Despite advancements in mobile messaging technologies, USSD Codes for banks in Nigeria continue to remain relevant to users.
USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) banking is generally regarded as a safe, convenient, and cost-effective means of accessing financial services on your phone without the use of an internet connection. It is similar to Short Message Service (SMS).
Uses of USSD
USSD is used for several purposes, including
- Mobile banking
- Network configuration and requests
- Customer update requests
- Marketing surveys
- Callback services
- Order confirmations
- Coupons and vouchers for retailers
- Processing payments
We’ll be focusing on USSD banking for this write-up.
What is USSD Banking?
Unlike banking apps that need internet access and smartphone functionality, USSD codes can work on any mobile device, including feature phones.
USSD technology has been around since the early ’90s. It was developed by the GSM Association, the trade organization behind most of the world’s cell phone standards.
USSD banking is an SMS-based mobile banking service, where a USSD shortcode is used to access financial services like transfers, bill payments, airtime recharges, etc.
USSD banking is a safe, convenient, and cost-effective means of accessing financial services on your phone without the use of an internet connection.
Because it doesn’t require internet service to function, USSD banking is available to everyone who has any kind of mobile phone, no matter how remote their location is.
This makes it particularly appealing for financial services. You don’t need a smartphone to access USSD banking.
How does USSD Banking work?
To access USSD banking, a shortcode is used to create a 2-way communication between the bank and the customer.
The replies then come in a pop-up screen with numbered menus or options to guide the user to the services that they need.
To use the USSD code for any bank transaction, you would need to activate the code on your mobile phone, using your choice phone number.
For most banks, you must have registered for a new account, or have an old bank account with them, before you can access those financial services.
You would also need to set up a 4 to 6-digit transaction PIN to authorize all transactions. This PIN would also serve as a shield to prevent impersonators or fraudsters from accessing your account.
Benefits of USSD Banking
Despite being an old technology, USSD Banking comes with loads of benefits.
This mode of mobile banking is unarguably beneficial to the user and the bank as well. Below are some of the benefits of USSD banking:
Easy Account Opening
USSD banking offers convenience and comfort at little or no extra charges. You can open an account with USSD banking without hassles, so long as your mobile phone is connected to your network provider.
You do not need long paperwork or a minimum balance to create a bank account.
No Physical Bank
Asides from periodic maintenance which may lead to service downtimes, USSD banking saves users the stress and time of visiting a physical bank location.
You don’t need to queue up at any bank to carry out transactions on your account, thereby, helping you save time for other important activities.
Unlimited Access to Financial Services
Remember when you could only access banking services from 8 to 2 pm Mondays to Fridays except for public holidays? Well, all that is over.
Whether it is to pay bills, send money, or check your account balance, you can do all that and many more with USSD banking. And at any time of the day, even on weekends.
No Internet Needed
Unlike internet banking and mobile banking which means additional costs on internet fees, USSD banking provides a no-cost means of enjoying banking services on your mobile phone. All you need is a working mobile phone and you’re good to go.
List of Nigerian Banks’ USSD Shortcodes
As a way of ensuring financial inclusion, Nigerian banks have all adopted the USSD technology to meet more customers.
With USSD codes, users can cover a myriad of transactions including interbank and intrabank transfers, paying bills, checking account balances, blocking or unblocking their ATM cards, updating BVN, etc.
With a few clicks on your phone, you can top up airtime for yourself and others using USSD codes. You can even open or deactivate your account.
The table below captures Nigerian banks and their USSD codes for seamless financial transactions.
|Stanbic IBTC Bank||*909#|
How safe are USSD codes?
Like every other technology, USSD can be prone to glitches and sometimes, hackers.
As a matter of fact, security is a well-known limitation of the USSD protocol. Since it is an older kind of technology, it is prone to cyber-attacks from hackers.
Also, in the event that your phone goes missing or gets stolen, anyone in possession of the device and who knows where to look, can take possession of your PIN and execute transactions on your behalf.
As a result, it always makes sense to protect yourself from theft or other forms of hacking.
How to protect your USSD banking from hacking
Hacking USSD and mobile money transactions is an increasingly common tactic employed by hackers and criminals.
When it comes to USSD, there are two kinds of security risks that USSD users face; the security limitations of the technology and the user-generated security risk.
The following tips will help you protect yourself from the activities of hackers.
Use a difficult transaction pin
When creating a USSD or mobile money account, you’re typically required to create a 4 or 6-digit pin to authorize transactions.
Avoid using common codes like 1234 or repeating numbers like 1111, as they are usually the first guesses of hackers trying to break into accounts.
It is also important to avoid using important dates like your birthday, as hackers might use social engineering to figure out those dates.
If given the chance between choosing a 4-digit or 6-digit pin, go for the 6-digit pin. The longer the pin, the harder it is for someone to hack it.
Protect your pin
Keep your pin close to your chest. This means, never disclose your pin to anybody, no matter how close they are to you. They might just be careless and the information will fall into the wrong hands.
Of course, anyone in possession of the pin registered to a mobile money account can legally transact with the pin. In such a case, it can be very difficult to prove to your bank and the authorities that you were actually hacked.
Download only verified apps
This applies to those who use smartphones. As earlier stated, because USSD is an old technology, it can be used across all kinds of devices and is not dependent on internet service.
However, as a smartphone user, you are advised to only download verified and safe applications from your phone’s application store.
Malicious applications may contain keyloggers that can store vital information that you type including your pin.
Create an extra layer of security
The central point of failure for most USSD-related scams is the SIM card. Most people know to put passwords on their phones but they don’t do the same for their SIM cards.
To create a pin for your SIM card for your phone, take the following steps:
- Open your phone’s settings
- Go to Security and search for SIM lock
- Click on lock SIM
- Enter the default pin to lock the sim card
- It is advisable to change the pin from the default as hackers will be aware of it, and it will be their first guess.
Also, if given the option of enabling a Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for your transactions, please take it.
Many banks, financial institutions, Government establishments, and other service providers have rapidly adopted USSD banking in the last few years, and the growth is expected to continue in the years to come.
In addition, it is regarded as a great way to save money, time, and effort when accessing your bank account whenever you need to.