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Wed 20 Jul 2016 09:04 AM

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Emirates NBD Egypt will not suspend card use abroad - exec

Central bank said credit and debit cards should not be used outside Egypt as country is facing shortage of foreign currency

Emirates NBD Egypt will not suspend card use abroad - exec

Emirates NBD Egypt has said it would not suspend use of its credit and debit cards abroad, contradicting an earlier notice informing customers their cards would be disabled outside Egypt from July 24.

Egypt's central bank last month asked banks to "ensure that debit cards, including pre-paid cards, issued in local currency by Egyptian banks are only used within the country" -- a move aimed at combatting an acute foreign currency shortage that has hampered trade.

Emirates NBD Egypt told customers via SMS on Monday night that "Emirates NBD cards will be disabled for international use outside Egypt only effective 24th of July 2016 till further notice. Apologies for any inconvenience."

It later sent a "corrective statement" in which it said the cards would continue to function abroad.

"They will not be stopped at all," Sahar Al Damatti, a board member of Emirates NBD Egypt, said in a statement.

"The bank is conducting a study to set credit limits for cards and will offer cards in foreign currency and this will be announced soon."

An acute shortage of dollars in the banking system is sapping import-dependent Egypt's ability to pay for purchases of everything from food to fuel.

Egypt's foreign reserves have more than halved since the 2011 uprising ushered in a period of instability that scared off tourists and foreign investors, major sources of hard currency.

The shortage has forced the central bank to ration foreign currency, prompting some Egyptians to use increasingly creative means to get their hands on dollars.

The central bank said the letter it sent to banks last month was not intended to signal a blanket ban, but was a request that banks prevent individuals from misusing debit cards to acquire large quantities of foreign currency while abroad.

Other banks have already reduced spending limits of credit cards used overseas.

On Monday, Lebanon's Bank Audi told customers it was reducing the maximum purchase limit outside Egypt for holders of its Mastercard Titanium card to $4,000 from $7,000, and that its withdrawal limit was $400 per month.

Arab African International Bank cut international cash withdrawal limits to $1,000 a month for its Classic credit card and $2,000 for its Titanium card, according to its website. It did not say what the previous limits were.

The central bank was not immediately available for comment.

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