A brief guide by David Rowbory, August 2016, updated January 2017, March 2021
Open a Nigerian Bank account
I opened a Savings account with a bank in Jos, have an ATM card and internet banking including using a mobile app. Choose a bank near to your most common locations.
- (Which to choose? I have heard good experiences from friends using Diamond/Access, Zenith. First Bank has longer queues but may be best for outlying areas. GTBank has been often very reliable, supports lots of convenient USSD banking but sometimes recently has been suffering from downtime and other problems. I’ve heard discouraging things about Unity banks and have noticed KeyStone has closed 2 of its branches in Kafanchan & Jos recently.)
Take your phone, passport, CERPAC/ID card, 2 passport photos & about ₦2000 to a bank and ask to open a Savings account.
- (Why Savings? Less ID is required and Savings accounts are cheaper to run than Current accounts. I don’t need a cheque book, but if you’re writing cheques for people to withdraw money elsewhere then you could get a current account.)
You’ll need to give an address, email and phone contact details, also next-of-kin details (Date of Birth, address in Nigeria). You get an ATM card and internet banking with a Savings account. You pay for the ATM card, hence the ₦2000 initial deposit. You may need to return to collect it a couple of weeks after opening the account. You’ll also need to come back when called up to register for BVN (Bank Verification Number). You attend the bank and they take your photo and record fingerprints. This can then be used to more easily verify identity and open accounts with other banks. From 2021 you’ll link your NIN I think too.
Transfer from UK (+other) banks
From 2021 you have to send in USD to Nigeria, but if you know a trustworthy FX person you can usually transfer into their account and they’ll give you Naira into your bank account. Check ngnrates.com for a guess at reasonable rates.
Use Azimo, WorldRemit, SmallWorld FS, TransferWise or Exchange4Free to send USD cash to pick up or put in a bank account – yours or a trusted FX agent. I have used all of them, shopping around for the best rates.
It used to be you could use these services to buy Naira directly into your Nigerian bank account paying from your UK/Europe or US accounts.
- azimo.com/en/invite/redirect/token/DAVIDR (use my code and we’ll each get £10)
- Usually no transfer fee. Only serves Europe.
- worldremit.com using code DAVIDR474 (we both get £20)
- Usually a transfer fee. (~£1 as of 2021.) Sometimes better rates than Azimo. May serve US & Canada & wider world.
- Fast transfers even at weekend in my experience.
- From 2021 you can collect USD cash or transfer to a domiciliary account.
- SmallWorld FS
- Advertises a fee, but as of Oct 2016 this is waived.
Create an account, possibly giving scans of your driving licence or passport as ID. Verification the first time you open an account may take a few hours.
Use your debit card to charge your UK bank (or do an internet banking transfer – but that’s slower).
US & Canadian transfers seem to require a credit card. You’re probably best preloading your credit card with a positive balance to avoid the interest charges that would otherwise result from a cash advance, which the payment to Exchange4Free/WorldRemit would incur.
Enter your Nigerian bank details as the destination.
You should get emails telling you the transfer was successful within a few minutes. Azimo may be slower over the weekend.
Many banks allow you to do some banking with special USSD codes. For example GTBank use *737*… for some services, including recharging your mobile phone from your bank account, checking your balance etc. Very convenient.
You are normally allowed a few (3?) withdrawals from other banks (eg I have used UBA or FirstBank) free each month. You can typically withdraw money in ₦20-30,000 amounts from ATMs, so several transactions at one time might be needed.
Instant Payments (NIPSS) are faster (and possibly cheaper) than NEFT.