CAIRO (Reuters) - Emirates NBD Egypt said it was suspending use of debit and credit cards abroad, a control intended to keep hard currency inside the bank as Egypt endures a crippling forex shortage.
Egypt has suffered from a shortage of dollars in the banking system that has sapped its ability to import since a 2011 uprising drove away tourists and foreign investors, both crucial sources of hard currency.
Egypt's central bank last month issued a letter to bank chiefs asking that they "ensure that debit cards, including pre-paid cards, issued in local currency by Egyptian banks are only used within the country."
The central bank later said the letter was not intended to signal a blanket ban on card use, but instead a request that banks prevent individuals from misusing debit cards to acquire large quantities of foreign currency while abroad.
The Emirates NBD announcement on Monday night to customers via SMS, made it the first bank in Egypt confirmed by Reuters to be following the central bank directive to suspend dollar withdrawals abroad.
"Dear Valued Customer, please note that Emirates NBD cards will be disabled for international use outside Egypt only effective 24th of July 2016 till further notice. Apologies for any inconvenience," read the text message.
Emirates NBD did not provide details about what type of cards would no longer be functional outside the country, but several bank employees told Reuters it would apply to both debit and credit cards.
On Monday Lebanon's Bank Audi informed customers that it was reducing the maximum purchase limit outside Egypt for holders of its Mastercard Titanium card to $4000 from $7000 dollars, and that its maximum withdrawal limit was $400 per month.
The central bank was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Eric Knecht)