Kenya: Bank Cards Use Grows 25% in Eight Months

By James Kariuki

Bank debit and credit card transactions hit Sh399 billion between January and August, representing a 25 percent upward swing.

This is the highest in more than a decade after the advent of mobile money that disrupted the traditional financial system forcing banks to rethink service delivery systems.

Lenders quickly invested heavily in launching mobile phone apps as well as embraced online mobile banking enabling customers to settle payments virtually as well as move money electronically on the banks owned Pesalink platform.

Data from Central Bank of Kenya shows the first eight months of 2018 saw Kenyans spend Sh318.7 billion to settle payments for goods and services.

While 2015 saw use of cards fall by 10 percent, 2016 registered a 21 percent rise with the following year falling to a paltry two percent growth.

According to the Financial Sector Stability report 2018, there were 17.9 million active cards that processed 191 million payments worth Sh1.39 trillion last year compared to Sh1.35 trillion in 2017.

"Point-Of-Sale (POS) terminals rose from 35,466 units in 2017, being 9,408 more merchants to stand at 44,874 units while ATMs usage grew by percent in 2018, signalling more uptake of plastic money," it says.

Visa Card regional manager Victor Ndlovu said emerging cyber threats on online transactions and concerted campaigns by banks has contributed to rise in use of cards as most customers swipe cards to pay for goods and services.

"Cards are trusted due to their enhanced know-your-customer capabilities that support end-to-end encryptions that makes transactions safer at POS terminals. This eases the need to carry huge amounts of cash around and is therefore deemed a much safer as well as cheaper mode of payment," he said.

The rebound of plastic money rides on an emerging cybercrime threat that is fast whittling gains made on online banking and mobile App platforms with police records showing banks lost Sh17 billion to the fraudsters in 2016, up from Sh14 billion in 2015.

In 2018, Equity Bank's debit and prepaid cards transactions' value hit Sh16 billion for both inbound and outbound transactions in 2018 with the bank's 17,720 POS gadgets enabling traders to move Sh95 billion, a 37 percent rise from 2017's registered total transactions of Sh69.3 billion.

Equity Bank has since increased its merchant POS platform to 27,133.