Money talks

Foreign exchange expert Travelex is looking to tap into the Middle East's expatriate money transfer market after launching a new system aimed at facilitating the process.

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By  John Irish Published  November 17, 2003

The Middle East's expatriate market is set to see a new concept for transferring money to friends and relatives after foreign exchange specialist Travelex today (November 16) launched its first global money transfer scheme from the United Arab Emirates.

The new system, entitled 'Cash Passport Money Transfer' enables people to deposit funds through a local exchange branch, whereby a Visa ATM card will then be couriered to a recipient. That person can then obtain cash through ATM machines adorning the Visa logo across the world within 48 hours.

"We have chosen [the UAE] as our first market to launch the product because we estimate the value of the Middle East personal money transfer market to be over US $30 billion a year, with a growth rate of 20-30% annually," said Rob Groombridge, general manager sales for Middle East.

In the short term the scheme will also begin operating in Jordan from late November with Oman shortly after.

With so many expatriates from Europe, the Indian sub-continent and and the Arab World living throughout the Gulf, Travelex is hoping that the new process will be a more cost effective way of transferring cash globally.

Currently, bank drafts and transfers as well as relatively costly money transfer firms such as Western Union dominate the market.

However, with many expatriates not possessing formal banking facilities, the initial registration fee of around $10, with a reloading charge of approximately $5 is bound to attract people who regularly send money to their families. An additional $2 charge will also cover all ATM withdrawals after the first two.

"The [new] card is based on the anytime, anywhere convenience that Visa ATMs offer," said Jonathon Cabedo, vice president business development, Visa, Middle East.

"Families and friends, young an old will now be able to enjoy the convenience of modern payments that visa represents, thereby helping extend the trend of electronic financial access to a wide range of audiences," he added.

Travelex will launch the product alongside the UAE Exchange and Al Ansari Exchange with all revenue divided between the three groups.

Meanwhile, Jonathon Hunt, market development manager, pre-paid cards Travelex confirmed to Arabian Business that a holiday budget card would be launched in Saudi Arabia next year.

"We are planning to introduce 'Cash Passport', which will allow people when travelling to avoid overspending," he said.

Much like the old traveller cheque system, people will be allowed to load budgeted amounts of cash onto the card and then access it via Visa ATMs while abroad.

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