Visitors to St Helena Island can now make Visa or Mastercard payments

St. Helena Airport on the remote island of St Helena. Picture: Unsplash

St. Helena Airport on the remote island of St Helena. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jun 7, 2023


St Helena has announced that for the first time, visitors to the remote British Overseas Territory will now be able to make Visa and Mastercard payments.

The government of the island said that it partnered with FCA-licensed UK fintech, Ryft, to revolutionise the visitor experience on the remote island of St Helena and make real-time payments possible.

“Visitors to St Helena will have the convenience of making in-person, real-time electronic Visa and Mastercard card payments, enhancing their stay and boosting the local economy by empowering visitors to engage more freely with the island’s vibrant local economy,” said the government of the territory.

Local businesses on St Helena can now directly apply to Ryft to accept Visa and Mastercard payments, with the funds being securely deposited in Bank of St Helena or UK bank accounts.

Ryft has worked closely with the St Helena government to develop a seamless and tailored application and on-boarding process, ensuring compliance with local regulations while simplifying the experience for businesses.

St Helena is a remote British Overseas Territory renowned for its natural beauty and historical significance in the South Atlantic Ocean, over 1 200 miles off the west coast of Southern Africa.

The island has a population of under 4 500 and relies heavily on tourism, particularly from the UK and South Africa.

Due to its geographical location and limited access to international merchant payment platforms, the island has faced challenges in facilitating seamless transactions for visitors, and visitors have previously been limited to cash transactions using Sterling or St Helena Pounds (tied to GBP).

Cash withdrawals have only been possible in person at the Bank of St Helena, with an associated fee of five percent. However, with the new convenience of card payments, visitors will have greater flexibility in spending their currency while exploring the island’s rich offerings.

According to Mark Brooks, St Helena’s Minister for the Treasury, Infrastructure, and Sustainable Development Portfolio, barriers resulting from the island’s remoteness have meant that technology adoption has always been delayed, and the internet didn’t arrive until 1995, while mobile phones weren’t commonplace until 2015.

“Digital transformation is at the heart of our plans for economic growth as we work hard to recover from the hammer blows dealt to the tourism industry by the Covid-19 pandemic. We couldn’t accept any longer the barriers our cash-based economy put in front of cruise passengers and other tourists, limiting their ability and appetite to spend with our local businesses. Many larger companies simply aren’t interested in the challenge of solving problems like these in circumstances like ours – we’re pleased to be working with Ryft, who were innovative and agile enough to take an interest and find a solution,” said Brooks.

Sadra Hosseini, co-founder and CEO at Ryft, also commented on this momentous occasion for the island.

“We often find ourselves being approached to solve problems for partners where nobody else has been able to, so we were excited to support St Helena Government in this important and ambitious drive to transform the island’s economy.

“As tourist destinations around the world continue to adapt and rebound in the post-pandemic world, reducing barriers to spending and supporting local businesses is a critical part of the recovery and regrowth process.

“We’re pleased to be part of that for St Helena and look forward to working together to see what we can achieve next,” said Hosseini.