Qatar To Launch National Payment Card By Year-End

November 11, 2022
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The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) is planning to launch a national payment card by the end of the year with a view to offering a local alternative to global card giants Visa and Mastercard.

The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) is planning to launch a national payment card by the end of the year with a view to offering a local alternative to global card giants Visa and Mastercard.

The national payment card, named Himyan after the money bag used by merchants in the past, is set to be available for the public by the end of 2022.

This will be Qatar’s first national prepaid debit card and will be similar to “electronic payment cards issued by global payment networks”, the Qatari central bank said in an announcement.

The card will be available for everyone, including Qatari citizens, residents, minors and visitors to the country and it does not require a minimum account balance.

By providing a lower-cost alternative for payment processing, the Himyan card aims to enhance the use of digital payments in Qatar.

Payments using the national card will be processed via Qatar’s National ATM & POS Switch (NAPS) network, an interface that settles retail transactions between local banks. NAPS also provides a gateway to other national payment switches across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as well as Lebanon and Egypt.

Although NAPS does not provide interfaces to Visa and Mastercard, it enables the routing of these cards where member banks have an agreement with the card networks.

Another area the card will help support is financial inclusion. Migrant workers account for over 2m people in Qatar, making up around 95 percent of the country’s total labour force.

Since 2015, all companies in Qatar are required to pay their employees via the Wage Protection System (WPS) and open bank accounts for them if needed. The WPS system uses a similar model pioneered in the United Arab Emirates and its main purpose is to create better protections for foreign workers against abuses and reduce reliance on cash.

The QCB encouraged banks to provide these bank accounts to domestic workers without any minimum balance requirements to receive their salaries and asked them to carry out financial education programmes.

As of March 2019, over 1.3m workers were registered with the system, although the International Labour Organization estimated that around 25 percent of the workers were not covered by the WPS.

The Himyan debit card, which can be issued by banks and non-banks alike, is another important part of the QCB’s efforts to increase financial inclusion.

The Himyan debit card “enables the customer to carry out all financial transactions at all points of sale, ATMs in an easy and secure manner,” QCB assistant governor Sheikh Ahmed bin Khalid Al Thani said.

The card can also be used to make contactless payments and local online transactions.

Over time, the assistant governor said the central bank will introduce additional features.

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