Across the globe people are increasingly turning to the convenience and security of card payments instead of using cash or checks. Visa International is at the forefront of this explosive growth – generating $3 trillion in sales volume and is accepted in more than 150 countries. Visa’s general manager of the Middle East, Kamran Siddiqi, anticipates massive growth in the region.
Saudi Arabia is the most populated country in the Middle East. It already has the highest number of cards and the biggest potential right now. But in smaller countries such as the United Arab Emirates, 1 out of every 2 people has a Visa card already.
Prior to the collapse of Saddam in 2003, credit cards were not available in Iraq. Visa proved they really are “everywhere you want to be” when shortly after they became the first credit card company ever to process card transactions since economic sanctions were imposed on the country.
The cards are being issued by The Trade Bank of Iraq and as of last year there were over 15,000 issued. However credit cards are a new concept in much of the middle east – people there have never had them, nor have they had credit records. This poses a big problem when it comes to issuing a credit card to someone who has no formal credit score. In Iraq, customers are started off with pre-paid Visa cards and eventually the option of credit becomes available. The picture in this article is an actual photo of one of the Visa billboards which can be found in the streets of Baghdad.
Transitioning from cash to card payments is not only easier for the consumers here, but it also boosts bank deposits. This in turn increases the money they have available to loan out. Card payments leave a paper trail, resulting in increased transparency for financial transactions. Not only does this help fight crime, but its efficiency also supports stronger economic performance overall.