By EHIME ALEX
As in many developing countries, cash has been the most prevalent mode of payment in Nigeria until 2012 when the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced the cashless policy with the aim of promoting the use of electronic payment channels instead of cash.
Since then, banking services in Nigeria have shifted from physical and tangible distribution to technology-enabled, such as internet, automated teller machine (ATM), mobile phones, point of sale (POS) and mobile money channels.
African economies are also in support of driving cash out of the financial system and the introduction of digital payment solutions is in line with their cashless strategies.
It is also worthy of note that one of the prerequisites for the development of national economy is to encourage a payment system that is secure, convenient, and affordable. In this regard, developed countries of the world, to a large extent, have moved away from paper payment instruments toward electronic ones, especially payment cards.
Looking at data from the CBN official website on E-Payment transactions from 2012 to 2018, it is clear that there has been an exponential increase in the volume of transactions carried out through various channels.
For instance, the volume of ATM transactions carried out in 2012 was approximately at 375.5 million compared to 875.5 million recorded in 2018. Also, the volume of transactions recorded from the POS and Internet channels rose from 2.58 million to 295.89 million, and 2.27 million to 50.8 million in the review period respectively.
This suggests that, the e-payment channels, if well implemented will help achieve the CBN‘s objective of expanding, deepening and modernizing the payment system in Nigeria, and also galvanize the apex bank in ensuring that Nigeria ranks among the top 20 economies of the world in line with the nation‘s vision 2020 aspirations.
To this course, and in line with its pioneering strategy and focus at smartly improving payments infrastructures and greater usage of non-cash means in the country, First Bank of Nigeria Limited recently launched Visa Multi-Currency card, the first of its kind to be offered by any financial institution in the country.
This All-in One-Card has by all means added to the array of FirstBank’s card offerings: Naira MasterCard and Visa Gold card.
The FirstBank Naira MasterCard, a chip and PIN Debit Card, offers a convenient alternative to the use of cash, and cheques. It is a naira denominated card linked to customer’s current or savings account, and can be used to make purchases online, pay bills and access cash at ATMs point worldwide.
With it, cardholders go cashless, have zero need for Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) or Business Travel Allowance (BTA), and also have increased limits for international transactions up to $5000 monthly on all channels with a daily ATM cash withdrawal limit of $300.
While the FirstBank Visa Gold card, an international premium credit card, is a U.S. Dollar- denominated card, secured also by chip and PIN technology. Its higher daily spending limits on ATM, POS and Web are $1,000, $10,000 and $5,000 respectively, anywhere in the World.
However, in addressing challenges many Nigerians faced while travelling abroad, FirstBank has introduced the Visa Multi-Currency card with some unique features. Before now, the major pain points for travelers have been how to source different currencies with high and non-transparent exchange rates.
In today’s businesses where expectation is significantly increasing, consumers have to embrace innovative new technology made available, such as the FirstBank Visa Multi-Currency of card, for global transactions.
The newly launched FirstBank Visa Multi-Currency card is an enhancement to the existing Visa Debit Dual Currency card. Having other unique features, the card can be linked to either or all customer’s NAIRA, USD, EURO and GBP accounts. It is designed to enhance customer experience when transacting globally outside Nigeria, and to address challenges many Nigerians faced while travelling abroad thereby positioning the bank at meeting the needs of its increasingly global customer base.
Besides other benefits are POS and Online purchases, access to and use of ATMs worldwide, and no cash collateral requirement prior to its issuance.
It is an international card secured by Chip and PIN technology with a lifespan of 3 years, and it has additional protection for web-based transactions with “Verified by Visa” (VbV). In fact, it is a one card that enables access to funds throughout the world, providing maximum protection for all card users.
It has a daily withdrawal limit of N150,000 and $1,000 for local and International transactions on the ATM channel, and N1,000,000 and $6,250 for local and international on Web. While on POS, Current account cardholders have a withdrawal limit of N2,500,000 and Savings account cardholders N500,000 distinctively for local, but $2,500 parallel for International transactions.
In the words of Mr. Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Product, “FirstBank takes pride in pioneering the Visa Multi Currency Card in the country, as we remain committed to providing products and services that are designed to ensure the banking convenience of our customers regardless of their location.”
“This card is designed to make traveling fun for our customers and ensure they have a seamless transaction experience during their vacation, tourism and other business-related trips around the globe,” he added.
True and true, FirstBank has shown itself to be a digital innovating bank since the craze of technological transformation in the financial sector, with various Awards, achievements and recognitions.
This Nigeria’s Bank of first choice was named the first financial institution in the country to achieve sustained alternative channels transaction volumes of 100 million transactions in December 2015 and May 2016.
In 2015, FirstBank won two awards in the eBusiness category: MasterCard Cardless Champion award for International acceptance across all POS channels; and MasterCard Cardless Champion award for Mobile POS (MPOS) merchant acquisition.
In 2016, it won three awards also in the eBusiness category, viz: Asian Banker award for Best Mobile Payment Product for West Africa; Asian Banker award for Credit Card of the Year for West Africa; and Global Finance Award for ‘Digital Bank of Distinction – Emerging Markets, Africa Category’.
For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, the bank was honoured with the Digital Bank of Distinction, Nigeria award in the Global Finance Best Digital Banks Awards.
While still counting, in 2017, FirstBank won the Cashless Champion Award of MasterCard International on POS International transactions acquiring, and same year won Interswitch awards on Fastest Mobile Penetration in Africa; Highest Card Transacting Bank in Nigeria; and Highest Verve Issuing Bank.
For FirstBank to sustain its relevance and be part of the banks of the future, it must continue to be proactive to customers’ goals, their ‘next big thing’, and invest heavily, rediscover and reassert its core role in society, while securing ongoing support of policymakers.