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Lifting cash-less banking with multi-currency card - THE NATION

AUGUST 16, 2019

by COLLINS NWEZE


Cashless banking was introduced with fanfare seven years ago and has remained impactful to the financial inclusion and efficiency target of banks and other financial institutions. The scheme has provided opportunity for banks to be more creative on their product offerings as seen in FirstBank introduction of the Visa Multi Currency Card, that allows customers link their cards to their naira, dollar, Euro and British Pounds Sterling accounts. The card was designed to meet the cash-less transactional needs of customers anywhere in the world, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

 THE introduction of the cash-less banking was one of the biggest news that hit the sector in January 2012. The objective, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says, is to change the cash-driven economy and reduce the rising cost of banking.

The policy was also designed to promote financial intermediation, financial inclusion, minimise revenue leakages, eliminate robbery and encourage e-payment in any currency around the world.

The policy was initiated against the backdrop of cash dominance in the payments system, a development which encouraged the circulation of huge sums of money outside the banking system and imposed huge currency management cost on the economy.

The policy was meant to ensure price stability through effective monetary policy; sound financial system and efficient payments system. It was a critical part of the payment system modernisation, designed to promote the use of Automated Teller Machines, Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, web payment, online transfers and even mobile money in banking transactions instead of relying on cash.

Seven years after the scheme was unveiled, banks are taking advantage of the opportunities it created to innovate and give value to customers. FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, has introduced the Visa Multi Currency Card, an All-in One-Card and first of its kind to be offered by any financial institution in Nigeria. This card can be linked to four currencies: Naira, United States dollar, Euro and British Pounds Sterling accounts.

With the Visa Multi-Currency card, FirstBank customers – within and outside Nigeria – can now enjoy the luxury of having their local and foreign denominated accounts in any currency, linked to a single debit card. The Visa Multi-Currency Card is designed to ease the daily cashless transactional needs of customers regardless of where they are across the world.

Amongst the many benefits of the Visa Multi-Currency card are Point of Sale and Online purchases, access to and use of ATMs worldwide. There is no cash collateral requirement prior to its issuance.

Speaking on the product, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Product at FirstBank, Chuma Ezirim, said the lender 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.

“Traveling abroad for summer, walk into any FirstBank branch today for your Visa Multi Currency Card,” he said.

According to the bank, the card can be used  to make purchases online, pay bills and access cash at ATMs worldwide. “ It is secured by Chip & Personal Identification Number technology with a lifespan of three years, requires no cash collateral before issuance, global acceptance on ATM, PoS and web as well as additional protection for web-based transactions with “Verified by Visa(VbV),” the lender said

It has a limit of N150,000 for local ATM, and $1,000 on international transactions; on PoS, current account limit on local transactions is N2.5 million, and N500,000 on savings account while international transaction limit is $2,500. On web transactions, it has a limit of N1 million on local transactions and $6,250 on international transactions.

On FirstBank Visa Gold card, customers enjoy higher daily spending limit on ATM ($1,000) , POS ($10,000) and WEB ($5,000) anywhere in the World with your Visagold card. Access to international emergency services with your Visagold card i.e. Emergency Card Replacement & Emergency Cash Advance in situations where your card gets lost or damaged,” the bank said.

Also, on the FirstBank Naira Master Card, customers enjoy increased limits for international transactions. “Customers can spend $5000 monthly with their FirstBank Naira Master Card on all channels, with a daily ATM cash withdrawal limit of $300. The customers should change their PIN before travelling out of the country to avoid transaction failures / invalid card and must  not swipe their cards on any terminal, rather, should insert card and use their PIN. In the UK, customer can tap with their Naira MasterCard contactless cards to make payments for their transport fares among other benefits.

“Customers can activate or deactivate their cards for all types of transaction, using the Card-in-Control Service on Firstmobile or the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) option. See steps below.

These products have enabled the bank to issue  10 million cards to customers across the country. The bank is now among two other African banks to achieve the milestone.

Other banks are also making card payment a priority. For instance,  Access Bank has migrated its entire network of ATMs to CR2’s ATM driving and card switching solution. The project also includes the migration of the lender’s card management system, according to a company press release.

As part of the deal, CR2, which is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, will be responsible for the largest ATM network in the entire West African country, which includes more than 3,000 ATMs.

The move follows the lenders deployment of CR2’s BankWorld, a digital banking platform. The software, which enables banks to tailor their branding and messages to customers via the ATM, is fully certified for Verve Card issuing and acquiring. Verve is an ATM debit and payment card used exclusively in the Nigeria.

Additionally, the platform supports all local requirements for the Nigerian payment systems and services market,

CR2 is one of only two switch vendors running an ATM network for banks in Nigeria, according to the bank.

United Bank for Africa Plc says it has issued over three million Near Field Communication technology-enabled contactless cards to its teeming customers.

“UBA has revolutionised the payments landscape in Nigeria in 2015, with the introduction of contactless payment cards which enable customers pay with ease by leveraging the NFC technology,” it said in a statement.

The NFC technology allows wireless communication between devices that are a few centimetres apart. The NFC payment Card uses microchips/antenna to transmit data via shortwave radio frequencies.

Usually, when one NFC-enabled device is close enough to another NFC device, a connection can be established and data shared between them. The card communicates data to the reader to initiate and complete the transaction using the NFC technology.

“In addition to the contactless cards,  the bank has issued well over 10 million debit and prepaid cards, serving both customers and non-bank customers in its countries of operation,” it added.

UBA’s Group Head, Cards, Yinka Adedeji, was quoted as saying: “We are delighted to reaching this milestone. Our customers have found out that with our contactless cards, they make payments for everyday essentials and other things that money can buy the contactless way, and these cards can be used across all the channels where you use your regular card – ATM, PoS and Web.”

Also, about two years ago when the bank in December 2015 and May 2016, FirstBank was the first financial institution in the country to achieve sustained alternative channels transaction volumes of 100 million transactions in December 2015 and May 2016.

According to the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, First Bank of Nigeria Limited,  Adesola Adeduntan said: “Delivering to this feat at this time, is a testament to the bank’s drive in delivering to its brand promise – putting customers first and continuously improving our business to serve them better. One of the ways by which we were able to sustain this winning edge is the use of our Instant issuance/Instant activation technology, which we pioneered about 10 years ago.”

“We have also consistently maintained the highest active Card ratio in the industry. This feat also implies that our customers are becoming more technology savvy and we would continue to encourage this attitude with our commitment to world class service delivery. Therefore, we must work to ensure optimal performance and availability of all our channels such as ATM, FirstMobile etc. to guard against customer dissatisfaction.”

In addition, FirstBank recently bagged a hat trick of awards, which are clear signs that the giant strides taken by the pan-African leading bank-brand towards fostering its banking technologies are well aligned to the fast paced technological advancement in modern day banking.

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has also won three awards in the Interswitch Connect Sales Dinner & Awards Night held this year in Lagos.

The event, which had Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Chairman, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited as keynote speaker, was convened to recognise excellent partners and institutions that are front liners at bolstering cashless transactions and payments in Nigeria, while promoting financial inclusion, thus bridging the gap between the banked and unbanked in the nook and cranny of the country.

The awards won by FirstBank at the event are; Most improved Mobile Application, Highest Transacting Bank (across interswitch’s solution) and Highest Number of Verve Transacting Cards (Unique Cards) for respectively having the highest total volume of transactions to the tune of 95.1 million transactions across three services (Airtime, Bill payment and transfers), its outstanding performance in revenue generation (as regards having highest transactions across Interswitch’s solutions) and being the Bank with the highest and outstanding performance in the issuance of unique Verve cards. FirstBank has issued a total of 7million unique Verve cards.

Receiving the awards on behalf of FirstBank, Mrs. Folasade Femi Lawal, the Bank’s Head, Card Business said “We are pleased to be recognised for these awards, especially as they add to the spice of an eventfulness 2019, the year of our 125th anniversary.

The awards are indeed a reflection of the trust by Nigerians on our digital channels as we leave no stone unturned at reinventing ourselves, products and services with a view to remain steadfast at being a frontrunner at promoting digitisation of the industry bearing in mind that we are that very institution that have since 1894 witnessed the various facets and growth that defines banking in the country. We commend Interswitch for their giant strides at being a gateway to promote a cashless Nigeria.

Only recently, FirstBank was recognised for its high transactional volume and leading role at promoting cashless transactions and financial inclusion in the country by winning two awards – Cashless Driver: Highest Volume in Bill Payments and Cashless Driver: Highest Transaction Volume in Real-Time Payments –  at the CBN Electronic Payments Incentive Scheme (EPIS) Efficiency Awards.

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