If you are not aware, Credit and Debit cards or even Prepaid Visa or Master Cards, they all are called the plastic money. As All you need to do is carry around those plastic cards and just swipe or get swiped your plastic card at checkout. Normally, these plastic cards are very convenient, no matter how big transaction you have make, you does not need to carry around few bundles of cash. Or even in daily life you just don’t need to carry much cash in your wallet as you just have a plastic card to make payment.
These cards are now very common in Pakistan too. Anyone with a bank account have a visa or MasterCard backed debit card which is on same time ATM card as well. Also, with every coming day Credit Cards are also being common. People are now in fact using them from even ten or more years, I am talking credit cards here.
Normally, if I am carrying plastic card instead of hardcore cash in my wallet, I am riding very much safer. I am very much protected and at less risk. If I lose my wallet or someone grabs it away, I can call my bank and get it deactivated for transactions right away. Also, some banks even offer insurance on fraudulent transactions, or even transactions can be reversed if they are made after your card was stolen, as it is responsibility of business owners to verify that they accept card from actual owners and transactions through stolen cards will only be trouble for business accepting it, mostly.
However, no matter how common Credit and Debit cards are in Pakistan, carrying plastic money here is more of trouble instead of blessings explained above and here is how. No matter trend is changing but much less than 5% of businesses here accept plastic money with Visa or MasterCard logos and that is also in just few big cities. Also that is not where the trouble starts, trouble starts when a business you know accepts plastic cards but at checkout or point of sale you are told that network is down you need to pay in cash.
The Network down thing happens too many times. I personally love to carry the plastic care (my debit card) and let the cash be in bank but it have brought much troubles for me. In different areas I have spotted different departmental stores and pharmacies which accept plastic money, these mostly lie in my way from work to home. They are some big names like Departmental store and Pharmacy of D. Watson or Boots store or few others. These I know mostly will have everything in order to receive my payment via card, but still I can remember many times I had to resort to run back to ATM for cash after was told that network is down or they have other issue and can’t accept the card at the moment. Even in hospitals I faced same problem.
So point here I am trying to convey is we here in Pakistan are not at point where we can get benefit from true potential of Plastic Money. We always need to have some alternate cash in pockets which nullifies the Plastic Money’s aspect of theft protection and cannot just rely on that plastic card. This is also a big question mark on faces of commercial banks in Pakistan, who claim to be better than each other but have troubles in get their systems running 24/7, which definitely needs to change soon enough.
Things are definitely changing and moving in right direction but still we are too much far away. Main role is to be played by banks, instead of just issuing cards with Visa or MasterCard logos they need run awareness campaigns for bringing more and more businesses aboard. Not only this they need to slash some extra charges and provide incentives to businesses which will result them willing to accept Credit and Debit card or those Prepaid Visa or MasterCard Cards. Finally, again they need to make their electronic systems more reliable so their card accepting machines are POS terminals, their ATMs, their websites and their SMS Alert systems have minimal downtime.
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