Visa credit cards make Myanmar debut

US credit card giant Visa launched electronic payments in Myanmar on Friday, marking the long-awaited debut of plastic in a country that until now has had a cash economy.

For years visitors to Myanmar have had to carry wads of notes to pay hotel and restaurant bills, following US sanctions on the former junta that barred American financial services firms from entry to the country.

But Myanmar's startling reform process led Washington to ease its restrictions last year and has prompted a tourist boom -- a record one million foreigners visited in 2012 -- pressing home the demand for cashless payments.

Visa customers will now be able to use credit and debit cards at "select merchants", the company said in a statement, although it listed just one restaurant for the start of point-of-sale payments.

The company, which in December also began rolling-out a network of ATMs across the country, is working in conjunction with Myanmar Oriental Bank which will process the payments, the statement added.

As part of a raft of reforms sweeping the country, Myanmar has also set its sights on overhauling its battered and distrusted banking system, a move that analysts say could pave the way for foreign lenders to open branches.