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MasterCard for Muslims points way to Mecca
Staff Reporter
The Financial Daily
January 11, 2013

Muslim MasterCard: This bank card has an embedded compass to direct the cardholder to Mecca for prayer

A Gulf state-owned bank has rolled out a new Master Card that not only complies with Islamic laws banning loans with interest but also includes an embedded compass pointing the way to Mecca.

The new card from Al Hillal bank in United Arab Emirates is the latest in a growing array of banking products aimed at the world`s 1.6 billion Muslims that comply with Shariah, or Islamic law.

"We continue to see a growing demand, especially in the Middle East, for Islamic banking in general, and more specifically in our case, for cards that are Shariah-compliant in accordance with the tenets of the Islamic faith,” “ MasterCard spokesman James Issokson said.

Shariah forbids “riba” or the charging of interest on loans because it could enable the rich to exploit the poor, encourages risk, and creates social and economic disharmony, according to Abed Awad, an expert on Islamic law who teaches at Rutgers and Pace universities.

Credit card operators get around the prohibition by charging users fees instead of interest rates.

The new MasterCard offers other benefits. Card users are eligible for travel vouchers that can be used to pay for the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, which Muslims are required to do at least once in their lifetime if they can afford it.

A percentage of the money spent using the card is donated to local charities, said Issokson.

Malaysia: Strong Takaful growth predicted for 2013

Malaysia`s Takaful sector should expand by 20% through to 2014 on consumer awareness and spending as well as regulatory reforms, according to brokerage firm OSK Research in its latest report on the sector.

Other enablers of growth cited include stronger participation and liquidity in Sukuk and Shariah-compliant instruments to support investment income; and strengthening Takaful and Retakaful capacity.

The risk-based capital (RBC) framework for Islamic banking and Takaful, expected to be finalized soon, is not expected to significantly differ from the framework applied to conventional insurers, but will nonetheless enhance valuations in the Takaful sector, the report notes.

It added the RBC framework could also spur M&A activity in the sector given that smaller takaful and insurance players may lack the capital and size to compete in the market.

Oman: Takaful draft law finalized

The draft Takaful law in Oman has been finalized and ready to be passed soon, said Mr Abdullah bin Salem bin Abdullah Al Salmi, Executive President of the Capital Market Authority (CMA) to local reporters recently.

“The draft law has been finalized. It will go to the cabinet and then to the Ministry of Legal Affairs and to Majlis A`Shura and Majlis Adawla. We hope that this process will not take long,” the Times of Oman quotes Mr Al Salmi as saying.

He further states that Takaful firms will be required to have minimum capital of OMR 10 million and be a separate entity, unlike a window operation in the banking sector.

Meanwhile, Muscat Daily confirms that three companies have been issued in-principle licenses for Takaful operations in the Sultanate, quoting Mr Al Salmi.

“We have issued in-principle licenses to three companies to begin Takaful operations,” he says. “We are waiting for them to complete the requirements. And once they are done we will see them operating in Oman.”

© Copyright 2013. The Financial Daily.

UAE: Dubai aiming to be Islamic finance capital
January 10, 2013

A man uses an automated teller machine (ATM) at the head office of the Islamic Bank of Al-Baraka in Tunis October 5, 2012. After decades of secular rule, Tunisia`s government aims to develop Islamic banking in the country. Governments across North Africa are promoting Islamic finance in the wake of last year`s Arab Spring uprisings, which ousted regimes that neglected or discouraged the business for ideological reasons. Picture taken October 5, 2012. To match story TUNISIA-ISLAMIC/FINANCE REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

Becoming the capital of Islamic finance is Dubai`s latest ambition, announced loud and clear in a presentation in which UAE leaders and high-ranking figures in the business and financial worlds took part. A commission chaired by heir prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammad Al Maktum will be drawing up a six-point list to be developed into a strategic platform, which will then be completed within the next six months. ``I am very optimistic,`` Sheikh Hamdan said. ``Dubai has enough experience, excellent infrastructure and a strategic geographic position in the heart of the Islamic world.`` Some of the key points to be developed are the creation of a Koranic Council to verify Islamic finance standards, a centre of arbitration to resolve disputes arising from Islamic contracts and a promotional programme for halal (i.e. prepared and packaged according to Islamic precepts) food.

What Dubai has set out to do is not impossible. The emirate - which is likely to clip the wings of a similar ambition voiced by its neighbour, Bahrain - is already starting from a good position. It has the third nation in the world in terms of volume of Islamic assets at 75 billion dollars. The first is Saudi Arabia with 207 billion dollars and the second Malaysia, with 106 billion dollars. Islamic finance has a turnover of 2.3 billion billion dollars worldwide, a reflection of the fast-growing world community of 1.6 billion Muslims. Beyond the figures themselves, the outlook for future growth is also solid: Ernst & Young has estimated that Islamic bank assets will top 1.8 billion dollars this year, compared with the 1.3 seen in 2011. Oil-rich Gulf countries are among the economies in which Islamic finance has branched out the most, and especially so in five sectors: banking, finance, tourism, insurance and food. In 2012 sales of Islamic sukuk bonds were at 21.2 billion dollars in the region. Given this context, ``the integration of traditional and Islamic economic and financial activities will strengthen Dubai as economic capital,`` said Sheikh Mohammad Al Maktum, claiming that the new strategy will not compromise the principles of openness to the free market, and that it will stimulate the entire business community of the Arab world.

© 2013 ANSA.

MasterCard offers halal plastic
Tim Shufelt
National Post
March 30, 2010

A new interest-free credit card, the first of its kind in North America, aims to reconcile Islamic canonical law and Western consumer culture.

Until now, observant Muslims have been precluded from owning credit cards on which they pay interest, a violation of shariah law.

The iFreedom Plus Mastercard, set to be available in the coming days, promises no bills, no interest and no credit card debt.

“Everyone living their day-to-day lives, they need a credit card. You can`t rent a car, you can`t travel if you don`t have a card. Everyone wants one in their pocket,” said Omar Kalair, president of UM Financial, a Toronto-based Islamic financing firm that is launching the card with the Mastercard brand.

But banks have little incentive to offer products that don`t bear high interest rates, causing a dilemma for Muslim consumers in Canada, he said.

With the iFreedom Plus Mastercard, holders load up their card with cash in advance, up to $6,000. Each purchase draws down on the account without accruing interest.

The concept follows the Islamic principle that finance should be backed by owned assets. It was approved by a panel of Muslim religious scholars, Mr. Kalair said.

“You`re spending money you actually own,” he said. “There`s a certain degree of stress when you use a credit card. On this one there isn`t.”

Cardholders pay $50 for two years of use and each transfer of cash on to the card costs 95 cents.

And since the new product doesn`t actually involve credit, applicants are approved without a credit check.

The card, which is primarily aimed at younger newcomers, was launched at the inaugural conference of the Usury-Free Association of North America in downtown Toronto.

“As soon as you hit university, all the banks start sending you $500 credit cards,” Mr. Kalair said. “People start using them and start getting in debt. It`s better to start someone on a prepaid.”

Card accounts will be managed by Mint Technology, which operates other prepaid card programs. But unlike other prepaid cards, the iFreedom card is personally embossed and draws on the pervasiveness of the Mastercard brand, Mr. Kalair said.

And on purchases of more than $100, cardholders earn 1% cash back.

Also, Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways is offering a 10% discount for customers booking a flight with the card.

“And our community travels a lot,” Mr. Kalair said.

© Copyright 2010 Canwest News Service

Global Islamic “credit” card market to grow to 6 million accounts
The Asian Banker Interactive
July 31, 2008


The Islamic banking model, which rejects the assessment of interest in favor of structured fees, is gaining momentum around the globe as petrodollars accumulate and developing economies mature. New research from TowerGroup finds that the Islamic credit card market, in existence for slightly more than a decade, has yet to be “stress tested” on a broad scale. However, given that adherents of the Islamic faith represent 24 percent of the world`s population, there is significant opportunity for card issuers to build volume.

A confluence of factors is driving the requirement for a credit card model that serves the Islamic population. These factors include global wealth redistribution, electronic commerce, and population development. TowerGroup estimates that the addressable portion of the global Islamic population for credit card offerings is 250 million consumers. It expects that adoption of these products will grow rapidly from its current base of less 1 million accounts to as many as 6 million accounts by 2012.

The current business model is highly selective in soliciting prospective customers and does not resemble the traditional global model of mass-market credit card solicitation or bank branch cross-selling. Although Islamic credit cards are similar to traditional cards as payment instruments, as lending instruments they must not violate Shariah – the written and interpreted code of Islam, which among other tenets rejects levying interest earned on debt, prohibits speculation, and excludes certain activities. comply with certain prohibitions of Islam according to Shariah. Therefore, Islamic credit cards require a pricing alternative to interest and require scrutiny of transactions to ensure purchases are not prohibited.

Three types of credit card issuers now operate in the Islamic card space: major global banks that set up separate Islamic banking companies; traditional banks converting to the Islamic model; and Islamic startups. As the market emerges, entrants must foster both a sustainable business model and the ability deal with such core issues as interoperability with global card companies, product design, and processing venues.


ISLAMIC CREDIT CARDS: Can a credit card be halal?
Cards International
January 31, 2007

Islamic credit cards present a continuing challenge to Islamic banks, which have to balance Sharia compliance with business objectives and consumer demand. With reported market growth rates of 25 percent to 35 percent, it`s a challenge well worth facing. CI looks at how the product is developing

The conventional credit card encounters fundamental problems under Sharia law. The credit card concept is unacceptable under the principle of riba (interest). Another objection is gain based on promoting irresponsible customer debt and consumerism.

A card issuer faces two key issues: first, little revenue will be generated if it cannot charge interest on outstanding balances; and second, for an Islamic bank, the extension of credit in order to make profit is unacceptable in religious terms. Despite these issues, the Islamic credit card market is booming, driven by economic factors, provider business requirements and consumer demand.

So, can a credit card ever be halal? Despite what appears to be a black- and-white position, various shades of grey in the interpretation of Sharia law have enabled products to emerge.

Typically, an Islamic credit card is constructed so that the financial institution does not benefit from any penalty charged on late payment of an outstanding balance. In some cases, banks allow customers to delay the payment of their outstanding balance. In other instances, the revenue generated from the imposition of a fee is donated to charity. Some players have attempted to retain a portion of late fees on account of payment recovery costs from the customer.

A key contention is whether fixed or variable fees should be charged to the customer. Sharia scholars impose a restriction on the derivation of financial benefit from cash lending that is proportionate to the amount withdrawn; therefore most Sharia-compliant credit card products charge a fixed fee on their cash withdrawal service regardless of amount.

All Sharia-compliant cards restrict customer usage to permissible activities. This involves blocking certain transactions and merchants considered to be undertaking prohibited (haram) activities, typically liquor, gambling and pornography.

Types of Islamic credit card

Sharia-compliant credit cards can be broadly split into five different models.

Fixed fee on card subscription This model allows deferred payment on outstanding amounts for a longer period and staggers payments in equal instalments. The bank charges a fixed subscription fee to provide this facility. The customer is principally charged for usage of the whole package and not for the provision of a credit facility. Kuwait Finance House in Kuwait, Arab National Bank in Saudi Arabia, Emirates Islamic Bank and ABC Islamic in Bahrain offer cards based on this model.

Fixed fee on revolving facility Sharjah Islamic Bank and other banks allow customers to revolve outstanding debt and charge a fixed fee once the customer has started using this facility. The bank charges a processing fee if the customer defers payment of the outstanding balance after the due date to the next payment cycle. This model is less acceptable to Sharia scholars who see banks benefiting from a credit facility to the customer.

Fixed mark-up on credit limit Some players, such as Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, charge a fixed mark-up on the credit limit provided to the customer on a credit card. The mark-up rate is agreed by bank and customer when the card is issued. It is carried out by executing a tawarruq (settlement of outstanding liabilities) transaction by which the customer is offered the credit facility. The bank reimburses the mark-up to the customer on the unused credit facility.

Variable mark-up on revolving balance National Commercial Bank (NCB), SAMBA in Saudi Arabia, Bank Islam Malaysia and Arab Malaysia Bank offer credit cards based on the variable mark-up structure. The bank`s charges are proportionate to the value of outstanding credit rolled over by the customer. The products offered by Bank Islam Malaysia and Arab Malaysia Bank are based on bai al inah (sale and buy-back agreement); the buy-back agreement allows the bank to assume ownership over the asset in order to protect against default without explicitly charging interest in the event of late payments or insolvency. Products offered by NCB and SAMBA are based on a tawarruq transaction. In both types of product, the underlying transaction is executed whenever the customer rolls over outstanding credit to the next payment cycle. These products are highly controversial, being perceived as too similar to a conventional card.

Fixed mark-up on point of sale transactions Shamil Bank and other banks offer a credit card facility that lets customers defer their outstanding balance at the end of the payment cycle. The customer is offered the facility to stagger the payment over a period of 12 months. The bank charges a fixed fee proportionate to the transaction value at the time of purchase.

Key growth drivers

Sharia-compliant credit cards are being supported by a section of the Islamic banking industry as a way to shift assets, as well as customers` business, from conventional banking to Sharia-compliant banking. They argue that the Islamic banking industry needs to be supported against the stronger conventional banking industry.

Customer demand for Sharia-compliant credit cards is driven by the fact that for many transactions there is no viable alternative payment mechanism.

From the business perspective, credit cards are a good customer acquisition tool. Issuers have become particularly interested in Sharia- compliant cards, as the cards allow them to access a new segment of customers and thus a new revenue stream.

Both Islamic banks and conventional players are eager to capitalise on the higher profit margins compared to those in other consumer finance businesses.


One of the major weaknesses of Sharia-compliant credit cards is their perceived lack of differentiation from conventional products.

For issuers, the inability of the credit card company to benefit from late fee charges in cases of delinquency reduces risk-adjusted return as the Sharia-compliant credit card provider is required to either waive or give away any late payment charges to charity. The flat fee model also encourages the customer to use the card to borrow cash, resulting in loss of interchange fees for the bank.

© 2007 VRL Knowledgebank. All rights reserved.





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