Comparing Gift Cards and Iran Bank Tourist Cards - No Need to Carry Cash in Iran Anymore

04 July, 2016 Salman Mohammadi Iran Holidays Planner 9875 Views 30 Shares 6 Comments
Comparing Gift Cards and Iran Bank Tourist Cards - No Need to Carry Cash in Iran Anymore

Carrying too much cash around is often a major concern for travelers. Not only are there risks of losing it, but being constantly on the move often leads to Murphy's Law at some point or another. This is especially true when coming to Iran because the American financial embargo means "Cash is King," so international bank cards don't work here. However there is now a convenient and secure solution, Tourist Cards and Gift Cards issued by the largest Iranian Banks. 



Tourist Cards


The Bank Melli Iran Tourist Card is a transaction card in Iranian Rials issued for tourists while traveling in Iran. The card avoids the need to carry large sums of cash, and can be used throughout Iran's major banking network.


How to Purchase Iran Bank Tourist Cards and Why?

1) The Tourist Card is available for all foreign travellers coming to Iran.

2) The Tourist Card can be purchased at Imam Khomeini International Airport's Melli Bank branch (24/7), however, this service is going to be expanded to four other cities in the near future (Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Tabriz).

3) To purchase the Tourist Card, you must present a valid visa and your passport.

4) Cash is deposited onto the card with a designated expiry date based on the travellers' itinerary - IRR and foreign currencies are accepted.

5) There are in excess of 50,000 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) around the country from which more than 10,000 are Bank Melli ATMs.

6) With the Melli Iran Tourist Card travellers can easily book online tickets such as domestic flights (Iran Air, Mahan Air), Buses and Raja train tickets, and book hotels and tours right here on sfiran.com.


  Bank Melli Tourist Card


Important Specifications of Tourist Cards

A Tourist Card is given to clients with exclusive passwords. There are two passwords for each card. The first password is used to buy with POS transactions, withdrawing cash from ATMs, and the second password is used for internet purchases. However, both passwords can be changed by the card holder at any time.


Here's what you should know.

  • One can purchase as many Tourist Cards that he/or she needs.
  • Money will be transferred to tourist card according to free market exchange rate (Sarafi Melli rates), rather than the official international bank rates.
  • The fee for issuing each tourist card is 5 USD per card.
  • The maximum limit of charging tourist cards is U.S. $ 5,000.
  • Tourist Cards can be used throughout the whole Iranian banking system which is called Shetab network.
  • Cash can be withdrawn only in Bank Melli ATMs, however are free of charge.
  • There is no fee to use your Bank Melli Tourist Card to make purchases from POS or over internet.
  • ATM machines support English interface.
  • Passwords for Tourist Cards can be changed using Bank Melli ATM machines free of charge.
  • Customers can be informed about the remaining balance of Tourist Cards through Bank Melli Iran’s website (Tourist Card internet bank), all ATMs throughout the country, and all POS systems.
  • Customers can take billing statements and be informed about the breakdown of their Tourist Card transactions in BMI ATMs.
  • Your card will allow you to pay for goods and services without any transaction fees through the internet such as booking planes, trains and bus tickets.
  • The Minimum amount of withdrawing cash from ATM machines is 10,000 Tomans per day (~ U.S. $3).
  • The Maximum amount of withdrawing cash from ATM machines is 400,000 Tomans per day (~ U.S. $130).
  • No daily spending limit per day.
  • No transaction limit per day.
  • The expiry date of Tourist Card will be the date when clients’ visas are expired.
  • Funds can be transferred from Tourist Cards to other cards.
  • Funds can not be transferred to Tourist Cards.
  • The remaining cash on Tourist Cards can be converted to foreign currencies and paid to customers according to the daily exchange rates.



Useful Tips before Buying the Tourist Card?

  1. It is highly recommended to purchase a SIM card at the airport before purchasing the Melli Tourist Card. If travelers register their phone number to their cards, they can receive free notifications of banking transactions for added security.
  2. Other banks in Iran such as Sepah Bank and Bank-e Gardeshgari (Tourism Bank) have indicated they will follow suit by offering similar bank cards in the near future.
  3. If you happened to book a bus ticket using local websites, you may want to convert Hijri calendar to Gregorian, you can do it here.



Gift Cards


There are both Tourist cards and gift cards in Iran. The Tourist cards require more personal information and more time to register, in return tourist cards record more transaction data and have more customer functionality. However gift cards require less information and you can buy them in cash from almost every bank branch across Iran, however security and functionality is more limited. Gift card are sold in different value benchmarks, and similar to Tourist Cards money can not be transferred to them electronically. 


bank sepah gift card Iran   Bank Melli gift card iran

Saderat Bank Gift Card Iran


Specifications of Iran Gift cards

  1. The Maximum value of Gift card is 5,000,000 Rials (~ U.S. $150) for Bank Melli gift cards.
  2. Online payments are possible.
  3. Cash can be withdrawn from ATM machines.
  4. Deposited money only can be refunded at the branch from which the Gift card had been purchased.
  5. Gift cards have a one-year expiry date.



How to buy Gift Cards in Iran?

You can purchase gift cards in almost every bank that you want, whether that be at airports or city branches. Almost all the banks in Tehran offer gift cards, however a limited number of banks in small cities sell gift card services.



The Verdict: Gift Cards or a Tourist Cards?


The only real advantages of buying Gift Cards instead of Tourist Cards is to save time on the purchase, plus it offers more flexibility buying from local bank branches. Otherwise the Tourist Card offers higher storage limits, more security, and better accounting.

Keep in mind that Tourists Cards and Gift Cards are made for different customer needs, so ultimately you should decide which is more convenient for your banking requirements while traveling in Iran. Still undecided? You can always discuss the options with the bank at the airport before you purchase. Just remember Melli Bank at the airport can assist you in English if you have any further questions.





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About Author


Salman Mohammadi

Graduated MSc student in Electrical Engineering interested in tourism industry in Iran. Follow me to see Iran from an insider point of view.

alireza — Jul 08, 2016

There is a huge deference between cards you didn't mentioned. You missed it or ignore it!

Sam — Jul 14, 2016

Hi there, thanks for the tip. Could you please explain me the part about "free market exchange rate ": I know that there are 2 markets, the First one (banks), and the Second one (money exchange stores - which are more interesting for tourists). Which one refers to the Free market? The First one or the Second one? Thanks

Maryam — Jul 18, 2016

Dear Sam , Free Market is Sarafi rate/cash rate (Exchange shops) which is a better rate than the bank rate. The Bank Rate Traded is International Rate (sanctions makes the currency worth less officially). I hope I have answered your question.

carlo — Jul 21, 2016

Hi, tourist cards are only available at IKA or you can find them also downtown Teheran? Can you recharge them? Where? Thanks

Bita — Jul 25, 2016

Gift cards are available at all banks, but tourist cards are only available at IKIA for now, maybe more airports in future. But from what I know the policies and how they are distributed keep changing to be able to provide tourists with better travel experience.

Christian H — Aug 05, 2016

What Happens if the Tourist Card gets lost?

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