Turkmenistan introduces restrictions on cashless foreign currency transactions

Turkmenistan’s financial regulator restricted capital transfers from “Altyn Asyr” plastic cards, where citizens receive their salary, to VISA cards valid abroad. With the new regulations, a worker can only transfer up to 30% of his salary to the international card. Previously, the limit was set at 70% of the salary and subsequently lowered to 50%. Now, the limit was decreased again.

Since the beginning of this year, banks no longer allow to transfer pension payments to VISA cards. Pensioners, therefore, effectively cannot travel abroad and dispose of their savings, or send money to their relatives who live abroad.

Local observers believe that these measures are designed to reduce the pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

In addition, in certain regions of the country, banks reject applications for international card when the applicant is not a civil servant. Reportedly, funds transferred to VISA cards can only be withdrawn abroad and only by the legal owner of the card.

“Previously, people gave their cards to friends or relatives and told them the PIN code so that they could withdraw funds abroad and bring money back, but now this has become impossible,” a source in Ashgabat told ATN.

Banks monitor passport stamps and would block the VISA card if the applicant failed to prove that he had traveled abroad at the time of the foreign transaction, the source said. It would then be impossible to unblock the card and banks would not issue a new one.

Sources said that the new regulation has impacted students attending universities abroad. Students in Belarus and Russia who have to pay for their education cannot receive funds from Turkmenistan. Now, bank customers in the regions of Mary and Lebap are already queuing to transfer money abroad one month in advance.

Lawyers in Ashgabat said that these rules are unofficial and unpublished. The banks’ informal regulation can be challenged in court, and there have been such cases, the said.

Earlier, the authorities had also introduced a number of restrictions for entrepreneurs who import finished products from abroad.