Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a cash shortage. As “survivors” of the 2008 economic crisis we never thought we’d hear this again after the adoption of a multi-currency system.
Thankfully the situation hasn’t deteriorated to pre-dollarisation levels but there is a sense of panic that has gripped most citizens.
What happens when the banks really run out of cash? Will we have another shortage of basic commodities? Will everyday transactions grind to a halt?
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The answers to those questions aren’t clear at this point. What is obvious, though, is that Zimbabweans will try their best to work around the challenges related to this.
Technology will play a huge role in helping people in doing this. Over the past 8 years, a lot has changed in that area – from a rapid rise in internet access to the emergence new platforms for payments and money exchange like mobile money.
We’ve come up with a list of 11 things that everyone who is struggling to get their hands on their cash from the bank can do to weather the cash crisis storm.
These solutions are meant to ease the pressures of a cash crisis, they won’t completely solve your need for hard currency.
After all, the dream of a cashless society hasn’t become a reality because of issues like an incomplete rollout of supporting infrastructure for e-money solutions, digital transactions apathy from services providers, punitive costs on transactions, and the clear absence of supporting legislation that makes e-transactions a leading solution.
For now, you should consider the following:
Get a reliable bank card
Bank cards are now more than just another tool for ATM access. They will help you pay for services and complete transactions as long as you are in an establishment that has the good sense to make that option available.
They have to be reliable which in the context of Zimbabwean transactions usually means an integration with Zimswitch which will give you increased access to POS terminals that have that facility.
A cashback facility beats a bank queue – use this facility
If you are using bank cards for in-store purchases, make it a point to access the cashback facility. Most retailers have held on to this as a value added service which has eliminated the need for that visit to the bank.
It comes with some “reasonable” limits. Depending on where you shop you can get up to $100 for purchases of at least $30 or amounts based on how much you spend in the store like a cashback that’s 3 times the value of what you spend. It won’t help you empty your account from inside the store, but it gives you that extra bit of cash that you’d have had to queue for hours to get.
Sign up for internet banking
As long as cash is elusive every channel that gives you room to handle your financial obligations without laying your hands on money has to be explored. Which makes that e-banking service or that banking app a reliable tool in your cash crisis kit.
Fortunately, most well-serving banks have online banking facilities and have been expanding this function with applications that are able to give you access to most of the major functions you need from your banking hall. Now’s the time to sign up and download.
Link your bank account with your mobile money account
Judging from the recent cash shortages being experienced by mobile money agents the bank account-to-mobile money wallet link is the most popular deal in town right now and for good reason.
Depending on which mobile money service you use, the mobile money agent network has managed to bring pseudo-banking facilities to pracitically every corner of the country. It’s even been exploited for agent banking by forward thinking banks like Steward Bank.
Using it gives you an option to increase your cash withdrawal points exponentially, never mind the fact that it comes with its own high charges. Still, it means cash isn’t just limited to those few brick and mortar bank branches or governed by operating hour restrictions.
Use the mobile money service tools like debit cards
The two leading mobile money services, EcoCash, and Telecash, have debit cards that make it easier for wallet holders to make payments. getting your hands on one would also increase the functionality of your mobile money wallet once it becomes an accessory for your bank account transactions. Cards like the Telecash Gold Card also have Zimswitch integration which is a huge plus for in-store transactions.
Buy your groceries online
Online retailing has grown significantly over the past 5 years and the options for payments that also include mobile money mean that it’s a clear alternative that can be explored for buying fast moving consumer goods especially your groceries.
Some notable brands in the retailing space like hammer and Tongues and FoodWorld will give you access to a decent variety of products and also provide reliable delivery services.
Pay for your ZESA electronically
If you are stuck with the electricity bill you can make your ZESA payments using your bank card and if you are using the prepaid ZESA token system it’s possible to buy your tokens from electronic payment platforms from banks like CBZ Bank and ZB Bank.
There are also EcoCash payment options that have also emerged like TelOne’s Telpay, Paynow’s Topup.co.zw and the horde of ZESA prepaid electricity agents that are using social media platforms like facebook and WhatsApp to promote their services which accept mobile money payments.
Pay your municipal payments electronically
The city of Harare has just introduced card payment facilities in its halls and it won’t be the last municipality to do so. At the same time, most councils have for years now, offered mobile money payment options through EcoCash and Telecash. All these should be the only way to handle those monthly municipal payments.
Get a fuel card
Buying fuel shouldn’t drain your limited cash reserves. So try to get a fuel card from companies like Puma Energy that have an online payment facility for card holders that accepts VISA Zimswitch and V-Payments.
Whatever can be paid online or electronically, should be
This is a bit of a no-brainer but in the face of high electronic payment charges some channels were never that popular. In crisis mode, that changes significantly.
As much as possible everything from school fees payments to monthly subscriptions and account payments which are a merchant code or card swipe away shouldn’t use cash.
Always ask for the e-option
Everybody understands the situation that we are in right now so before making any payment ALWAYS ask for the option to pay electronically. Sure, there might be some haggling after this but it could help save that extra bit of cash that you need for that cash only service or instance like your bus trip or that ZRP spot fine.