Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson.
  • Virgin Money is pulling out of its South African credit card business and handing customers over to Absa.
  • 118,000 credit cards, worth a combined R750 million, are involved.
  • Absa always provided the back-end for the Virgin-branded cards, as nothing came of Virgin's one-time ambitions to become a fully-fledged bank in SA.
  • Customers can either get Absa-branded cards, or pay off credit balances over time.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Money this week told its South African credit cardholders it is ditching the card after 12 years in the local market.

This move is part of the company’s ambition to be a local fintech leader through Virgin Money Spot, which is a cashless platform launched in February 2018, a Virgin Money spokesperson said.

Absa will take over the 118,000 Virgin Money credit card customers, which hold total credit of more than R750 million between them, according to numbers provided by Cowyk Fox, managing executive for everyday banking at Absa retail and business bank.

That is down from total credit of more than R1 billion reported by Virgin in 2013.

Absa has 1.5 million credit cardholders, and the bank has issued them with just under R32 billion in credit, Fox said.

“Virgin Money did not sell the business to Absa. The core product is owned by Absa which offered the Virgin Money South Africa branded card to customers that have an affinity for the Virgin brand under a brand license agreement,” he said.

Absa provided the backend support for the Virgin Money credit card.

Fox said that there will be no impact on jobs from the closure of the Virgin Money credit card.

Customers will now be offered an equivalent Absa-branded product, or be given the option to pay off their credit cards overtime if they do not wish to take up an Absa credit card.

"Virgin Money South Africa is in discussions with the Virgin Group in terms of how they will conduct that business when the official de-branding takes effect,” Fox said.

Virgin Money first set up in South African in 2006 and launched the credit card in 2008.

Virgin Money previously closed down a local insurance business, after its life and short-term insurance offering failed to gain traction.

In 2013, Branson harboured ambitions that the company may obtain a South African banking licence.

Andre Hugo, Virgin Money South Africa CEO, declined to answer questions, instead issuing a short statement through a public relations company.

“Absa started communicating with Virgin Money credit card customers on Tuesday, 25 August, and the migration is expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2021,” the statement read.

The company will focus on its fintech ambitions, which includes Virgin Money Spot, it adds.

In July last year, Hugo told Business Insider that Spot has over 400,000 users, but this week he declined to provide any update about how many users the platform has now.

See also | Virgin Money Spot is taking on Snapscan in South Africa - and it already has 400,000 users

On Tuesday this week Virgin Money said in an email to its credit card customers that the decision to can its local credit card had “not been an easy decision, but we believe that it is the right one”.

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