Unavailability of Prepaid Dollar cards in Nigeria


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Posted by on Tuesday January 12, 2016 at 14:46:12:

As a result of the fact that the Central Bank of Nigeria stopped the use of Naira cards for making foreign currency based payments, I could no longer use my Naira card for shopping on Amazon or paying for certain foreign services I've subscribed for on the internet.

I won't say it's an ineffective policy but there should be an easily accessible alternative such as for Nigerians who might actually have US dollars and want to load it to their cards. Well, the only other alternative based on that temporary CBN restriction was for a person to have a domiciliary account and then getting a debit card linked to that account.

Before the use of Naira cards in Nigeria and before they were enable or making foreign currency based payments, I remember a couple of Nigerians banks introduced what was called Prepaid dollar cards and those were cards loaded with foreign currency and could be instantly issued to a bank customer the same day as long as he has provided the funds for it and other valid documents such as an id card and a proof of address. I got one of such cards from Zenith bank as well as Access bank and used them but when Naira cards were activated, it removed the need for me to keep buying foreign currency at higher rates from the black market since my Naira card gave me lower rates.

The reason why many Nigerians started going for Naira cards was because it eliminated the need for them to patronize the black market when sourcing for funds as well as the fact that Naira cards offered a better and reliable exchange rate even though it varied on a daily basis. However, one thing I also noticed was that Prepaid dollar cards offered a better way to store your funds since it was in a currency stronger than the Naira irrespective o the interest rate banks would pay you for saving money at their bank. I opted for Naira cards because it was more convenient and because it seemed that Prepaid cards were going out of fashion. Besides, then Prepaid foreign currency cards had a lot of charges which Naira cards didn't come with such as loading fees, yearly fees and transaction fees which were all based in US dollars.

Ever since the CBN and banks restricted people from using their Naira Visa and Mastercard to make foreign currency payments, I've been looking for an alternative way to make payments for those services and goods that I want to buy or was already subscribed to.

I needed a Prepaid dollar card because it is a kind of card that can be issued or used to be issued the same day you request for it and it doesn't bear your name imprinted physically on it but it can be linked to the name and address you provided at the time of registration. I needed the Prepaid dollar card because I needed to make a payment within 48 hrs and time was ticking. I already had a domiciliary account but getting a dollar debit card was going to take about 1 week since Nigerians banks don't issue debit cards the same day unlike prepaid cards.

For 2 days now, I've been going from bank to bank but I've not been able to get a Prepaid dollar card. I first went to First bank hoping that they would truly be different but they said I could have a Prepaid card but could only get a Dollar debit card linked to a domiciliary account and since I didn't already have an existing domiciliary account, I couldn't get it that same day.

I later went to Access bank and asked for their Prepaid cards but the customer service said that the person in charge of cards was not available and that I should check back. The next place I checked was at UBA bank but they said their network was down and so they couldn't issue it to me that same day. I later tried out Zenith bank since they helped issue me a card like that in the past but they too said they didn't have any Prepaid dollar cards. My next place to call was Diamond bank but they said they didn't even have prepaid cards. I later called at a Sterling bank branch and it seemed a new staff was just employed and he said the only card that could be issued to me that same day was a Verve card which was not a dollar card. The last place I checked out was at at GTBank bank that recently opened and seemed to be working well but after waiting for almost 30 minutes on the long queue, I was also told that I needed a domiciliary account to get a Prepaid dollar card. I'm not sure the lady really understood what a prepaid card was because it's not a debit card. A prepaid card doesn't require a domiciliary or savings account since it was not a debit card.

Anyway, I guess they were still living within the guidelines of the CBN restriction and so they might have stopped issuing prepaid dollar cards sine the CBN also stopped banks from receiving cash deposits into domiciliary or foreign currency accounts and so I couldn't even fund the account. However, this was about 24 hrs after the CBN has lifted the restriction on domiciliary account cash deposits as I've received several mails from my bank that they can now accept foreign currency deposits. I guess it's going to take some time before the banks start implementing it.

Getting a Prepaid dollar card in Nigeria is really hard and I needed it since it was for an urgent case. I guess I'm going to wait a week for my Dollar debit card to be issued from the bank and it's also probably going to take a while before banks now start issuing Prepaid dollar cards since the CBN now allows them to accept funding for such cards with foreign currency. I guess that temporary restriction was the main reason why they initially stopped issuing Prepaid dollar cards.


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