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How to buy recharge cards online

Updated on December 26, 2012

Recharge cards are very useful in Nigeria, country with a growing number of mobile phone users across multiple gsm networks. Recharge cards are the primary tools for topping up airtime credit to a mobile phone. In Nigeria, there are a few popular gsm networks with solid presence across the country and these are MTN, Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat. Some of them were companies which were taken over and renamed while some have remained in the business from day one. They all do produce and sell airtime credit in form of recharge cards which are paper cards bearing airtime topup PINs that come with serial numbers. When a subscriber wants to top up airtime credit to his phone's sim, he would use the 14 to 16 digit pin together with a set of other codes to make a dial using a protocol known as USSD to immediately add credit to his phone's sim.

USSD is a protocol one used to communicate with your network provider's computer in order to access a specific service automatically. So things like airtime recharge using a set of numbers that includes the airtime PIN is normally done without the need of contacting a human customer service.

In the past, when GSM services were first rolled out in Nigeria, the primary means by which subscribers normally get recharge cards was by purchasing them from local stores and vendors who sell them at a retail rate. Now with the growth of online services by banks and growing businesses, more Nigerians are going online to get services such as airtime recharging and these they get by making use of their Interswitch or Etranzact debit cards.

Things you will need

  1. Network connection e.g Internet, intranet, gprs or sms
  2. A credit/debit card (Etranzact/Interswitch/Mastercard/Visa)
  3. Online portal/Website
  4. Beneficiary phone number

Credit/Debit card

You will need a sort of payment card in order to access online products such as recharge cards which would be sent to you or made available in a virtual PIN or by Virtual Top Up(VTU). Credit cards are still relatively new in Nigeria but can still be used. Debit cards are the ATM cards you already have that are powered by Interswitch/Etranzact/Visa/Mastercard. The debit card is mostly tied to your bank account or just cash backed and you can use it to make payments online after ordering for recharge cards. Your mobile phone can also have a debit card installed on it that allows you to buy recharge cards from your bank. Banks like Access, Skye have virtual debit cards powered by Etranzact and the services are called Accessmobile and Skyemobile. Most physical cards seem to be powered by Interswitch Nigeria while virtual debit cards on your phone are mostly powerd by Etranzact.

In order to use your bank's issued cards online, you may need permission from your bank to allow it to be used for online payments apart from just ATM services. Some Visa cards also come with a separate PIN called an i-PIN which would need to be first activated before you can use it for online payments. Once your cards are able to make payments online on the trusted sites, then you can easily buy recharge cards online, over and over again.

Online portal/Website

In order to use your card to buy recharge cards online, you'd definitely need to know which platform to use it on. It has to be an online platform that is connected to your card processor and your network provider in order to provide immediate service to you when you want it. When I say online portal, it includes both ATMs and websites where you can buy recharge cards. So you can buy recharge cards online from ATMs around you as well as websites like and You can also buy airtime directly from your bank if your mobile phone already has a virtual debit card.

Beneficiary phone number

To buy recharge cards online, you also need to indicate the beneficiary's phone number i.e. the phone number that would receive the VTU or PIN you want to purchase. You would normally indicate this when making your order on the ATM, website or your mobile phone. After the order has been placed, the product would be sent to the phone number you provided as the beneficiary.

How to buy recharge cards from an ATM

  1. Insert your Card
  2. Enter your PIN
  3. Select Airtime top up or Quickteller > Airtime Top up
  4. Select the network
  5. Enter your phone number
  6. Enter the amount
  7. Confirm the details
  8. Purchase
  9. Airtime would be immediately sent to your phone and bank account would be debited

How to buy recharge cards from the website

  1. Visit the website: or
  2. Register and sign in
  3. Select the network
  4. Enter your phone number
  5. Enter the amount
  6. Enter your Debit card details
  7. Confirm the details
  8. Purchase
  9. Airtime would be immediately sent to your phone and bank account would be debited

How to buy recharge cards from your mobile phone

  1. Make sure your phone is already setup for the mobile service
  2. Open up the application
  3. Enter your memorable word if asked
  4. Select topup
  5. Select Pinless or Pin
  6. Choose the beneficiary
  7. Select the network
  8. Choose the amount
  9. Select the bank account
  10. Enter your PIN
  11. Confirm the details
  12. Send the purchase request by sms or gprs
  13. If successful, airtime would be sent to phone and your bank account debited.

Have you any experience with buying recharge cards online? Share your experience or problems here.


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    • dele_oj profile image


      5 years ago from Lagos, Nigeria

      You can buy all denominations of Nigerian recharge cards at a discount at

      The site also features a Nigerian recharge cards affiliate program and an online bulk-buying option.


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