MTN launches Visa card, Zimbos to send money home cheaply

William Chui Avatar
MTN Mobile Money Visa payments card allowing Zimbabweans to send money home cheaply

mtn-visa-cardExciting news out of South Africa advise that MTN SA have launched a Visa card for their Mobile Money uses, following in suite of mobile payments pioneer M-PESA who did something similar way back in 2011! Orange also has a similar service.

MTN has brought convenience to its users allowing them to make purchases at Visa Point of Sale (POS’) machines dotted around the county, heck worldwide me thinks. The card links to one’s MTN Mobile Money account thus allowing one to use the card as if they are transacting from their cellphone.

The facility also enables users to withdraw money from ANY Visa-enabled ATM and is currently offering incentives to its customers to use the card at ANY Pick ‘n Pay outlets to try and increase the uptake (as if Zimbabweans need an incentive).

Exciting news indeed.

Why should we be doing somersaults and cartwheels this side of the Limpopo? With between one to five million Zimbabweans based in Mzansi, the probability of just about anyone having a relative there is very high. With these relatives using unorthodox methods to send money home, something Econet even realises, this launch from MTN will bring a sigh of relief for many, allowing relatives to send money to Zimbabwe at affordable prices. (Goodbye Western Union, MoneyGram and Mukuru???)

Here’s how:

  1. Relative in South Africa can go and sign up for MTN Mobile Money (I’m sure MTN does not require one to have a work permit or documents that prove that they are legally residing there, I know, I traveled there recently and registered for the service)
  2. Said relative signs up for MTN Visa card, does the necessary linking of one of their account.
  3. The MTN Visa card is then sent to Zimbabwe, probably by bus. (Be sure not to put your PIN with the card when sending it – you can give it through WhatsApp or Facebook, SMS if you still use it)
  4. When relative now needs to send funds to Zimbabwe (well to the person who has the card) all they have to do is deposit funds into the MTN Mobile Money account that is linked to the card and advise the card holder to go to ANY ATM that accepts Visa cards (is there an ATM that doesn’t?) and they have their money, instantly!!! No middlemen, no EcoCash diaspora, no high bank or transfer charges!

I know, you welcome.

I currently use a similar hack to “send money” out of Zimbabwe and has been working like a charm.

Would be great if EcoCash introduce a Visa (or MasterCard) account link, or telecash do give a slight tweak to their recently announced Gold Card. I’m not even gonna venture to say NetOne’s OneWallet, who are tin the process of thinking of bringing back the public phone booth!!!

What does this launch mean to you? Do you send money to Zimbabwe from South Africa? Will you start to use MTN Mobile Money’s Visa card to send money home?

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  1. Tate Mpofu

    Great article. l am worried about the legality of the issues confessed by the author. Please note if the RBZ was to read your confession about using a similar hack to send money out of Zimbabwe, you would be arrested in a flash for violation of foreign exchange regulation and money trafficking. just saying

    1. William Chui

      Hi there Tate,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your comments. The method uses a very legal mechanisim of a Zimbabwean issued Visa Debit card, attached to a Zimbabwean registered bank that allows me to withdraw money from ATMs worldwide. Would be interesting to see how they’d find any legal fault with this loophole

      1. Farai

        I agree. The money if flowing through the financial systems therefore no back door transfers happening.

      2. Anonymous

        Tate is 100% correct. Visa Inc’s terms of service (and almost certainly the issuing bank’s too) will not allow you to hand over possession of the card to a third party (think chargebacks, TC40s, money laundering). Although I don’t disagree with the concept – unfortunately it isn’t legal from that perspective!

  2. candy

    In the absence of cheaper ways to send money elsewhere, we are forced to find alternative ways. Personally, i signed up for the Prepaid Mastercard w FBC and i send it to SA by bus. And bcoz of my frequency in purchasin items there, i hv saved much as im no longer travellin plus as i deposit on real time with no hassles.

    1. William Chui

      Thanks for sharing Candy. Yes, we are inherently modeled to find a cheaper and more convenient way to do things.
      Glad to know this works for you.

    2. Anonymous

      Wow, I thought I invented this “hack”! Doing the same thing with the FBC card

      1. William Chui

        Well, you know what they say, “great minds think alike”…

  3. mr cool

    mmmmmm what about cross exchange rate, i know its high if u use it (yo rand card) in a dollar nation or other currencies except rand ,in othr wordz its 50 – 50. for thoz who sends money out of zim should consider using pay pal instead. pay pal is much cheaper when it comes to charges and its riskless.

    1. William Chui

      That exchange rate is still applicable whether you use Western Unioun, bank transfer or PayPal. The question is at what exchange rate will the withdrawal be charged? That’s where the difference is.

    2. Anonymous

      Good point mr cool. Exchange rate spread applied on foreign transactions depends on the issuing bank (not sure who issues the MTN Mobile Money card – if anyone has one and wants to confirm the BIN/IIN – first 6 digits of card number – I could tell you). Typically it will be done at a rate of 2 – 3% though. Many issuers also charge a fixed “foreign transaction fee” which is posted and batched as a separate transaction on the cardholder’s statement…

  4. BaDali

    @William_Chui I can see that it’s printed “VALID ONLY IN SOUTH AFRICA” at the bottom left hand corner of the card. Is the process that you explained above going to work?

    1. William Chui

      @BaDali: As depicted in the image above the service looks to be restricted at the moment. This could through all of this out the window and make the hack invalid. However, I am in the process of getting someone in SA to register and remit the card to Zimbabwe so that we can validate.

      Will update as soon as we have updated information.

      1. BaDali

        I am a Zimbo in SA. Tried opening a mobile account a year or so back and failed because I don’t have a South African ID, I only use a passport with a valid Permanent Residence permit. Their terms and conditions state that:

        1.4 All South African Residents, with a valid South African Identity Number, who are 16 years or older and have an operational cellphone number are eligible to open a Mobile Money account, on a basis of one account only per customer (“qualifying criteria”). This is also subject to successful fraud and risk control checks.

        1. Farai
        2. tadaaaaa

          Here’s what I did easy.

          Have a bank account. I am allowed to add an additional card to my account or add another account, which I do with my wife. I sent the new card home with its own limit. I tell them when they can withdraw and it comes out of my account. Very legal as it is VISA. Signed an affidavit allowing use. Easy if we share the same surname if there are any issues like card capture.

          And VISA charge is how much? No more than $3
          Compare that to the commission charges by MTAs and the hassle you go through to send. Proof of employment, residence and different interpretations by service staff, including aggression. I have been told once that I cannot send over a certain amount by an ABSA run Western Union agent. That was the final straw.
          If not using the VISA card approach, FNB has a Moneygram option(NEVER USE THE OK option. A horrible service) by SMS. Just register your recipients.


    if ecocash introduces a VISA card it will be easy for someone in Zim to send money to someone in SA, bt for someone in SA to send money to Zim how will this be possible. Where is the deposit going to be made by someone in SA?

  6. Anonymous

    So how much will it cost to send like R1000,how much am i charged

    1. Anonymous

      Less than $6

  7. Farai

    I think this setup is good but will not work for majority of Zimboz who use work permits/passports. An SA ID is required to get the card and is restricted to that one VISA card. Also, since you are going to test, I think you should have done so before posting this article as it looks like it is based on speculation of what maybe or may happen if one does this. I applaud your initiative on looking at ways “around” certain money trasnfer systems without breaking the law but I would rather work with something I know really works and not based on if or maybe.

  8. Anonymous

    Its funny or rather unfortunate how so much energy is being devoted to mobile money apps, remittances, transfers etc… all on the back of diasporeans sweat. Fact is we’d rather not send any money home. We are stuck in the perverbial rat race, and remmitting more money to friends and family is the last thing we want to do.

    I wonder if this energy could be spent elsewhere; coz I dont see the size of the pie growing.. just a thought

    1. BaDali

      Ha ha ha! You have just reminded me of some people back home who are not that appreciative when one gives them say $100 after sweating to earn R1000. “Ka hundred chete”.

  9. Anonymous

    people have been doing that for a long time any bank card sent to zim can withdraw money from an ATM as long its a visa card. ln other words lam saying there is nothing new l have been doing that for some time.

  10. Kuda Chehore

    That card is only Valid in South Africa , therefore, it will not work on Zimbabwean Atms even if the Atm is Visa Enabled.

  11. Prez Zuma

    This all sounds Nigerian to me and 100% illegal. Please can Zimbabwean’s just try and do something which is legal for a change and not spoil sending money or receiving from other countries by having it stopped.