14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camagüey, 9 March, 2018 — The poor coordination between the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) and the Bank of Credit and Commerce (BANDEC) has meant that the activation of Transfermóvil, the mobile payment service, started off on the wrong foot in Camagüey. Individuals can not use it on their cell phones because, despite having the application, the state communications monopoly has not enabled the service.
“I downloaded the application directly from the it doesn’t work,” an employee of a downtown branch of this Camaguey bank affected by service problems told 14ymedio. As long as ETECSA is unable to register his mobile number and username, the only thing this employee can do is wait.
Transfermóvil is an application for smartphones with the Android operating system that was launched last year in other provinces of the Island. Since its arrival in Camagüey in January this year, the city’s banking offices have received hundreds of requests from customers who want to use this tool, but only ETECSA can register users for the mobile banking service.
“Initially we made a list of all those who requested mobile banking and for whom the service didn’t work; we sent their respective mobile numbers to the provincial address of BANDEC but they ignored the issue,” laments the bank worker.
After having been correctly registered by ETECSA, if a user wants to perform an operation with the application, they send messages through a USSD protocol and the state company responds to the subscriber’s cell phone via SMS to confirm the requested operation.
“When I learned virtual banking would start working in Cuba, I did not hesitate and set up my bank accounts to use it,” Yunior Jubitea, a young man who works in a private candy store in Camagüey, tells this newspaper. He has managed to make only a single payment in a fixed terminal of a branch, connected to the network, since he is still “not registered.”
A worker at BANDEC’s 5971 branch, in the historic center of the city, acknowledges that customers have returned with dissatisfaction because they do not receive the registration message that Etecsa must send.
“The answer I got at first was that the bank had no staff to process the applications at a national level,” explains Yusleysi, a manicurist in the neighborhood La Guernica who installed the application on her phone weeks ago.
“Later they told me that the problem was that BANDEC had not yet finalized the contracts with ETECSA,” complains the woman about the second version. Among the particular reasons that led her to join the service is to be able to pay her bills without spending so much time standing in line.
Despite its malfunction in the area, Transfermóvil “has almost the same functions as an ATM,” Julio García Trápaga, director of Development and Application Management of the Mobile Services Division of ETECSA explained recently to the official press. In 2017 there were around 20,000 mobile banking customers in the country.
Aside from paying bills for water, telephone and electricity, the tool also allows transfers between accounts in the same bank without the need to connect to the internet.
To use this service it is also essential to have a magnetic card, of which some 3.8 million have been issued so far. The goal of the banking authorities is to reach 7 million to alleviate the problems of scarcity of money in circulation and the long lines at ATMs to get cash.
The payment through mobile banking was enabled a year ago and is used jointly by the Banco Popular de Ahorro, the Banco Metropolitano and the Banco de Credito y Comercio. Its promoters assure that it is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“What always happens with technological advances in Cuba is that the state does not guarantee the infrastructure to support them,” the economist Karina Galvez of the Convivencia project told 14ymedio. “That discourages people and they continue to distrust everything that is not physical money.”
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