5 things you don’t know about Nigerian ATMs

Just a few years ago, we practically begged people to use ATMs instead of queuing up at the banking counters but at least that has changed. But then the change came with friends, family and other random people asking me random questions why they can’t brew a nice cup of coffee at the ATM.
Some of the oddities are explained here.

#1 Why doesn’t the ATM retract cash?
If you forget to take your cash abroad (places where the snow falls in January) the ATM simply takes it back and then reverses the amount. Sounds convenient and nifty for forgetful souls like me.

Why doesn’t it do that in Nigeria?

Well, it started that way until some dudes figured out that they could take out a bit of the cash and trick the ATM to withdraw everything back, crediting the full amount.

Warri no dey carry last!

#2 Why doesn’t the ATM accept cash?
I remember walking into a NatWest Bank when I was in school and feeling funky with myself, deposited some scraggy notes into the ATM instead of bothering with the dour looking cashier. It went smoothly and I got my credit almost immediately.

Some random banks tried it in Nigeria but the experiment reminded me of Icarus. Icarus thought he could fly, strapped on some wings and jumped. It was his last jump.

Cash accepting ATMs have to count the cash, scan the notes and determine the currency by staring at it. Unfortunately, the cash notes in Nigeria have been to more places than I could safely describe on the Internet without getting my HR to invite me for a serious conversation. NSFW!

The ATMs choked on the cash and the experiments went south. Simply put, we mangle our cash in Nigeria and no ATM made of man has been able to overcome that. A few banks are still struggling with these devices, but I know as long as we still roll up our notes, write things on them like jotters or stuff them inside sostén then cash accepting ATMs will never work.

#3 Why do I have to input my PIN for another transaction even when I haven’t removed my card?
There is something funny that happens in countries like Nigeria where you need lots of notes from the ATMs for even the simplest purchase. In the US, usually maximum withdrawal is $300 and nobody apart from Nigerians take that much cash.

Equivalent of that amount here is N84,000, that depends on who you ask though. Since ATM cannot just open its guts for you to point and select your cash, it can only push out at most 40 notes. So an average transaction in Nigeria needs multiple withdrawals.

What if you forget your card and it doesn’t require PIN for the next transactions? Actually that’s the way it was and suddenly forgetful people, who have taken their cash and gone, are separated from the rest of the money in their accounts by the next dude on the queue.

Their wailing and gnashing of teeth made banks to reconfigure the terminals. The wailing stopped but not the gnashing of teeth.

#4 Why does the ATM have blue background and yellow text by default?
The engineers who configured the first set of ATMs in Nigeria have no taste. Next!

Fortunately some banks have since seen the light and have gone on to do graphical interface designs. Nothing impressive at this time though. One of these days when I have less to do, I may wander around comparing screens.

#5 Who is the girl that talks on the ATM?
I don’t know her! I swear, she ain’t my cousin.

While she loves to say “Thank you for banking with us”, I know she’s saying exactly the same at other banks; she’s probably promiscuous and has no loyalty.

Nota Bene
You can ask me other random question on anything you want to know about ATMs and I will do my best to answer them. I’m not an expert so don’t scream blue murder if I try to pull the wool over your eyes.