HARARE Feb 7 Standard Chartered Plc's
Zimbabwean business has restricted the use of Visa debit
cards outside the country, in a sign that foreign currency
shortages were worsening despite the introduction of a "bond
currency" last year.
A shortage of cash has gripped Zimbabwe, forcing banks to
set withdrawal limits and delay foreign payments because
accounts held by local banks overseas have been heavily depleted
of foreign currency.
Standard Chartered said that with immediate effect, clients
planning to use Visa cards outside Zimbabwe should apply for a
"special consideration" from the bank 72 hours before
"We regret to advise that we have cancelled the automatic
use of your Visa debit card outside Zimbabwe with immediate
effect," said Standard Chartered, adding that there was no
change in the use of its Visa card locally.
Customers will now have to "submit evidence of all the
expected expenses to be incurred" on foreign travel for the bank
to decide whether they can use their debit card abroad.
The southern African nation started using the U.S. dollar in
2009 after ditching its own currency when hyperinflation soared
to more than 500 billion percent at the height of an economic
Zimbabwe's central bank last week introduced a new $5 "bond
note", raising the circulation of the surrogate currency but
this has not ended long bank queues.
Although the bond note is still trading at par with the U.S.
dollar, analysts say it could lose its value if cash shortages
persist and travellers and importers turn to the black market to
buy foreign currency.
A huge trade deficit, lack of foreign investment and support
from international lenders, as well as a fall in remittances by
Zimbabweans abroad have helped fuel foreign currency shortages.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and