MasterCard Inc has reached an agreement with a bank in Myanmar to issue its first branded cards in the country, which, emerging from isolation after years of military rule, has an antiquated banking system and a largely cash economy.
MasterCard Worldwide said in a statement on Thursday that it had given the licence to Co-Operative Bank Limited, which it said had the largest ATM network in the country.
The network has 24 machines out of an estimated 82 for all banks — derisory by comparison with most other Asian countries but a sign of progress in Myanmar, where ATMs were unknown until this year.
The ones that have appeared in recent months are basic cash dispensers, restricted to customers of the bank that installs them.
The new MasterCard plastic, which should be available in a few months’ time, will be accepted by Co-Operative Bank ATMs and by retailers in the country as payment cards.
MasterCard is the first of the big international issuers to venture into the former Burma. However, its cards issued abroad will not immediately be acceptable there.
Credit cards are of little use in Myanmar, rarely accepted anywhere, and a spokesman for MasterCard said its initiative was part of the process of building up acceptance.