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Lebanon launches plan to promote use of bank cards

A customer paying with a credit card inside the Black Friday Market in Beirut. Lebanon wants more people to move away from cash Mohamad Itani/Alamy via Reuters
A customer paying with a credit card inside the Black Friday Market in Beirut. Lebanon wants more people to move away from cash
  • Lebanon to push bank card use
  • Visa and Mastercard fees lowered
  • Cash use has soared since 2019

Lebanese central bank Banque du Liban announced a new agreement on Thursday that it hopes will result in a rebound in the use of bank cards.

As part of the agreement, Mastercard and Visa will lower card fees on transactions, particularly for people with bank accounts based outside Lebanon.

In a press release, the bank said the intention behind the scheme was to “reduce the use of cash in the Lebanese market”. 

Since the country was hit by a banking crisis in 2019, many Lebanese have abandoned the use of cards in favour of cash. Analysts say the value of the dollarised cash economy in Lebanon could be greater than $10 billion.

BDL said that it hoped the scheme would help prevent money laundering and the “financing of terrorism”. Last year, Lebanon narrowly avoided being placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s money laundering “grey list”.

The bank did not immediately give details of the agreement, but a source within BDL told AGBI the bank had acquired “special treatment for special times” from Mastercard and Visa to reduce their fees by around 35 percent for a period of roughly two years.

It would decrease the average card payment for international accounts from 3.5 percent to around 2.5 percent, with a view to reduce it further to 2 percent.

“Along with other measures, we expect this to increase the use of cards,” the source said, adding that the changes will come into effect on June 1.

Lebanon continues to reel from an economic crisis that has reduced its GDP by more than half since 2019.

The World Bank rescinded its prediction last year that 2023 would be the first year in four in which Lebanon’s economy would grow, following the outbreak of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in the country’s south.

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