Nigerian savings account comparison & review – Sterling Classic vs First Bank accounts


Banks are constantly offering new products, services and promotions, and it usually isn’t long until anyone seeking a new financial product begins to feel like a vulnerable teenage girl in a beer parlour full of seasoned old men, seeking fresh bait. It doesn’t have to be the case. It is no longer enough to just open an account out of convenience with the bank that is closest to you. You, as a customer have the power the banks want, and you should never feel as though they are doing you a favour. Think about it – bankers pay millions to let you know what new service they  have : TV ads, radio jingles, newspaper ads all don’t come cheap. They should be doing all that they can to not just attract, but also keep you as a customer. Bank workers are often put under tremendous pressure to seek out new customers like you in the competitive market, and it is up to you as the consumer to do your homework, and ensure that you are getting the best value for your money, with any new financial service you decide to take.

MrPepe will regularly compare two banks, offering the same product, reviewing what they are offering customers, how this compares with similar products in other parts of the world, as well as sharing customer experiences.

Related : Comprehensive list of operational banks in Nigeria

In order to get a true picture of product offerings and customer experiences, we welcome your participation and we would like you to let us kow (in the comment section) whether you have had a good or bad experience with the product on offer.

Our hope is that this will offer feedback to the banking officials (especially to those that pay attention to their reputation via social media), and hopefully bring about positive changes, where neccessary.

First Bank Savings Account

Background FirstBank was incorporated in 1894, in Liverpool as the bank for British West Africa. It opened its first international branch in Accra, in 1896 and was incorporated locally as the Standard Bank of nigeria Ltd in 1969. It offers a range of banking and financial products including savings products, financing and cashless services.

Minimum opening balance N2,000. This was recently revised downwards from N10,000.

Minimum operating balance N1,000 (also recently revised from N2,000).

Charges There are no charges for operating this account. However, withdrawing more than twice a month will lead to you forteiting your interest, so be careful with withdrawals.

Interest rate 2% per annum (recently revised upward from 1%)

Opening requirements

  • N2,000
  • ID document
  • Utility bill
  • 2 passport photographs

Additional notes.  While researching this piece, I had to contact customer service for some information. I noticed a “live chat” option on the website, and I decided to try it. To my surprise, my “hello” received a response in less than 2 minutes, from a pleasant customer service rep, Temitayo. I was pleased to not have to spend my phone credit listening to tasteless music, whilst being in a virtual queue. I would recommend the web chat system as a way to beat both online and offline banking queues. If you’re already connected to the internet, you won’t be spending any additional cash/time/effort going to the bank branch in person.  There were however, a couple of bits of out-of-date information on the website , but  Temitayo was very knowledgeable and able to offer me up-to-date information.

Sterling Bank Classic Savings account

Sterling Bank began operations as NAL bank in 1960, and was partly privatised and listed on the NSE in 1992. In 2006, NAL bank merged with 4 other Nigeria banks during the consolidation eercise, later acquiring ETB in 2011. Sterling Bank also offers a range of financial products, and services including personal and corporate banking products, loans and investment services.

Minimum opening balance Zero. You don’t pay any fees for opening this account.

Minimum operating balance N1,000.

Charges There are no charges for opening this account, or maintaining a balance above N1,000. However, making over 4 withdrawals a month would automatically lead to you forfeiting the annual interest on the account.

Interest This information is not displayed on the website, but the customer service agent informed me that the current interest rate stands at 2.5% per annum.

Requirements for opening.

  • Account opening form
  • Signature card
  • 2 passport photographs
  • ID document
  • Utility bill
  • 2 Account references

Additional notes Again, I had to contact customer services, for additional information. As there was no live chat option on the website, I phoned the customer service number. After being initially answered by a robot, I was automatically redirected to a real person, Yemi, about 47 seconds into the call. She was very helpful, and able to give me the information I needed, without hesitation. The number I phoned was +23414484481, taken from the website.

Overall verdict.

Both banks were impressive from the outside. Both are well established banks in the Nigeria finance industry, and offer useful information on their websites. Customer service is great on both sides with connection to relevant members of staff within the first two minutes. This trend may well exist to reel potential customers in, but I can only report on my experiece. First Bank seems like the more accessible of the two, requiring less information to open a account with, and also providing easier access than Sterling Bank. On the other side, Sterling bank offers more value for money, with higher interest rates and lower penalties.

When compared with similar global products, these two compare very favourably. A similar, instant access UK HSBC account offers a minimum opening balance of £1 (250), and an annual savings rate of 0.05%. In other words, if you saved N1m in this account for a year, you would receive N500 in interest. A e-saver account in Singapore with Standard Chartered offers no minimum opening requirement or account balance, and gives savers 0.10% annual interest rates. However, this does not offer any passbooks, chequebooks, ATM cards or statements. If you saved N1m in this account for a year, you would receive N1,000 in interest.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section, or let us know if we have misquoted any information.


I'm an grammar-obsessed writer with a passion for finance, innovation, lifestyle design, tech, healthy eating and who knows what else. Nothing makes my day like a nice, chunky comment on one of my posts to sink my teeth into. So go on, make my day :-)


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  • Very clear and free from ambiguity. Now I know better

    Joy February 17, 2016 2:13 am
    • Thank you very much, Joy!

      mrpepe February 17, 2016 9:33 am
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