as new technology is introduced in Cambodia.

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) will be launching a “central share switch” connecting local banks’ account records in the middle of next year, creating easier access to funds, said its director- general, Chea Serey.

“Currently, a customer holding a card from bank A cannot use their card to pay for goods or services from a merchant who uses bank B’s machines,” she said in an email. “Once this share switch is up and running, this transaction will be possible.”

Ms. Serey says NBC will operate the system for banks across the country for a small fee. Another fee will be charged to customers using the service of other banks, although she said the pricing is yet to be set.

Cards already in the market will be connected to the system once it is in place, she added.

“Once all domestic [financial institutions] are connected to this national share switch, we can then connect this share switch to other national share switches within Asean and beyond,” Ms. Serey said.

While a handful of Cambodian banks are expected to join the launch next year, she said every bank in the country will be required to join up by 2018.

“I don’t see any risks from the system,” said In Channy, chief executive of the country’s largest bank, Acleda.

The new system would bring an ease to local financial exchanges that international markets have long had from using services like Visa and Mastercard, he said. But for banks to maximize the benefit, he said, they would need to make certain preparations.

“Joining in the system, every bank and micro-deposit-taking institution will need to keep their ATM machines full of cash at all times,” he said as an example. “Otherwise, they will lose the opportunity to gain fees.”

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