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Using a credit card in Nigeria
Make the most of your plastic in a country with limited credit card acceptance.
The two major credit card networks in Nigeria are Visa and Mastercard, but credit cards are not widely accepted overall due to widespread financial fraud. The country has only just started to offer American Express after recently getting off the provider’s blacklist. While some of the bigger hotels and businesses may accept credit cards, you’re more likely to come across vendors that only accept cash payments. Although credit and debit cards aren’t widely accepted in Nigeria, this may change in the future. Until then, you should prepare to rely on cash.
Compare credit cards for use in Nigeria
What credit cards can I use in Nigeria?
American Express cards are accepted only in high-end restaurants and hotels. You also won’t find any ATMs that accept Amex cards.
Potential credit card fees in Nigeria
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued in Canada charge foreign transaction fees. Usually costing 2.5% of the total transaction amount, you’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees in Canada.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or naira with your credit card, always choose the local currency of naira. Paying in Canadian dollars with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Pay in the local currency and let your bank do the currency conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, use a debit card issued by a bank that’s a member of an international ATM alliance, such as Scotiabank.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Avoid the high cash advance APR by using your debit card (instead of your credit card) to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To skirt around ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
ATMs in Nigeria
Credit card purchases in Nigeria are usually limited to higher-end hotels and restaurants at popular tourist spots. You’ll need cash to make purchases everywhere else.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, use your debit card.
Do taxis in Nigeria accept credit cards?
No, but you can try calling an Uber and paying with a credit card through the app.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Nigeria?
Nigeria is known for credit card fraud, which is why it was blacklisted by Amex for so long. Follow these tips to improve your credit card safety:
- Protect your PIN. Don’t write your PIN down anywhere. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and onlookers.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found in banks, shopping centres and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. Credit card fraud is a massive problem in Nigeria. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft are common in areas frequented by tourists. Take extra care when venturing out after dark and always keep a close eye on your wallet or purse when on the streets or on public transportation in larger cities.
How to prepare before travelling to Nigeria
- Carry at least two credit cards. Although credit card use is rather limited in Nigeria, it’s still a good idea to take at least two credit cards with you, with both cards being either a Visa or a Mastercard. It’s best to leave your Amex at home in Canada.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in Nigeria, it will have an excellent reason to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans before you go overseas.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. Since cash in king in Nigeria, you’ll need it on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash in order to avoid the cash advance interest rate that comes with using a credit card. You can also exchange Canadian dollars for the local currency, naira.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for Nigeria:
- Which cards should I take? Although credit cards aren’t commonly used, it’s still a good idea to travel with at least two Mastercard or Visa branded credit cards.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with a blocked card, inform your bank before you head to Nigeria.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Where will I get money from? Cash is king in Nigeria, so make sure you have it on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – avoid using your credit card unless it’s an emergency. You can also convert Canadian dollars to naira at the airport or at a currency exchange kiosk.
Using a credit card in …
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