By Babajide Komolafe
Bank customers are increasing patronizing automated teller (ATM) machines for non-cash transactions like bills payment, airtime purchase and money transfer. This is reflected by the value of bills payment and airtime purchase transactions recorded by FirstBank Nigeria Limited in 2014.
With over 2,500 ATMs across the country, the bank has the largest network of ATM in the banking industry. According to the bank, bank customers used its ATM to make N928.48 million worth of bills payment and also to purchase N3.2 billion worth of airtime in 2014. As a result the bank emerged as the leader in bills payment, accounting for 38 percent of bills payment services in the nation’s banking industry as at December 2014.
The bills payment option is one of the features of FirstBank’s ATMs, which also have other unique functional features which include cash transfer, air-time top-up, and cash deposit among others.
The bills payment option is the non-cash transaction feature on the ATM that makes it easier for customers to pay for bills such as Cable TV subscription, post-paid phone bills, and pre- booked airline tickets. These transactions can be executed through the Quickteller option on any of the bank’s ATMs.
The Transfer feature enables customers to transfer money from their accounts to both intra (within FirstBank) and interbank (other banks) accounts, thereby reducing the queues in the banking hall, save time as well as provide a more convenient option for customers’ money transfer needs. In 2014 alone N251 billion was transferred from one account to another using FirstBank ATM.
The bank is also currently responsible for over 40 percent of interbank transactions and 26 percent of airtime vending. As active mobile network users in Nigeria are over 130 million and the need to recharge is on the increase, the bank’s ATMs also provide the platform for easy top-up.
To further enhance convenience, FirstBank’s ATMs also operate the Cash Deposit function which allows customers to deposit funds without customarily having to enter a banking hall for this transaction. This is a direct testament to its value proposition of putting customers first.
Folake Ani-Mumuney, the bank’s spokesperson, said this distinct development was achieved as a result of the bank’s desire to reach out to more people in the country and as part of living true to putting customers at the heart of our business. “FirstBank is positioned to meet the needs of its customers and to reach out to the under banked and unbanked. Our mission is to make banking as convenient for our customers as is obtainable globally”, she said.
She said that to aid the use of its ATMs nationwide and for enhanced protection of customers’ funds, the Bank has, in particular, designed innovative and tailored-made financial services products to ease banking transactions. A major product is the FirstBank Verve Debit card, a Naira denominated domestic payment card accepted for payment throughout Nigeria on all electronic channels, including the ATMs.
One of the outstanding and unique features of the product is that it is issued in 15 minutes at FirstBank branches. This distinctive feature stands the product out as it saves time and is very easy to obtain. Also, the card, which is accepted nationwide, aside withdrawing of cash, can be used to access value added services including bills payment, airtime recharge, flight and hotel booking among others.
The card is Chip & PIN secured for greater protection of customers’ funds, provides extra protection for web based transactions with “Safetoken”, is Naira denominated, and personalized, bearing the customer’s name. It is accepted wherever the Interswitch or Verve logo is displayed and can also be used to perform transactions via the Quickteller services menu on FirstBank ATMs.
The bank also has a Naira denominated international Debit card issued in partnership with MasterCard Worldwide, a card which enables transactions all over the world wherever the MasterCard logo is displayed. The card is accepted worldwide at over 29.4 million merchant locations and can be used for cash withdrawals at over 1.8 million ATMs, in over 210 countries. The card is also secured by Chip & PIN technology and is issued in 15 minutes at FirstBank branches.
The bank has a VISA Naira Credit Card designed for customers who operate salary accounts in the bank. The card is accepted worldwide for cash withdrawals and purchases on ATMs and POS terminals, and for e-commerce on the Internet done either on desktop computers or mobile devices. The card allows customers a 45-day interest-free period on spent funds and settlement is done in Naira.
The bank also has a number of other card products tailored to addressing the varied needs of customers – VISA Debit (Dual currency – denominated in NGN and USD), VISA Prepaid (denominated in NGN and USD), VISA Gold card, Mastercard Platinum, and VISA Infinite.
To cater for as many customers as possible, the bank’s ATMs are equipped with cardless functionality that makes it easier for non-bank customers to deposit or withdraw money from the ATMs without a Debit card. At the end of December 2014, FirstBank had deployed a total of 2,597 active ATMs. The bank’s ATMs have dispensed over N2.1 trillion between January and December 2014.