Abu Dhabi: Islamic banks that previously did not allow their cards to be used to make purchases at tobacco-selling stores have now changed their policy, except for one of the capital’s major banks.

However, all Islamic banking institutions still do not allow their debit and credit cards to make payments at liquor stores and bars.

The capital’s national Islamic bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), has implemented this only this year and is still strictly prohibiting their clients from using their cards at alcohol-serving locations.

“As of May 2014, we have permitted our customers to use our bank cards at the Smokers Centre in Abu Dhabi, for example. However, liquor stores, bars and other alcohol-serving facilities are still banned from accepting ADIB payment cards,” a customer service representative revealed.

Meanwhile, other institutions such as Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) and Al Hilal Bank have more rigorous policies pertaining to the use of their cards at bars, tobacco-selling facilities and casinos.

However, there is a loophole.

“As long as the place is registered as a bar or liquor store, clients cannot use our cards. But in restaurants and lounges, for example, that serve alcohol, customers can still use our cards,” an SIB spokesperson said.

Similarly, a long-term Sudanese banker at one of the capital’s commercial banks told Gulf News that while banks are entitled to set their own rules, many can still find a way around them.

“This is the first time I have heard of these rules. Plus, Islamic banks probably do recognise the business risk they are taking when limiting the opportunities where their clients can use their cards. I believe that credit cards should not have a certain religion. I mean people who have an Islamic banking card can simply head to the nearest ATM, withdraw cash and later use that money to purchase alcohol or a pack of cigarettes,” said the expert who declined to be named.

In contrast, a 26 year-old Egyptian expat and client at one of Abu Dhabi’s Islamic banks, said: “I commend these rules. Drinking in the UAE needs a liquor licence which some people don’t have and other places don’t ask for. So, for a bank to say that their cards are not allowed at a certain facility means that alcohol consumption becomes harder for that individual who might be underage or may not even have money in their credit card,” he said.

“Additionally, Islamic banks have an image to maintain. Smoking is a debatable subject among Islamic scholars so I understand if you can use your Islamic banking card at a Smokers Centre. However, other things such as alcohol consumption, which is considered a major sin in Islam, should not be subject to discussion and it doesn’t make sense for someone to use an Islamic bank to purchase liquor,” the construction manager added.