Many Nigerians woke up to a rude shock as their banks sent them emails and SMS warning that they will not be able to use their Naira debit cards for international transactions as scarcity of foreign exchange (forex) situations worsens.
Some banks have already alerted their customers on the latest development while it was gathered that others are keenly watching activities before implementing the policy owing to the scarcity of forex.
First Bank Plc. In an email to customers explained that “Due to current market realities on foreign exchange, you will no longer be able to use the Naira Mastercard, Naira Credit Card, our Virtual card and Visa Prepaid Naira card for international transactions. This will take effect on 30 September 2022.
This development is coming a few months after banks in the country reduced the monthly international spending limit on Naira cards to as low as $20. The daily international withdrawal limit has been around $100 for most banks until March when banks cut international spending.
Banks had in 2020 stopped the use of naira cards for ATM foreign currency withdrawals while reviewing monthly international spending using naira cards from $500 to $300 and ultimately to $100.
According to data obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria’s external reserves depreciated by $1.37 billion (3.37%) in the first six months of 2022 to $39.16bn as of June 30 from $40.52bn it closed in 2021. This is despite the recent surge in global energy prices
A further scrutiny of the data also revealed that the external reserves fell to $38.882bn on August 11 from $39.219bn at the end of July 2022.
External reserves are assets held on reserve by CBN in foreign currencies and these reserves are used to back liabilities and influence monetary policy.
In the latest development however, First Bank announced that international transactions will be stopped on all Naira cards from September 30.
“Due to current market realities on foreign exchange, you will no longer be able to use the Naira Mastercard, Naira Credit Card, our Virtual card and Visa Prepaid Naira card for international transactions. This will take effect on 30 September 2022.
“Please use your Visa Debit Multi Currency Card, Visa Prepaid (USD) Card and Visa Gold Credit Card to continue transacting abroad with limits of up to $10,000,” it said.
Standard Chartered Bank had earlier announced the suspension of international transactions on Naira visa debit cards from August 1.
“Kindly be informed that effective August 1, 2022, International spend on our Naira Visa Debit Card will be suspended. Also, the International spend limit on our Standard Chartered Bank Credit Card however remains at $1,000 monthly and Foreign Currency Debit Card limits remain unchanged,” it had notified its customers in July.
A reliable source in one of the banks that have not implemented the latest policy said ‘it is a matter of time as we are also observing the situation’
Experts expressed worries that banks are reacting to the realities of the market, noting that the CBN has explanations to make on forex scarcity despite its many policies to encourage foreign exchange earnings.
“Are we not exporting at all? Are exporters not repatriating their funds to Nigeria despite CBN policies? Why are we having serious scarcity? The fault is not with the banks, CBN should be able to explain why we are having these challenges,” noted an analyst who does not want his name in print.