eBucks

Question

Aslm Please share your fatwa on FNBs ebucks offering

With reference to your query, please be informed as follows:

  1. Loyalty programs and customer incentives have become fairly common commercial offerings in recent years.
  2. eBucks—and the same may be said for similar incentives offered by other financial institutions—represent a unilateral undertaking by the issuing bank to procure for its customer discounts from participating vendors.
  3. Such an undertaking is in no way repugnant to the Sharīʿah, and does not by itself violate any of the rules of the Sharīʿah. As such, eBucks are essentially permissible.
  4. Nomenclature notwithstanding, eBucks is not a form of money in the Sharʿī sense, though it may be redeemable into money in some programs. As such, neither the rules of zakāh nor the restrictions of ribā would apply to it. Up to the point of redemption, it remains an amorphous unilateral undertaking to procure discount.
  5. eBucks and similar bank-issued customer incentives may at times be earned on an account in which the customer is the creditor and the bank the debtor, such as a current/cheque account based on qarḍ, or a loan structure. This creates the spectre of a debt that earns a reward, or qarḍ jarra manfaʿah, which is tantamount to ribā.
  6. The spectre thus raised is revealed to be inconsequential by virtue of the fact that the rewards program is universal and not specific to loan-based accounts.
  7. The same spectre does not arise for accounts based on structures other than qarḍ (loan), such as savings accounts which tend to be based upon muḍārabah, or profit-and-loss sharing.
  8. The fee that is paid in lieu of participation in programs like eBucks raises another spectre of ribā. It would appear at first glance to be a case of paying money, viz. the fee, to get more money, viz. the eBucks reward.
  9. Closer investigation, however, reveals this fee to be purely in lieu of the administrative burden of running the program. Hence, this potential problem also stands neutralized.
  10. In the final analysis, our considered view is that it is permissible to participate in a loyalty program such as eBucks.

واﷲ تعالى أعلم 

And Allah knows best.

MT Karaan

MJC (SA)

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