Move to VISA and MasterCard


This country’s five commercial banks and two of the biggest credit unions are set to launch new VISA/MasterCard automated banking machine (ATM) cards on November 1 as the local CariFS system is abandoned.

This was confirmed Tuesday by president of the Barbados Bankers’ Association (BBA) Donna Wellington, who is also managing director of CIBC FirstCaribbean’s (CIBCFC) Barbados and Eastern Caribbean operations.

And responding to one of the biggest concerns that the new overseas-based system would be a major source of foreign exchange leakage from the local economy, Wellington said this was now a “non-issue”.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY, the BBA president explained that local transactions would be settled in Barbados dollars, while “the only thing that goes to VISA is a very tiny fee for that transaction”. Overseas online transactions that involve the use of foreign exchange is a different matter.

CIBCFC has started notifying customers of the switch over and that cash withdrawals from any of its ATMs will be free. However, Wellington said the bank was still determining what other transactions would be free and which ones might attract fees.

“The credit unions are on board and they are transitioning with us . . . . The card does not have to be VISA, it could be MasterCard. Yes, we are on two different platforms but that is seamless because everybody does not have to use VISA,” she explained.

“Scotia does not use VISA. Scotiabank uses MasterCard and so there are already MasterCard users in Barbados and their [cards]can be used seamlessly. Scotia machines can take VISA and CIBC takes MasterCard. They take everything else like how they take cards used by visitors who may have American Express or MasterCard or VISA.”

Responding to criticism that the banks could have used a homegrown system rather than abandon the Barbados-based Caribbean Integrated Financial Services Inc. (CariFS), Wellington said advancing technology and security concerns were among the main drivers of the change.

“If you look at your [old]card it has no security features. It is a magnetic strip, and the chip and pin and tap technology are certainly more modern.

“We developed CariFS in 1994 and nothing has changed since then and we are in 2020. EMV – which stands for American Express, MasterCard and VISA – came up with the chip several years ago, and that is now the gold standard as to security. It is not skimmable like how other cards are skimmable. Therefore, we want to move to technology that is more secure,” Wellington said.

The BBA president added: “The alternative was to go the route of making our convenience card EMV chip-compliant and it would have cost millions of dollars to do. And at any point the EMV people . . . could have come up with new technology and we would then have to do it all over again. So, it made sense to convert to their thing and let them drive the bus on the technology and we just get the card, rather than try to reengineer something they have already done.”

Wellington pointed out that while the CariFS network will dissolve at the end of next month, CariFS will play a key role in other options which are expected to hit the local market soon.

“What will take its place eventually is the newest thing, which is mobile wallets, which is, transferring money person-to-person, using your phone without a card, and the cards will soon be a thing of the past. The next generation is not cards at all,” she said.

Meanwhile, general manager of the City of Bridgetown Co-operative Credit Union (COB) Steve Belle told Barbados TODAY his credit union’s 40 000 members should be in possession of their new COB MasterCards shortly.

He said COB was also prepared to work with smaller credit unions to ensure they can take advantage of the new system by offering them options best suited to the needs of their members. (IMC1)


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