Economy, Business And Markets

Bank Melli Will Issue Prepaid Cards to Foreigners

Bank Melli Iran branch in HamburgBank Melli Iran branch in Hamburg

Bank Melli Iran is planning to offer foreign visitors prepaid cards connected to Shetab– the domestic interbank transaction network– allowing them to make their payments in local currency during their stay.

“Foreigners will be able to use BMI devices in airports and exchange their currencies into rials in the form of prepaid cards,” the CEO Mohammad Reza Hosseinzadeh was quoted as saying by IRNA on Tuesday.

Hosseinzadeh added that the cards could be used for making payments across the country, but did not provide the date when the cards will become available. The measure will prove helpful for tourists, who in the absence of international credit cards in Iran, have a hard time carrying large amounts of cash with them.   

Bank Sepah and Tourism Bank had earlier announced plans to offer special cards for tourists, though they required foreigners to open bank accounts before getting the cards. Bank  Shahr last week unveiled its Forex ATM at Mashhad Airport in Khorasan Razavi Province that provides rial in exchange for foreign currencies. .

Overseas Branches

The BMI chief also noted that his bank’s branch in Hamburg is already linked to TARGET2 interbank payment system. TARGET2 is an interbank payment system for the real-time processing of cross-border transfers throughout the European Union.

Persia International Bank and Bank Sepah’s branch in Frankfurt are the other two Iranian lenders in EU connected to TARGET2 after the lifting of the sanctions in January.

 “Major exporters, especially exporters of petrochemicals are transacting money through BMI’s Hamburg branch,” he said.

“They can also receive their money inside Iran,” he said noting that BMI is also allowed to purchase their foreign exchange at the market rate–a provision recently made possible by the Central Bank of Iran.

Hosseinzadeh also noted that BMI’s branch in Paris and its subsidiary, Melli Bank London, have obtained the necessary permission to operate from French and British regulators. “However the full revival of their operations requires rebuilding trust.”

BMI branches in the UAE and Russia reportedly face no limits in conducting money transactions after the sanctions were eased.


Elaborating on BMI’s relations with foreign banks after the lifting of sanctions in January, Hosseinzadeh said, “we have signed correspondent relation contracts with 22 major banks across the world, including two important banks in Japan.”

Talks are underway with 86 other foreign banks over the establishment of correspondent relations.

Iranian banks are gradually improving their standard moving closer to international norms and those espoused by central banks across the world, he said.

 BMI is the largest commercial bank in Iran and the Middle East with over 3,300 domestic branches and 43,000 employees. It has 18 overseas branches.

The bank Iran has also managed to reduce its non-performing loans from 130 trillion rials ($4.1 billion) to 80 trillion rials ($2.5 billion), according to the CEO.