What is a credit card, and how can I get one?

Does anyone remember what banking was like in Nigeria before the era of cashless transactions? I remember having to queue inside the bank just to withdraw ₦1,000. Just shows how far we have come. Nowadays, banking is much easier with a variety of payment channels: credit/debit cards, mobile banking and internet banking.

Card payments in particular can be quite instrumental in saving time otherwise wasted with cash withdrawals, and those used in Nigeria are almost always debit cards.

A debit card allows you to spend only what you have in your bank account. A person with ₦12,000 to his/her name can only spend ₦11,000 on their debit card, assuming their bank has a minimum balance requirement of ₦1,000. If a withdrawal above ₦11,000 is attempted, the automated teller machine (ATM) reminds the withdrawer that there is insufficient balance available.

So what is a credit card and how is it different from a debit card?

A credit card gives you access to credit from your bank. Think of it as a friend that lends you money when you need it with the promise you’ll pay back later. Though he’s a generous friend, there’s a ‘credit limit’ he can’t exceed (i.e. he can’t give beyond that amount).

After a month, your friend reminds you of what you owe and you pay back in full. If you’re unable to do so, he might give you the option of paying in bits plus interest.

Here’s a short video explaining difference between both cards.

Video credit: MadAboutMoneyTV

In the case of credit cards, your lender is the bank. The bank gives you a line of credit (an amount of money) to use. You can withdraw a part of this credit as cash, use for online transactions or at POS terminals. At the end of the month, your bank sends you a statement detailing what you’ve spent, what remains, other charges/interest and your minimum monthly repayment. You are expected to pay at least the minimum monthly repayment on your card.

From the above, it is obvious the main difference between debit and credit cards. The former allows you use only money you own, with the latter you borrow to pay later.

How does interest work on credit cards?

Interest on credit cards mostly come when you don’t repay in full. It is charged to the outstanding balance after payments and added to the following months’. Therefore the higher your outstanding balance, the more interest money you’ll pay in the long run. Also, from survey, some banks charge interest on cash withdrawals only. Others might charge for every form of transaction.

All the banks we checked promise no interest when you pay 100% of what you’ve used on your card. This is bar interest on cash withdrawals.

What do I need to get a credit card?

To get a credit card you have to meet certain requirements. For starters, you have to be gainfully employed or have a steady income source. Hence, you will be expected to provide evidence of employment/business. Banks often put salary expectations for customers to be eligible for different credit card products.  For example, the least salary to be eligible for a credit card is N80,000 for some banks.

Some banks might require you to have an account with them. This could be for ease of repayment. Other requirements are a valid ID, passport photographs, proof of place of residence (electricity bills), and completed credit card application form.

How can I apply for a credit card in Nigeria?

Virtually all Nigerian banks offer credit cards. These cards might be denominated in Naira and/or Dollar with some even PayPal verified. The process is relatively easy and can be started from the comfort of your living room for some cases.

We checked the credit card application process from 5 different banks and this is what we found;

1.) Stanbic IBTC

Stanbic IBTC offers private and corporate credit cards. The application process for the Stanbic IBTC VISA Gold Naira Credit Card can be started online by completing this form here. It is required to have at least one month salaried banking relationship with Stanbic IBTC or six months with any other bank in Nigeria. To get the Platinum credit card and corporate credit cards you will be required to contact Stanbic IBTC on 014222222 or email cardqueriesWA@stanbicibtc.com

2.) First Bank

First bank provides an eligibility assessment tool to check for their card product one is eligible for. From using the tool, we learnt that customers need to have a bank account with First bank to qualify for a First Naira credit card. Contact information provided in the tool can be used to follow up on the application process. Application forms can be gotten at the nearest First bank branch.

3.) Diamond Bank

Diamond Visa credit cards can be gotten by walking into any Diamond bank branch. Customers are not required to have an account with Diamond bank to be eligible. Documents required are as stated above plus gross salary confirmation. A three month bank statement will be needed for a non-account holder. For further enquiries on your Diamond Visa Card, please call 0700-300-0000 or send an email to enquiries@diamondbank.com

4.) Access Bank

Access banks offers Naira/Dollar dual-denominated credit cards from Visa. To get it you will need to visit the nearest Access bank branch. After card collection from bank branch, cardholder authentication and card activation will be done by calling contact centre on 012712005-7.  For more enquiries email contactcenter@accessbankplc.com.

5.) Zenith Bank

Zenith offers both Visa and MasterCard credit cards. Application for these cards can be done by walking into any branch. You can also send an email to cardservices@zenithbank.com or zenithdirect@zenithbank.com. Calls can be made to 012787000, 012927000, 014647000, and 0700ZENITHBANK.



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