EcoCash MasterCard debit card: Econet launches the payments game changer


We just attended the launch of Econet’s new EcoCash linked MasterCard card in Harare. A lot about the card is like what we wrote about yesterday. But there are a few things to add.

First, Econet has named the product EcoCash Debit Card, essentially, the same name of the virtual debit card. We learnt today by the way that the virtual debit card was indeed unpopular.

The EcoCash debit card facts:

  • The card works like any other MasterCard debit card. You can pay with it anywhere in the world, including in Zimbabwe.
  • You can use the card to pay for stuff on the internet wherever MasterCard is accepted, and that’s a majority of the merchants.
  • The card is not a prepaid card. It accesses the EcoCash wallet to enable a payment.
  • Users of the card can also withdraw money from MasterCard licensed ATMs. We have no idea how many of these are there in the country.
  • The card uses what is called EMV Chip and PIN technology, which is much more secure than magnetic stripe cards that most of the local banks still use.
  • The card is what MasterCard refers to as the Mobile Money Companion debit card.
  • According to MasterCard this is the first time that physical MasterCard debit cards are available to people using mobile money services in Africa.
  • The old virtual debit card is not being retired. It will keep working in the background. In fact it still covers situations where there’s no MasterCard POS.

 Cost & getting the card

  • The cost of the card to the customer getting it is $2
  • Transactions fees will be between 30 cents and $2.45
  • The EcoCash Debit card is available at select agents (about 700 of them they said), Steward Bank branches and Econet shops. So do note that not all agents (there’s over 13,000 the last time we heard) can sell you one.
EcoCash CEO, Cuthbert Tembedza, speaks at the launch of the EcoCash Mastercard debit card in Harare today
EcoCash CEO, Cuthbert Tembedza, speaks at the launch of the EcoCash MasterCard debit card in Harare today

Our thoughts

The huge convenience here is that now the EcoCash wallet is also a MasterCard wallet. That is huge in so many ways whether you just want to pay for stuff at a shop in your neighbourhood, want to buy stuff across the borders, or want to buy off the internet.


Between having EcoCash and a MasterCard, you will almost always never need to have cash. Except of course the the remaining fact that some informal guys will still refuse to have you pay them via mobile money because it costs them to withdraw the money when they eventually need to cash it out.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear yet just how many MasterCard enabled Point of Sale Devices are out there. Cuthbert Tembedza, the EcoCash CEO however did allude to the fact that they are going to to contribute to the process of building local acquiring infrastructure.

The good thing for Econet is that this is not their work alone. There are a lot of banks including FBC, CBZ, Stanbic, Standard Chartered etc… that are part of the effort of building the infrastructure. And MasterCard itself.

According to Econet, they are looking at local POS transactions as the big opportunity for the new card. Unfortunately, without ZimSwitch, there’s a limit to how many merchants can accept EcoCash’s new card.

Again though, we say this without any numbers of how many ZimSwitch enabled POS devices are out there compared to MasterCard ones. Our guess is that MasterCard POS devices are dwarfed in comparison, but then the banks haven’t exactly been healthy these past couple of years. And surely, Econet has the deep pockets to change that overnight.

It’s also hard to say right now just how popular the card will be with the man on the street. We spend a lot of time with people that buy stuff off the internet and in other countries, so it’s easy to assume our excitement, and that of any other person on the street will be the same. In short, we’re very excited with this product, but we’re not the market!

You can read the MasterCard press release here.

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