Payments in Iran Now Said to Be Possible

  • JJ Hornblass
  • April 12, 2016
  • 2

canstockphoto18335189Yet another barrier to business in Iran appears to have fallen.

Paymentwall, a San Francisco online payments company, announced today that it has integrated its payment services into the Shetab, which is Iran’s “unified, electronic clearance system for the entire Iranian banking operations that allows it to facilitate transactions from credit cards, ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) terminals.” The link “paves the way” for online businesses worldwide to process transactions in Iran.

Paymentwall is clear to tap the Iranian banking system now that the US and European Union have removed the economic sanctions on Iran, following a deal signed last year to limit Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.

In the years since Iran was economically ostracized, it has become a debit card economy, according to Paymentwall.

Previously, debit and credit cards in the country can only be used on ATMs or POS machines that were provided by the issuer bank. Shetab changed it and now allows debit and credit cards to be accepted at any ATM or POS terminals in the country, and even in online payment portals. As a result, Iran is now one of the countries with the highest debit card penetration rate at 92%, according to citing E-Commerce Monitor (ECM) data. Also, online monthly transactions in the country have grown 15% from 2015 to the present time as more customers use their debit and credit cards to pay online.

The Shetab was introduced in 2002. Paymentwall expects that as Iran “re-enters global commerce, businesses will come rushing in to the country and claim their stake there.”

It is unclear how Paymentwall’s program corresponds to statements made yesterday by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. During a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Lew said the US banking system remains “not open to Iran.” Here’s an excerpt from his comments:

I think that we have to be clear. Iran, complied with the nuclear agreement. Therefore, the nuclear sanctions are lifted. I think that that is a process that is becoming more and more clear. And we’ll keep our part of the bargain there. But the U.S. financial system is not open to Iran and that is not something that is going to change. So the challenge is going to be how to work through an international financial system that is complicated, where there are—is a lot of attention paid to what U.S. law requires. And I think our obligation is to be clear, which I’ve tried very hard to do and our team has tried very hard to do.

Paymentwall, which was founded in 2010, has not yet responded to a request for additional information on KYC and other matters surrounding its Iran venture.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at or 212-564-8972.

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