Virtual Card Solutions Make Digital Payments Better for African Travelers

Digital payments have reshaped the way travelers manage money, rendering the traditional reliance on cash or traveler’s checks a thing of the past. Today, it’s all about card swipes, phone taps and using online wallets for on-the-go transactions, simplifying the process of planning and booking journeys like never before. 

However, as the world of travel payments has evolved, it hasn’t been without its challenges. Navigating currency conversion, for instance, poses a significant hurdle for travelers, especially Africans who need to convert local currencies for international expenses like flights, hotels and other services.

According to Giulio Leso, vice president of engineering at Klasha, this process, which often involves volatile and complex currency exchange rates from multiple vendors, ultimately results in hidden fees “which majority of the time [travelers] don’t even see until they actually land on their cards.”

It’s a problem that Klasha, a global cross-border payment provider, is trying to solve, Leso said, by eliminating the hassles of currency conversion and undisclosed charges so that travelers can focus solely on enjoying their experiences.

The Lagos, Nigeria-based firm also collaborates with other businesses to provide a range of products and services tailored to travelers and travel businesses. In fact, Leso noted that operating with multiple partners and backup systems has been instrumental for Klasha, ensuring that they can guarantee consistent service, even in emerging markets with infrastructure challenges.

“In some African countries, we don’t have the luxury of having partners that are 99.99% up [and running] every day, so the best way to ensure that our products are consistently [available] is to have multiple backups,” he explained. 

He also pointed to credit card rates customized for specific markets as an example of how offering diverse solutions for the same products is meeting customer needs: “A certain type of credit card can perform better with a low transaction amount in one country and a high amount transaction in another.” 

Overall, the company offers a broad range of solutions, from embedded payments and a mobile wallet app to multi-currency accounts that facilitate money transfers to over 120 countries at competitive rates. 

Leso also highlighted Klasha’s virtual card solution, which users can fund with African currencies and make international transactions based on the equivalent dollar amount. For travelers exploring destinations across the globe, this capability has proven to be a significant benefit, he said.

Protecting Travel Payments With Virtual Cards

Africa’s credit card market is steadily growing, but Leso acknowledged that several challenges will need to be addressed for the market to reach its full potential. 

Among these, payment security within the travel industry emerges as a critical issue, as the huge volumes of credit card transactions involved make the sector a prime target for fraudsters. According to PYMNTS Intelligence, financial institutions (FIs) have reported a staggering 64% surge in fraudulent attacks this year.

Although this highlights an urgent need for better security measures to protect card transactions from potential fraud attacks, balancing fraud detection and prevention while ensuring a seamless booking experience remains a challenging endeavor.

According to Leso, Klasha has tackled this by replacing physical cards with a highly secure virtual Visa dollar card, enabling travelers to easily manage their cross-border payments online. 

“A customer can turn on and off their card, renew it or request a brand new one [instantly], he explained, adding that if for any reason the card is stolen or falls into the wrong hands, customers can “simply block it right away and request a new one at almost no cost.”

Tackling Growing Data Privacy Concerns

Privacy is another major concern for travelers, especially as consumers become more intentional about the types of data they share. This heightened awareness has sparked growing concerns regarding the traceability of card data, with people increasingly apprehensive about how card payment providers access their data to track their spending habits.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is also a key factor in privacy discussions, given its capability to forecast patterns, customize solutions and enhance the traveler’s experience by providing real-time assistance throughout their journeys.

Overall, addressing these privacy concerns is a top priority for Klasha, with Leso pointing to the stringent measures put in place to secure consumer data: all data is fully encrypted within the database with strict access protocols for employees.

“Even if someone were to access our database, they wouldn’t be able to retrieve any readable data,” he added.

Ultimately, the goal is to alleviate travel burdens and concerns, Leso said, allowing individuals to focus on the essence of their journeys — be it exploring new cultures or engaging in business ventures — while Klasha handles the complexities involved.