x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

New e-dirham card helps to pay bills

The Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi have unveiled a new, more flexible e-dirham payment system.

A government e-payment card introduced to help people to pay their bills is being phased out and replaced with a prepaid Visa card.

The new system can be used to make payments for a range of things including Emirates ID cards, visa renewals, court cases and even movie tickets.

The first-generation "e-dirhams" were prepaid cards that could only be used to pay for government services at specific ministries.

Yesterday the Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) unveiled a second-generation card, called "e-Dirham G2".

The G2 prepaid cards are Visa co-branded, which means they can be used to pay for government services as well as many other things.

"The first generation was a closed-loop system, so it just [had] a card and you could only use the card in the entities and the ministries that provided the service," said Imad Ahmed Abdal Wahab, the projects management adviser for the Ministry of Finance.

"Now we are opening to integrate with other members like [the] Visa network and we have a co-branded card."

He said the ministry planned to phase out the first-generation cards by the second quarter of next year.

Ahmed Al Naqbi, the head of direct banking and e-development for NBAD, outlined other problems cardholders had had with the first-generation e-dirhams.

"You couldn't top up the card; the card didn't have an expiry date.

"And if you had a transaction that was Dh90 (US$24.50) and you had Dh100 on the card, you'd have Dh10 on the card that you couldn't really withdraw, because there was no way to withdraw the cash," he said.

Now, owners of the e-Dirham G2 cards can top up the cards using any NBAD deposit machines. They can also draw cash using any Visa-compatible ATMs around the world.

The second-generation cards have been in a pilot phase since last year.

But they are now widely available for purchase at all NBAD branches across the UAE.

The cards also come in blue, red and gold options that offer different benefits, and customers do not need to have bank accounts to buy the cards.

However, the cards have different registration requirements.

Customers do not need to fill in registration forms for e-dirhams if they only want to deposit up to Dh250 on the cards.

They then receive Blue Al Haslah or Red Al Haslah cards.

However, customers who want to deposit up to Dh20,000 on their e-dirham cards need to register on the e-Dirham G2 website, or at any NBAD branch, for the Gold Al Haslah.

These also have security features such as smart-chip technology.