South Africa joins United States, Italy, Canada, United Arab
Emirates and Romania as latest examples of cashless benefits programs
MasterCard today noted a growing global trend toward governments
adopting electronic payments as an alternative to cash and
check-based benefit programs. Most recently, the South
African Social Security Agency (“SASSA”) distributed more
than 2.5 million debit cards to social grant recipients across the
country with a target of 10 million cards by March 2013. South Africa
joins the United States, Italy, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Romania
as the latest examples of governments going paperless as a cost-savings
opportunity and a method of addressing the almost 2.5 billion people
worldwide that lack access to financial services.
“By supporting governments around the world with electronic payment
programs we are helping save money and improve efficiencies, but more
importantly, together we are opening up a world of inclusion for those
who have previously not had access to traditional financial services,”
Murphy, Chief Products Officer of MasterCard Worldwide.
SASSA recipients are now able to use debit cards, issued by Net1 and
Grindrod Bank, to pay for goods and to check their account balances free
of charge. A key feature of the card is biometric functionality used to
identify grant recipients using unique identifiers such as fingerprints,
facial and voice recognition to prevent stolen card usage. The new
system is already dramatically reducing SASSA’s operating costs and is
expected to save the government more than ZAR3 billion (USD 360 million)
over the next five years.
Other examples include:
States Department of the Treasury is also moving to all
electronic payments, including the Direct Express debit card, which is
used to deliver Social Security and other federal benefits. The
program has roughly 3 million current cardholders, and that figure
could increase substantially, as Treasury eliminates check payments in
March of 2013. The program is expected to save the U.S. government $1
billion over the first ten years.
central government launched the “Carta Acquisti” Social Card
program to assist citizens in need. The cards are being distributed
through Italy’s 14,000 Post Offices, targeting 1 million benefits
Following the successful Italian model, in Romania, the Poste
Romania also began distributing prepaid cards across the country
to social benefit recipients.
The Toronto Employment and Social Services (TESS) recently
launched prepaid benefits cards for the delivery of social assistance
disbursements. The card allows recipients to receive benefits through
an EMV chip-and-pin prepaid MasterCard and is expected save the city
$2.4 million annually.
To ensure safe and timely disbursement of funds and to prevent fraud,
in the United Arab Emirates, the Ministry of Labour requires
agencies that arrange laborers for large contractors to transfer their
wages electronically via MasterCard prepaid cards through the Wages
Many more innovative payment solutions are in development to support
inclusion of the financially underserved including in Mexico where
a pilot is underway for the residents of Oaxaca to access a variety of
financial instruments through their mobile phone’s SMS functionalities.
MasterCard (NYSE: MA), www.mastercard.com,
is a global payments and technology company. It operates the world’s
fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial
institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210
countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make
everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a
business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient
for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews,
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