Mastercard and Island Pay have teamed up with the Central Bank of The Bahamas to launch the Bahamas Sand Dollar prepaid card.

The card allows users to instantly convert The Bahamas Sand Dollar central bank digital currency (CBDC) to traditional Bahamian dollars and spend on goods and services anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

Issued by the Central Bank of The Bahamas, the digital Sand Dollar provides the same value and consumer protections as the traditional Bahamian dollar.

Originally piloted in 2019, it was rolled out in October last year as the first fully- deployed digital version of a country’s fiat currency.

Island Pay, which enables users to transact in Sand Dollars or Bahamian dollars at merchants via its mobile wallet, will issue the new Bahamas Sand Dollar prepaid card.

The company will combine its technology platform with Mastercard’s merchant network and technology to cut down the operational distribution costs of cash.

The initiative is looking to modernise the overall payments system in The Bahamas.

Island Pay co-founder Richard Douglas said: “By working closely with the Central Bank of The Bahamas and Mastercard, we are able to issue a prepaid card unlike any other in the world.”

“The Bahamas is leading innovation in CBDCs, and we’re thrilled to be able to play an important role in helping to democratise access to currency, especially in areas that are currently underserved,” Douglas added.

Central Bank of The Bahamas governor John Rolle added: “The Central Bank of The Bahamas will continue to encourage fintech developments that tie into the Sand Dollar infrastructure, while allowing us to satisfy best global practices for regulation of the space.”

Mastercard’s shift towards digital currencies

The payment giant said that it has banked on technologies to facilitate both CBDCs and privately issued stablecoins in partnership with governments, banks, and fintechs.

It is part of the company’s long-term strategy to enable all types of payments, including card, ACH and blockchain.

Last week, Mastercard revealed plans to support select digital currencies directly on its network.

The company is already a partner to crypto platforms, such as Wirex and BitPay, which issue Mastercard cards to enable their customers to spend their crypto assets.

Furthermore, it also runs a dedicated crypto card programme to help its digital currency partners boost their development efforts.

Commenting on the latest development, Mastercard executive vice president for Digital Assets, Blockchain Products and Partnerships Raj Dhamodharan said: “This partnership is an example of how the private and public sector can rethink what’s possible, while delivering the strongest levels of consumer protection and regulatory compliance.”