As such, notwithstanding several attempts by US and European officials to assure European banks about the legality of resuming cooperation with Iran, nearly all major global banks have refrained from dealing with the Islamic Republic.
Nevertheless, many Iranians have needed access to the global financial system both under the sanctions era and at present, and many businesses have emerged to meet this demand.
There have, in fact, been more than a dozen companies that have been providing prepaid Visa and MasterCard debit cards to Iranian customers in past years. These companies enable Iranians to acquire debit cards in their own names or even purchase prepaid debit cards from neighboring countries such as Georgia or the United Arab Emirates, with higher rates and service fees.
Al-Monitor spoke to the managing director of a Tehran-based company who frequently travels abroad. He said on condition of anonymity, “I’m so happy to hear about this service. It is the first time that we can obtain a genuine international debit card that is actually approved by the government. Before we could only get these kinds of services from unreliable companies and there was always the risk of losing your money or being overcharged.”
Despite the hurdles in approaching Western financial institutions, the Central Bank of Iran has reportedly held regular talks with Visa and MasterCard to make their services accessible to Iranians. Iran has also taken measures to allow the use of debit cards issued by Asian banks until restrictions preventing the entry of global electronic payment operators, such Visa and MasterCard, are removed.
The Turkish credit card company Iyzico signed a deal with Iran in February to provide its services, while other international companies such as Japan Credit Bureau and China UnionPay have made similar efforts.
Despite Vaezi’s denial that he never named MasterCard and the credit giant’s repudiation of reports that it is operating in Iran, Iran Post Company has begun accepting applications for prepaid debit cards in selected offices in Tehran and will begin registration at 170 of its offices across Iran by late September.