First Caribbean International bank launched its Visa Debit Card last week at the Wealth Magazine’s Corporate Mingle business networking event in Jamaica. It’s a strong first move on what I call ecommerce for all. Without membership fees, interest fees, this Visa Debit card allows any Jamaica to walk into First Caribbean Bank, sign up as a customer, drop their cash in their savings account, apply for this Visa Debit card ( a dual currency Visa debit card that can be used in Jamaica, overseas and online ) and go online and scream charge it at any of their favourite places online. The card also, has universal acceptance at over 22 million merchants and 700,000 ATM locations worldwide and on the Internet, wherever Visa or PLUS logos are displayed.
Until now, no other bank had made a bid for the business of the many who want to shop and do business online, not National Commercial Bank (NCB) the Jamaican owned bank with the largest branch network and not Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) arguably the most profitable bank in Jamaica. Round one to First Caribbean Bank for scoring the coup and putting its competitors on notice even as I heard that BNS is now testing theirs Debit Card. If BNS and the other banks are smart and follow suit and more Jamaicans have bank accounts with a debit card that can be used online….then that would be HUGE for ecommerce in Jamaica.
So do Jamaicans want to shop online? Ask Global Couriers, Mailpack who offer the use-our-credit-card-and-I’ll-also-bring your-goods-in-from-overseas to your door service. Ask the many who sit, credit card in hand waiting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Whether it’s an outgrowth of migration,travel,imperialist cable culture, Jamaicans thirst for buying what they want online is only an growth curve pointing North East.
But of course how many Jamaicans online was always a debate, but with the advent of fast wired and wireless internet access from tech companies like Flow, Digicel and Claro we now have 55% of the population as internet users, over 400,000 Jamaicans on Facebook, 350,000 over 18 – a fertile Visa Debit Card market if I ever saw one.
As you know, a key requirement for shopping online is that a buyer must have a credit card to pay for a product or service, and prior to now, the requirements (minimum salary etc.) for having a credit card has been largely restrictive and highly taxing in terms of interests rates and fees for many Jamaicans. With a Visa Debit Card you can spend only what you have in your account- a great way to still get what you want, when you want minus the awfully high fees.
So What does it mean to Jamaican consumers online?
In essence it means more people can do things like buy domain names, pay for website hosting, run Facebook ads for your small business, buy an ad on a great local blog, buy a ticket to New York, catch Cyber Mondays without having to use the credit card of a third party service or courier company. More Jamaicans can can participate in local auction sites, buy books, music, clothes, household and car stuff-anything they want as long as there’s money in the bank. Ugh! such delicious capitalistic freedom like that of a first world country.
What does it mean to the Jamaican businesses online?
For Sites like virtualmalljamaica.com with over 70 Jamaican stores with stuff to sell us online, could see increased business as more people have the ability to buy online. Any brand with an online store that sells products from tshirts and candles to cell phones and furniture could see their sales rise. It can also mean a boom for Software developers who offer web-based apps and charge monthly rates for use; for blogs that offer advertising on their site; for Social gaming sites and apps where you can pay to play. Those already in the courier business too could see an uptick in their business.
And it’s only the beginning.
What needs to happen next is for the other banks to follow. Then it will be huge for ecommerce for all in Jamaica which we’ve been waiting on for over 10 years.