As soon as I landed at Kotoka International Aiport, Accra, Ghana, I headed straight to forex to change just small amount of Naira into GHc. My intention was to pick up the money I will later need once I get into town. Some hours later, a friend called me and asked whether I have used my card on ATM. There was a mark of frustration in his voice which I didn’t understand. At least I’ve been using my MasterCard on foreign ATMs since 2010 and particularly in Accra since 2011. I also know that he had done that too.
“Nnaa, why do you have this rush in your speech, is anything the matter?” I tried to find out from him. Then he replied with a statement that brought hot air into my nerves. “Hmmm! Believe it or not, there is problem and it seems we cannot use our cards on any ATM here o.”
“What is the problem? Why do you think so? Have you tried using your card and it gives error? Are you sure there is no problem with your card, account, or even your bank?” Within a short time I asked him several, meaningful questions relating to his fears.
Then he told me what happened. He actually read a mail from his bank. Although that mail was not fully understood, the bottom line shows a restriction on all foreign transaction on Naira accounts/cards. with that mail in mind, I then started feeling that the problem was with that bank.
At night, I decided to make payments to CyberUltra Network -the company that hosts my websites. Lo and behold, my payment was declined. I tried all my 4 cards from different banks, no way. I tried my wife’s card, no way. Then I tried to fund my payoneer card to see if I can use it to make the payment and transaction was also declined. That was when i knew that there was a serious challenge.
Early the next morning, I moved straight to the ATM to withdraw all the money I will use for the 30 days I will stay in Ghana. Chai! All my cards failed. Only God knows how I survived that journey.
May be you have had similar experience. May be you have been using Naira cards to make payments online to foreign websites like Alibaba.com, DHgate, Paypal, Facebook, Google, Hosting Companies, etc. Before Last september, it was possible to buy anything online from a foreign shop and pay with your Naira MasterCard. That time is gone. You cannot do it again. Why?
How the Problem was Created
Most of us who do forex everyday and who often use our Naira denominated ATM cards for online transactions know that the charge on our Naira cards are almost double the declared rate of CBN. At the time this problem was created, the CBN rate for dollar was N305 per Dollar. Some people started asking why the banks will charge them 450, 455, sometimes 469 and so on. Some even accuse the banks of making excess profit from the sufferings of the people. Actually, the forex market is regulated by same economic forces of demand and supply. There is no regulation on how much you must sell to your customers.
You will observe that if someone sends money to you via western union, the bank calculate it at CBN rate and pay you Naira equivalent. You have a no-option condition here since the banks are restricted from paying you dollars.
This exchange situation wassened and the CBN in a meeting with the banks decided to regulate how much the banks must not exceed while selling forex to their customers. I refer here USD as forex. On a casual thinking, the CBN is fair to bank customers by ordering the banks to charge their customers not more than 310 since the CBN rate is 305.
This would have worked if the CBN would sell the needed dollars to the banks. But that is not the case. The banks are left to source their dollars from the alternative markets. So it is like banks buying dollars at black market rate and be selling at CBN rate. No body will ever do that.
Due to federal government’s insistence that Banks must not charge any customer above the stipulated N310, the banks agreed to stop all foreign transactions on their cards.
We need to know that for every dollar you spend on your card online, the bank will need to settle/clear it within a period. And they do this by paying the dollar on your behalf. If they cannot source the dollar at CBN rate, how can they sell at CBN rate. They were wise to cut off the transactions involving foreign exchange on you cards/accounts.
How is This Decision Affecting Online Businesses in Nigeria?
If you do your business online only with Nigerians living in Nigeria, you have no problem with this regulation.But if what you do involves paying any international company using your card, you have a serious problem with this.
Some Nigerians live on importing items from Aliexpress.com, DHgate.com, etc. These are the ones that are totally affected. They can no longer pay the merchants with their local ATM cards because these cards are now disabled from such transactions.
Some of us who are into website and blogging business have a hit too. You will find it extreemly difficult to renew expired domains and hosting. You will also see how challenging it is to make new registrations except you want to do this with local companies like Web4Africa.
Some Nigerians buy software, books, toys, gifts, services (like designs and codes) from foreign companies. For example, I pay some indian guys who work with me in building PHP applications on school platforms and others. I also buy web templates like worpress themes, joomla templates, etc from foreign websites.
These are samples of those who suffer the hit because they depend on making online payments to those who sell to them or who give them services.
Others who suffer the hit include students who live abroad and whose parents send money to them by simply paying into their home account. As soon as money is paid, for example, into your normal Zenith Bank or Ecobank account, you can now withdraw it from any part of the world.
What about those on treatment abroad who were taken to foreign land with limited cash on hand. The more the family raises cash, the more they pay into their account for withdrawal at the country where they are receiving treatment.
Some people are on convention programme or a visit abroad. These depend on money they have in their local accounts to survive there since they have no known business in the foreign land to earn their living.
You can imagine the hardship that faced Nigerians who depended on getting money from home suffered as soon as their ATM cards could no longer pay them.
That was an extreme situation of hardship.
How the Problem Could be Solved
If there is any way you can bring your own dollar and pay it into your account, the bank wouldn’t mind allowing you make payments to anyone who receives dollar or allow you withdraw from any your account in any part of the world. But you cannot load dollar into you local account. The only known solution is having a dollar based account locally. This is called cash-dom. A cash-dom account is opened as a normal current account but it is loaded with foreign currency -especially the dollar. This alternative is not well known to many people online in Nigeria. Most of them are still crying that they cannot pay again. That is why I have made this post.
What Did I Do to Solve the Payment Problem?
I had a cash-dom account I opened with ECOBANK. In the past I used it only to transfer bulk money to merchants I bought mineral water pots from. I also used it to receive payments from companies like Google and other affiliates that I did. But I didn’t have any ATM card linked to this account. So as soon as this problem started, I moved to ECOBANK and inquired. They confirmed that they can issue me a card for my cash-dom account. I applied immediately and in 10 days, I have this card. take a look. After the PAC logo, you will see Debit USD. This card was issued to me at Ecobank and I have successfully used it several times to make payments. See sample screenshots.
These are samples of payments I made yesterday to Whois Media and CyberUltra Network my web hosting partners.
This card can be used in any country and can pay any currency so long as I use it in a machine that accepts mastercard.
Benefits of Using a Dollar Account/Card
I may not itemize the benefits of using a dollar denominated account and card but I will give a clue to some of these.
- You are now sure of making online payments to anybody anywhere in the world
- You can now buy whatever you want and make successful payments
- You will no longer find getting services difficult due to shortage of means of payment
- You now have a means of receiving international payments. I have Google Adsense account and have been earning money from Adsense. With your Cash-Dom Account, it becomes far easier to receive your earnings from Google and other affiliate businesses you do online.
- You can now withdraw your money from any part of the world so that you don’t run the risk of carrying cash all the time you are travelling abroad.
- You can make transfer to anyone without using your card -you do this from your account. This is impossible with your local current Account.
- You have an account that earns international respect and reputation as an international business person.
- You can now give service to anyone anywhere in the world because of the ease of payment through your dollar account.
- You are no longer affected by fluctuations that happen to the Naira.
- There are many more that you can do with a cash-dom account.
Wrong Thinking About Domiciliary Accounts
Before I opened a domiciliary account, I had the notion that Dom Accounts are for well known and better established business people. This is the problem of many other people who do small business. They feel very inferior and intimidated by the idea of creating a Dom Account.
This is not so brother.
Opening a Dom Account is far easier than you think. Although some banks make it seem hard for you, I will show you how to do this with ECOBANK in a few simple steps.
I will not forget that I went to ECOBANK for this account because I depended on one of my Father’s Friends to help me make my first payment to the company I bought Mineral Water Pot from.
Earlier, I went to Zenith Bank and one of the requirements was that I will show evidence of foreign earnings that prompts for the account. At that time I do not have any foreign earning. But today, Zenith Bank offers Cash Dom Account which does not require declaration of foreign earnings.
The Truth is that opening a Domiciliary Account is now very easy and that is the only known and reliable maens of settling foreign transactions in Nigeria of today.
How to Open a Domiciliary Account With Ecobank (What I did)
- Open a normal current account with Ecobank. This require that you submit a referee form for 2 people that know you. (Fear not, this is not a hard task)
- Also request a dollar account form at the same time you are opening a local current account. It is the same as opening a current and savings account at the same time in the same bank. My normal Current Account at Ecobank is 009xxx0243 and my Domiciliary Account is 009xxx0250. This is because I opened them same time, same day and they are both current accounts.
- Apply for ATM Cards for both account at the same time. Apply for cheque booklets for both accounts at the same time. Doing all these at the same time will make you use same document to process both accounts without stress.
- You will have you account setup same day but you will not have both ATMs and Cheque booklets same day. Local ATM is usually issued at the branch you opened your account. But your USD Debit card will be issued from the head office and will take at least 5 working days to process.
Note: You will need to go to the bank with at least USD50 at the time of opening your Dom Account.
To pay money into your Dom account is even easier than paying normal account. All that is required is to buy the dolar from any source convenient for you and take it to the counter. You pay in just the same way you pay in to normal local account.
You can continue buying and selling online. You can continue paying for any service given in a foreign website. You can continue to renew that cherished service online without getting cut off by restrictions on the Naira denominated cards. To do this comfortably and very easily, get a cash-dom account today.
-Get to Ecobank
-Open Account as I described above
-Apply for your USD card
-Get it activated
-You are good to go.
You can do about anything you have been doing with your normal ATM card because that is exactly what your USD card is. Then you can do much more.
Also do not forget to register for internet banking so that you can view, in real time, the status of your account.
Never forget to link a phone number and an email to your accounts so that you can be sure of receiving transaction alerts each time there is one.
I am sure that this information will help you succeed in making payments that are still restricted to the average Nigerian who use only Naira denominated cards.
To your success!