In Summary

  • I recently saw a 1989 magazine advertisement for the Diners’ Club card, one of the first top local credit cards in Kenya.
  • This was truly exclusive and groundbreaking for the time, as the first ATM in Kenya was only installed in 1989, by Standard Chartered at its Moi Avenue branch.
  • Kenyans used their payment cards to do 14 per cent of their transactions, which totalled four per cent of the value of all payments.

A few weeks ago, I tried to pay my accommodation bill at a sports club.

They accept Lipa na M-Pesa (payment by M-Pesa) and have a sign on the wall above the accountant’s desk.

I asked if I could pay by card and the accountant said this was possible, but if I chose this option, the club would add on a three per cent processing fee to my payment.

I protested, but the accountant said the card-processing fee is actually in their by-laws, which are the rules members vote on to determine how to manage their club.

This rule seems archaic, but it probably stems from a time, probably in the 1980s or 1990s, when credit cards were seen as payment options for the wealthy.

I recently saw a 1989 magazine advertisement for the Diners’ Club card, one of the first top local credit cards in Kenya.

It boasted that the Diners' card was accepted at 3,500 establishments, offered 24-hour cash withdrawals at 10 locations, access to 22 luxurious airport lounges at global cities, 24-hour customer service and came with an extra card for personal use.

This was truly exclusive and groundbreaking for the time, as the first ATM in Kenya was only installed in 1989, by Standard Chartered Bank at its Moi Avenue branch.

PRODUCT FOR THE MASSES

Nowadays cards are more prevalent; in fact, there were 238,000 in Kenya, an increase of 8 per cent during the 2015/2016 financial year, according to the 2016 Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) annual report.

There are also 11 million debit cards, which are mainly used for withdrawals at ATMs. They too can be swiped like a credit card, but such usage is much less common.

There was no charge for using M-Pesa to pay at the sports club and this could be because, unlike credit cards, mobile money payments were introduced as a product for the masses, not for the wealthy.

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