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EcoCash physical Mastercard is back (again) & it still can’t do online payments

EcoCash Debit Mastercard Physical Card

A couple of months ago EcoCash announced that it was entering the domestic remittance game as well as pushing the company’s FCA wallet. This was quite a surprise because the prevailing assumption was that EcoCash was in some sort of conflict with the regulators. However, as it turned out, this was not the case as representatives from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and the Exchange Control were in attendance as the country’s largest mobile money operator announced to the public its latest venture into forex. At the same event, EcoCash also revealed that it would be bringing back its Mastercard physical card to pair alongside the popular virtual card.

When we covered the launch event, we were told that the physical was not yet ready but would be coming soon. While browsing the internet recently, I saw an advertisement on EcoCash’s Facebook feed that announced that the physical FCA Mastercards were now available.

EcoCash Mastercard PhysicalEcoCash Mastercard Physical
EcoCash Facebook.

So to test EcoCash’s marketing, I went to my local shop to see if the card was indeed ready for customers. When I got there I was told that the physical card was available and I began the process of getting it…

A 2018 time capsule

This takes me back to 2018 when we reported on the return of the EcoCash Debit Card (and then proceeded to go away again). From that time the EcoCash debit card was not being issued by the mobile money operator. Reasons for this, I can not be too sure, however, we all experienced the banning of the USD as legal tender locally in 2019 as the govt made the push for the local currency. If I am to put money on anything being the primary reason then that would be it.

At any rate, the card is back and unfortunately, it’s much the same as it was way back when. You can’t use the card for online transactions. If you want to buy goods and services online you will have to generate an EcoCash Virtual MasterCard. This might miff a few of you but the use of a virtual card is probably one of the safest ways to transact online.

Chief among the security benefits of a virtual card is that it limits the amount of information that is shared when you are making a purchase. Virtual Cards tokenise and encrypt data, hiding your details (including your physical card details) and they can be used for one-time payments that you (for one reason or another) don’t want to linked to your physical card directly.

Additionally, EcoCash’s Virtual Mastercard is pretty handy if your cash flow is a problem and you are a fan of subscription services like Netflix and Spotify. The virtual version of the EcoCash Mastercard expires after two weeks, so essentially you are making a one-time payment for a subscription-based service and it saves you the headache of your bank charging you that predatory insufficient funds fee (BancABC prepaid Visa cardholders know what I am talking about) whenever Netflix or Spotify ping your account looking for money.

How to get the EcoCash Virtual Mastercard

  • Dial *151# and enter EcoCash PIN
  • Select Wallet Services
  • Select EcoCash Debit Card
  • Select EcoCash MasterCard Virtual
  • Request VCN
  • Enter a nickname for the card (any four-letter nickname)
  • Enter 1 and submit your request
  • You will receive an SMS with the virtual card number, card expiry date and the CVV2 number.

The only drawback is that you have to keep generating Virtual Cards which costs US$0.50 on EcoCash. This might be a small price to pay for those who are used to deleting payment details on their subscription service of choice regularly. Although, for those who don’t want the hassle of entering a payment option every time then a conventional prepaid USD card might be the way to go.

So what is the EcoCash physical Debit Mastercard good for anyway?

So you can’t use it for online payment, so what is this card good for? Before I try to answer that let’s look at how you acquire one.

First, you’ll need to go to your Econet Shop and request a card. You’ll then be asked to pay US$5.00 for acquiring the card and then load money into your EcoCash FCA Wallet. When that has been squared away, you’ll need to provide a national Identity document which is the only KYC you’ll do throughout the process.

After all that, you’ll be handed your card in an envelope with your pin obscured until you peel the tab to reveal it. And the EcoCash attendant will help you activate it through the *151# USSD menu.

  • Dial *151#
  • Select Option 7 (Wallet Services)
  • Choose Option 1 (EcoCash Debit Card)
  • Select Option 1 (EcoCash Mastercard Card Physical)
  • Choose Option 1 (Activate)

After you have done that you will need to give your Mastercard a four-letter nickname that will be used for the card. The final step is to confirm the activation and should be all set. At the time of writing, I was having issues activating my card. The USSD was throwing errors at me every time I tried. I was told by EcoCash customer support that I’d need to return to the Econet shop to get the issue sorted out.

If you are intending on getting this card, don’t be a bonehead like me and leave before the card has been activated. Make sure they activate the card before you exit the Econet shop.

Circling back to the utility of this card, it is time to try and answer the question “what can this card can be used for if it can’t do online transactions?“. Well, the answer to that is pretty much what we wrote back in 2018, you can:

  • International ATM withdrawal (getting cash from an ATM if someone has loaded your account or sent you money)
  • International & Local POS transactions (swiping at the till, locally and aboard)
  • Contactless Payments (the card is compatible with contactless Point of Sale Machines)

So essentially no different than what you can do with a regular card, except this one is from a mobile money operator and without the ability to do online transactions. This might be a deal-breaker for some who don’t want to continuously generate a VCN for online payments regardless of the benefits. Additionally, almost every bank has a prepaid VISA or Mastercard platform at a comparable cost to entry as EcoCash’s.

To make sense of this, I am going to need your help from your own experiences and use cases. Does EcoCash’s Mastercard make sense for you?

But while on the point EcoCash’s cards are chip and pin, unlike OneMoney and Telecash who as of last year were still issuing magstripe cards for their local currency cards.

P.S. I have enquired about the transaction charges for the EcoCash debit card and I have yet to get a response from customer support.


Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

18 thoughts on “EcoCash physical Mastercard is back (again) & it still can’t do online payments

  1. If you have both USD and ZWL in EcoCash can you swipe at the till for either and the card automatically debits the appropriate balance?

    1. Yes you can do, just switch change Currency via Ecocash USSD, when you want to transact eg switch from ZWL to USD and vice versa

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