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How a Bangladeshi entrepreneur can pay for international purchases


A small business owner from Bangladesh is looking for a way to buy supplies and services from other countries. Bangladesh’s central bank restricts international credit card transactions, but there are a few options

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Question for the expertDear Your Business Credit,

Greetings from Bangladesh. I am looking for a prepaid card that could replace a credit card for online transactions. I need this card since the Central Bank of Bangladesh does not allow international credit card transactions, but my business often requires me to buy traveling products with a credit card. Now I need a credit card from a third country. Any idea of existence of such services?  — Rashed

Answer for the expertDear Rashed,
You’re smart to look for a creative solution. It’s important for entrepreneurs to have adequate access to credit to run and grow their businesses.

There are some credit products available in your country that you may not have considered. News reports, including a May 2013 article in The Daily Star, say the Central Bank of Bangladesh recently allowed the use of international credit cards to make online purchases of goods and services, so it is worth contacting your bank to find out if it has any international cards to offer. The Daily Star reports that payments cannot exceed $100 per transaction, so you may have to talk with your card issuer about how to handle payments for larger amounts. Perhaps there is a way to break up large payments into smaller charges.

The Central Bank also OKd the use of international credit cards for travel-related payments abroad, online hotel booking and online payment of fees in December 2012, according to the paper. You are allowed to make up to $1,000 in such purchases a year, in addition to your annual travel quota.

That travel quota, according to another Daily Star article, allows a Bangladeshi citizen to spend up to $2,000 annually in countries that are part of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation — which includes Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — and $5,000 in other countries. However, the $100 limit for individual purchases still applies.

Some banks in Bangladesh offer international credit cards to residents that allow you to do business in other currencies. For instance, the well-known Standard Chartered Bank offers an international credit card denominated in U.S. dollars for resident Bangladeshi nationals who have recently returned from overseas — but you must open a resident foreign currency deposit account to get such a card.

If you have U.S. clients, another solution to think about is Payoneer. Payoneer’s US Payment Service allows you to receive payments from a select group of U.S. companies. The funds are deposited directly into your Payoneer account, and you can spend the money by using a prepaid debit MasterCard. Payoneer charges a fee equal to 1 percent of transactions.

After you are actively receiving payments from Payoneer’s partner companies, Payoneer says that you may receive payments from other individuals via a “private load,” subject to approval by Payoneer.

As Payoneer emphasizes, you must do work for the companies with which it has partnered to obtain the debit card. How do you do that from Bangladesh? Typically, workers who use Payoneer receive payments for work they have done from international online marketplaces like oDesk, Freelancer, Fiverr and Clickbank, according to the Payoneer site. On Fiverr, many entrepreneurs advertise that they will do quick jobs that tap their skills for $5, so that may be a good way to get started. Offering marketable skills through such a venue may help you supplement your revenue streams — and ultimately get you the debit card you want.

Payoneer published the story of an entrepreneur from Algeria that describes how he obtained a debit card through Payoneer while building his business. This is a roundabout solution, but if the offerings from local banks are not working for you, it’s worth considering.

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