Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Scotiabank is phasing out its proprietary card in favour of a co-branded Visa debit e-payment card tenable internationally.
The banking group is distributing the card in its 15 Caribbean markets.
Inside Jamaica it has mailed out the co-branded card to select clients in the first phase of the replacements. Clients reporting lost or stolen ScotiaCards will be offered the Visa card as replacement, followed by more general distribution.
Already 130,000 Visa cards have been distributed locally, representing about a quarter of the bank's 500,000 proprietary cards in circulation in Jamaica.
ScotiaCard Visa Debit will be issued at no cost and attract the same fees at automated banking machines as the proprietary card. However, Scotiabank says it will eliminate one fee: point of sales (POS) purchases will be free with Visa debit, whereas the proprietary card attracted a J$15 charge per transaction. The bank cautions, however, that not all merchants accept Visa.
Unlike ScotiaCard, the co-branded ScotiaCard Visa debit is personalised with the cardholders name, and carries an expiry date.
Scotia Visa will also allow cardholders to make online purchases, for which they pay a fee of 2.0 per cent of the cost of the transaction, according to the bank's representatives. Visa operates in 170 countries.
"There has been no change in the fees charged and our fees are competitive," said Monique Todd, vice-president marketing, public and corporate affairs at Scotia Group Jamaica.
"The new ScotiaCard allows customers to shop online or by telephone accessing any location in the world; this is a convenience that the old ScotiaCard did not provide. Customers can access cash and services from over 900,000 ATMs and 14 million locations internationally anywhere the VISA sign is displayed," said Todd.
"Additionally, this is a great way for parents to meet expenses of students overseas. If students have a card linked to the parent's account they can shop for books and school supplies at stores overseas using the parents' account. For persons without credit cards this is a great option."
The bank advises, however, that a 2.0 per cent of transaction fee is payable on international POS transactions; and it cautions that cardholders should ensure that Scotia Visa debit card is run as a credit transaction when it is tendered for purchases locally. The existing debit platform in Jamaica, Multilink, belongs to a local company - JETS. To access foreign-owned Visa, Jamaican clients will need to request the credit platform, which is what is available locally, Todd said.
CIBC FirstCaribbean adopted the Visa card for its 17 markets but National Commercial Bank Jamaica, which operates in Jamaica only, says it has no plans to introduce the Visa debit card at this time. NCB, like other banks, already distribute Visa co-branded credit cards.
The international debit card allows completion of international transactions without high interest charges which accompany the credit card used by most Jamaicans for shopping, bill payment and other e-payments.
The willingness of local banks to push the new card might be linked to the increasing popularity of internet shopping locally, which activity has spurred the creation of several new companies to facilitate courier, storage and delivery services.
"This card allows us to meet the demands of our customers by providing them with an option that offers greater security and acceptance at over 14 million locations internationally," said Todd.
"We hope to attract more customers to Scotiabank due to the added convenience of the card. It operates like a credit card but utilises the funds of the customer."
Annual interest charged on credit cards is about 48 per cent on outstanding credit.
Regular debit card rates for ABM and POS transactions range between J$8.80 and J$42.55.
Scotia Visa allows withdrawal of cash at ATMs worldwide displaying the Plus, Visa or Visa Electron symbols.
"Transactions are automatically deducted from a bank or checking account and typically posted within 36 hours of purchase, helping cardholders track and manage expenses, all with the same protections that consumers enjoy on Visa credit cards," a company release also noted.
"Visa debit cards offer security protections that help prevent, detect and resolve fraud, including continuous fraud monitoring and coverage by Visa's zero-liability policy, which protects cardholders from unauthorised charges, the bank promises."
Neither Scotiabank nor CIBC FirstCaribbean have disclosed their fee arrangements with Visa Inc.
Visa will be tapping further into earnings from the un-valued internet shopping sector as well as the J$81 billion local debit market, comprising point-of-sale debits of J$30. 44 billion and J$50.54 billion from teller machines, according to 2010 data supplied by Multilink management company, JETS.
About 370,000 unique debit cards are used on the network in Jamaica.
The credit card market, which is measured not by issued credit, but outstanding balances or 'credit card receivables', was last estimated by the central bank at J$19 billion as at March 2011.