One of the easiest ways to make international payments at the moment is to use the FBC Prepaid MasterCard. The draw is that the card can be instantly obtained at one of FBC’s branches. All one needs to do is show up with real US dollars and they are good to go.
You can make all payments like it’s 2013 again
The card allows you to make international payments without a care in the world as long as you preload it using real foreign currency. You can make online purchases, pay DSTV, swipe on MasterCard POS abroad or even withdraw cash when you are abroad.
I decided to put the theory to the test
I used to own the MasterCard back before when I had a real bank account but I let it expire. After a lot of disappointments with my current bank I decided to go back and renew my card. After talking to a representative of the bank on WhatsApp for a week I decided to visit their main branch and apply for the card.
A rude awekening
Upon confidently entering the branch I was curtly told by the guard that they were no longer taking new applications. No explanation was given when I asked why they were still advertising the service. Only after visiting the Leopold Takawira branch was the situation made a little less confusing.
Two things are clear at the moment. The FBC Prepaid MasterCard is not function as it should. Currently the bank is not accepting new applications and those who want their cards replaced/renewed are being turned away. Their system has been down for more than one and a half weeks according to one of the bank’s representatives.
What is not clear is whether this downtime is a result of a system upgrade gone wrong or whether this is due to capacity issues. As more and more people have been moving to digital platforms due to the current cash crises most banks have struggled.
In the past both Ecocash and its cousin bank Steward have buckled under pressure. This forced Ecocash to suspend all airtime transactions below $1 as these were blamed for flooding the system.
Even the WhatsApp customer rep was in the dark
It seems I wasn’t the only one in the dark. Even the bank’s WhatsApp rep seemed to be in the dark about the system being down too. Only after I had posed the question did they come back with the system is down line and only after about an hour without responding which is way longer than their 5 minute response time. I can only speculate that the rep needed to confirm the story too.
It’s only going to get worse
FBC’s Prepaid MasterCard system is the latest victim in a long list of victims. My current bank StanChart frequently struggles when it comes to online payments too. At times for no reason Ecocash transactions sometimes fail. I can only imagine that there a lot of downtimes that go unreported just like this Prepaid MasterCard issue here. Likely this will continue as the cash crises continues to bite and people resort to e-payments.