Visa Inc. announced on Saturday that it has signed its first licensing agreements in Burma with three banks: Kanbawza Bank, Cooperative Bank and Myanmar Oriental Bank.
The agreements will pave the way for Visa-branded credit cards and debit cards to be accepted in the country—a move that will be particularly welcome among foreign tourists in Burma who until now have been obliged to carry around large wads of cash, but who will now be able to withdraw money from ATMs.
The system to accept Visa cards may be operational as early as January, said banking officials in Rangoon.
Than Lwin, the deputy chairman of Kanbawza Bank, referred to the deal as “a milestone” that will boost the tourism industry in particular, according to The Associated Press.
Mizzima reported in October that Visa had started training Burmese local bank employers to use electronic payment systems to help modernize the economy.
In September, Visa’s main rival MasterCard Inc. signed a similar licensing agreement with Co-Operative Bank, which has 24 ATMs in the country, to issue the country's first branded cards.
Foreign banks are still not allowed to offer banking services in Burma, but a growing number have opened representative offices.
Until recently, foreign visitors were unable to use credit and debit cards in Burma due to economic sanctions leveled on the former military junta by the US and the EU. Those restrictions were lifted earlier this year after a series of democratic reforms were enacted by the new government in Naypyidaw headed by President Thein Sein.