The nation’s first credit card was launched Wednesday after nearly four years of preparation.
Customers of Cambodia Mekong Bank Ltd, which is owned by Cambodian business tycoon Teng Bunma, are now eligible for two types of Visa credit cards, both of which carry a 1.5 percent annual interest rate, according to Oun Reth, manager of product development for the bank.
The bank will require credit card holders to have twice the card’s maximum credit limit deposited at the bank. The Classic card has a limit between $500 and $2,500, while the Gold card is between $5,000 and $10,000, Oun Reth said.
The bank has been a member of Visa International since 1997, but it took until this month for the bank to meet Visa’s standards, Oun Reth said.
When the bank announced it would be introducing credit cards to the country last January, critics said the banking laws were not strict enough to protect the banks or consumers.
Cambodia Mekong is one of the country’s 15 banks that have not yet received full licensing from the government. The bank so far has failed to meet its minimum capital requirements and will be reviewed again in May. But 10 customers already have asked the bank about the cards, Oun Reth said.
Preparations to use the credit card are expected to begin at more than 100 hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and guest houses in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, he said.
Electronic machines record financial transactions by reading a card’s magnetic strip, which contains the customer’s account number. The bank customer is then billed monthly, and interest is charged, also monthly, on the amount owed.
Clerks at local business establishments have been trained by the bank to use the machines and how to make sure card users are real bank customers, Oun Reth said. Clerks ask for photo identification and will check that signatures on the back of the credit card matches the signature on the transaction receipt.
Businesses will be held responsible for fraudulent use of the credit cards, Oun Reth said. But one banker said the question is whether consumers and the bank will be able to trust each other.
In any country, there is always a risk that a bank will lose money through credit card fraud, the banker said. But banks in developed countries are insured against credit card fraud.
“It is not really a good time to use the Visa card,” said Tal Nai Im, director-general for the National Bank of Cambodia. “In the beginning, only rich people will be willing to use the card.
“In Cambodia’s banking laws, there is no law to protect the credit card user,” she said. “But I believe [that] later on people will be interested.”