Egyptian banks impose card limits for travellers due to forex challenges

January 17, 2024
2 min read
Debit and credit cards in a wallet - virtual dollar card
  • Five Egyptian banks have reportedly announced limits on foreign currency spending within Egypt, with some capping it at just $65. These restrictions also apply to credit card cash withdrawals.
  • However, Bloomberg reported that only two Egyptian banks — Commercial International Bank Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and First Abu Dhabi Bank Misr — have tightened restrictions on their travellers' use of international cards. 
  • Consequently, the international spending limit has been reduced to $50 for cash withdrawals and $100 for PoS purchases (a monthly limit of $500 due to the country's ongoing foreign exchange shortage.

While one report claims that Al Baraka Bank and EG Bank have decided to suspend international credit card withdrawals, Bloomberg clarifies that the banks did not prohibit foreign cash withdrawals or change their limits.

"International cash withdrawal transactions from EGBANK credit cards are active for customers when travelling abroad," according to an email statement from EG Bank.

Platinum cardholders, on the other hand, can withdraw or spend more than $100 in cash and $1000 in PoS purchases.

These cash spending limits are a recent development following the nation's economic woes and the forex crunch.

These limits apply to traveller customers who use the banks’ cards for cash withdrawals, purchases (POS), or eCommerce platforms outside of Egypt. Also, the limits vary on a daily and monthly basis.

Egypt's central bank issued new directives to commercial banks in September 2023 that limited the use of credit cards for foreign currency transactions. The central bank's move was to keep the country from losing foreign exchange, limiting cards to a maximum of $250 per month.

In October of the same year, the apex bank directed commercial banks to limit credit card use for foreign exchange transactions by customers within and outside the country.

Despite being the largest recipient of money transfers in the Middle East and Africa, a report unveils that Central Bank of Egypt data indicates money transfers from citizens leaving outside the country have fallen by 30% in Q1 of the fiscal year 2023-2024. 

It was $8.1 billion in 2021/2022, $6.4 billion in 2022/2023, and $4.5 billion in Q1 (July, August, and September) 2023/2024.

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The Egyptian pound (EGP) has depreciated against the US dollar, reaching a black market rate of more than EGP 53 per USD due to currency fluctuations. However, official rates remain stable at around EGP 30.9 per USD.

Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund has yet to complete its initial review of a $3 billion deal announced in 2022. However, the entity has stated that discussions with Egypt will continue in the coming weeks.

Also, in December 2023, the Central Bank of Egypt said it is considering issuing a digital pound in partnership with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. This would allow Egyptians to settle payments with their mobile phones using the digital pound as it can be used for trade, transactions, and money exchange.

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