Tarek Amer, governor of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), said on Thursday that there was no change to the rules on using debit cards abroad and that it was up to individual banks to set limits on client usage.
Amer's comments, made to state news agency MENA, came a day after an official central bank letter reviewed by Reuters showed the bank ordered bank chiefs to ban usage of debit cards linked to local currency accounts abroad.
"It is up to each bank to set limits on its clients' usage of foreign currency abroad through debit cards linked to local currency accounts, but we need vigilance because some clients use debit cards to get large dollar amounts not intended for travel, tourism, or shopping," Amer told MENA.
Egypt depends on imports for everything from food to fuel. But it has suffered from a shortage of dollars in the banking system to pay for those imports since a 2011 uprising drove away tourists and foreign investors, crucial sources of hard currency.
Many import businesses now rely on the black market, where they can get hard currency for a higher price. The pound's rate on the black market has weakened since the central bank devalued the Egyptian currency in March, at which time it was roughly in line with the official rate.
"Please ensure that debit cards, including pre-paid cards, issued in local currency by Egyptian banks are only used within the country," a central bank letter issued on Wednesday said, according to Reuters.