In April, Nigeria’s central bank barred fintechs from onboarding new customers for six weeks. In that period, two of Nigeria’s biggest fintechs—Opay and Moniepoint—slowed card distribution because the demand for cards declined, according to ten point-of-sale agents who spoke to TechCabal. 

“A lot of people [opening] new accounts also want a card that just makes them feel that (they are) completely financially included,” said an OPay executive who asked not to be named. 

Since getting a card is a natural extension of the account opening process, a customer onboarding freeze led to a decline in card demand. Opay and Moniepoint responded by reducing the number of cards dispensed to agents—the agency banking sector’s backbone.

OPay, which began offering cards in 2021, has distributed about 13 million cards, while Moniepoint has distributed around 4 million cards, one person with knowledge of Verve’s business, a card issuer for both fintechs, told TechCabal in June. 

Despite this initial explosion, card growth is slowing. It has allowed some fintechs to deprioritise cards, historically an excellent but loss-making customer acquisition strategy. 

“Moniepoint reduced the pack of cards to only five (from 30),” a card distributor told TechCabal. These distributors move cards across multiple local governments and fulfill requests from an online platform, although most of the demand is generated offline. 

While other fintechs customers apply for cards through apps, many OPay and Moniepoint customers use banking agents instead, making those agents mini bank branches. 

Although cards help customers pay online, adoption is slowing. Fintech customers feel comfortable moving around without their cards as transfer speeds improve and businesses increasingly accept bank transfers. 

“We expected it. We were very aggressive when we launched cards in 2021. Naturally, the pace at which it was growing two years ago is not the same now. It’s the law of diminishing returns,” said an OPay executive about the drop in card demand.

A combination of the growing adoption of online transfers and cards reaching maturity as customer growth maintains a steady pace has played a significant part in the drop in card demand. 

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