Juan Curutchet, director of Banco Provincia

Juan Curutchet, director of Banco Provincia, is set to confirm a radical new scheme for the bank’s customers.

The bank will reimburse 50 percent of supermarket purchases up to AR$1,500 made by card. But since the benefit applies for both credit and debit cards, clients could end up saving AR$3,000 a month.

Where the bank previously offered a 20% discount on Wednesdays, this will now increase to half off and will be applicable every day of the week. Under this scheme the bank will dole out up to AR $1,500 per month per family. What’s the catch? Somehow, there doesn’t seem to be one.

The objective explicitly cited by the bank for this new measure is to encourage the use of debit cards. Customers tend to take out cash which they then spend in shops; Banco Provincia’s aim is to increase the use of cards for these payments. However, there’s plenty of speculation about other motivations behind the bank’s decision.

With most of the bank’s customers in Buenos Aires Province, one of the areas worst affected by inflation and price rises, this new policy could really help alleviate the strain on family budgets. This is one of the hardest electoral district areas for Cambiemos; Cristina’s popularity continues to be strong in her home province. With elections coming up, the government’s interest in lending a helping hand to those living in Provincia via the public bank may be well calculated.

The public banks Nación, Ciudad and Provincia have recently introduced other measures in attempts to attract customers. Among them is a 50-installment card purchase option, but given that the interest works out at almost 20% this has not proved popular. The banks are also offering 30-year mortgages. The new 50% off in supermarkets scheme is predicted to be more successful, drawing many customers to Banco Provincia. As yet there are no plans to roll this out in the other public banks. Curutchet is also due to sign off on a soft credit scheme for the purchase of small motorbikes under AR $20,000 and the introduction of a social mortgage plan which has already been tested by Banco Ciudad.