EcoCash, stop prompting people to check their USD balances and charging them 10c when they do

Leonard Sengere Avatar

Imagine this: you’re sitting at your desk at work, half concentrating on the job at hand as your mind is preoccupied by the lack of zeros in your bank account. Your account with the National Mattress Bank is overdrawn and non-stop reminders from creditors have led you to temporarily uninstall WhatsApp.

As this is going on, you hear a ding, which tells you that it is a text message. You know when it’s a proper SMS it is likely from Econet, very few of your contacts still send those. You exhale. ‘What does Strive want this time?’ – you mutter, as you pick up the phone.

It is from EcoCash, you realise. Your eyes light up in anticipation. You click on the message and it reads:

Dear Customer. Please note you have money in your EcoCash USD wallet…

Oh, snap. You have money that you had forgotten about. The heavens have smiled on you.

You jump out of your seat and head to the restroom, I mean, you can’t have people snooping in and seeing that your balance is $10,000. They are all in the same boat you are and they would line up to borrow a couple of bucks from you.

In the privacy of a stall, you hit *151# and input your PIN with a grin on your face. You get a response…

You have 37c in your wallet

What the heck? Okay, is EcoCash pranking you at this point? – you wonder. That’s the money in my wallet that warranted a message reminding me that I have money? You start to fume as you go back to read the full message EcoCash sent.

Dear Customer. Please note you have money in your EcoCash USD wallet. To check your USD balance dial *151*6*2*2#. EcoCash charges apply.

Oh, now you’re mad. So, EcoCash actively invited you to check your balance, when their system knew you only had 37c and on top of that, they charged you for it? That can’t be right! – you think.

It can’t be right indeed and yet here we are. Many of us have received those messages and many thought there had been some windfall their way that would warrant EcoCash telling them to check their balances. Only to find they were still broke. In fact, they were worse off after Econet had taken its balance enquiry fee.

Bad EcoCash, bad

This feels like a fundraising strategy for EcoCash. ‘Let’s get all these suckers to check their balances and collect 10c from each and every one of them.’

We had a member of our team confirm this. They had 49c in their wallet and after checking the balance as EcoCash encouraged, they were down to 39c.

EcoCash has millions of subscribers and even if just 500,000 did check their balances after getting the message above, EcoCash made a cool US$50,000 from it. That’s decent money, even for Econet.

Why these messages?

The way it has worked is that we only get messages regarding our accounts when something has changed. This applies to bank accounts and other mobile wallets. When we have received money and when money has been taken from our accounts is when we get updates.

Not this random, ‘please check your balance’ kind of message. If it was free to check our balances, then it would be annoying but understandable. EcoCash would just be trying to get us to transact, which is how they make their money.

So, you can imagine that many people did check their balances, thinking there was something to the message. ‘After all, why would EcoCash tell me to check my balance if nothing had happened with my account since my last transaction?’

Fees and charges information

While we are on this. EcoCash needs to be more transparent with its fees and charges. It is not easy to find that information for some reason.

You won’t find out how much they charge to check the balance on the EcoCash USD tariffs and limits page.

You could go to the EcoCash terms and conditions, as I did, but under the Fees and Charges section, they will tell you to go to an Econet website which is not loading for some reason.

The other option is to call customer care. That is hardly an option if you’ve dealt with EcoCash customer care before.

As I type this, I have been trying to get an answer for the past one and a half hours. I’ve gotten to speak to a number of people over there but the network keeps dropping the calls before they go through their rehearsed greeting messages and other pleasantries.

I had to be rude and just blurt out the question in the end and was told the charge was 70c, or at least that it used to be, but they were not sure. I assured them that it was not 70c and they said they would call me back after they confirmed that. I’m still waiting for that callback.

So, you get a message that says you have money in your EcoCash wallet but charges will apply if you check the balance. You decide to check how much would be charged and 90 minutes later you still don’t know. It is almost as if they don’t want you to know.

This can’t be right. EcoCash needs to do better.

Please stop it EcoCash

I understand that you may want to encourage users to transact so that you can make money off the balances just sitting on those accounts. However, if you are going to encourage and prompt users to check their balances, you better not charge them when they do.

If you can’t do that, then please, stop sending those messages. We know to check the last messages we got when we last transacted to find out what our balances are. So, we don’t need the confusion that comes when you tell us we have money in our wallets.

We didn’t even touch on how 10c is too much for just a balance enquiry. That’s a different topic for a different day.

Also read:

Econet, EcoCash looking to raise US$30.3 million each to pay back debt, hence the rights offers

EcoCash USD debit card 2.0. It does online payments now


  1. Isaac

    πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ man, you should do a skit about this.

    1. Why so poor bro?

      I can see it now! Fade into opening shot as you are trying to negotiate kombi fee and getting laughed at as you are left eating dust. Low shot as you start walking. Second shot is in a shop looking at deli pies, then colcom pies, then jiggies and seeing what’s in your wallet won’t cover it. “Sigh…”. Go outside and get a tiny banana! Suddenly text comes in and you start day dreaming of ride hailing, pizzas and data! Dramatic upbeat music swells in the background! Truck in shot of you dialing the code excitedly… Switch to close-up of the face as it goes from excited anticipation to angry realisation. Music stops. The only spoken line is then said… “Sh*t!”
      Fade to black

      I swear this isn’t based on a true story πŸ™ˆ

      1. Leonard Sengere

        🀣🀣🀣 There’s no way this could be based on a true story. We believe it πŸ˜‚.

        But you should should shoot it my friend and we can share the video you come up with. It’s all love.

    2. Leonard Sengere

      A skit would have done it good for sure πŸ˜‚

  2. Nai

    I fell for it once was really hurt πŸ€•πŸ€•

    1. Why so poor bro?

      I fell for it right after I activated the US wallet. There was no money so the USSD told me to go jumpπŸ˜‚

    2. Leonard Sengere

      The message is designed to make you believe there is a reason you should check.

      1. Robert

        Fees for Balance Enquiries On MPESA were outlawed by the regulators in Kenya. Why are our regulators not as efficient?

  3. Why so poor bro?

    There’s also the “You have not received funds from the diaspora via EcoCash in a while.” text to shame me into shaming my relatives into sending me moneyπŸ˜‚
    At least this one is tied to a promo😁

    1. Leonard Sengere

      So what do they expect you to do with that message? I would have to agree it’s so you harass your family in the diaspora to send you money.

  4. Tmars

    Haa chimbavha chiripachena…as for me since I just became curious when I received their msg bt sensed the danger….

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Kunyangirana padhorobha πŸ˜‚

  5. Michael Souris

    They’ve taken a leaf out of zpo’s “how to rip off Jane & Joe Public! Not unexpected, but I’ll soon be shot of it all, so don’t really care anymore. Had enough of Zimbabwe, its rip-offs, zpf, and that things simply don’t work!

  6. Leonard Sengere

    You’ve decided to leave us to boil in the teapot nation? Where are you going Michael?

  7. Kaffirson

    Ecocash subscribers if it were in a normal country would take class action against thieving cooperation that is stealing our hard earned money but unfortunately everyone from the first family and businesses arethiefs.

  8. Q

    Mupambempfumi ndiani msnje,?

  9. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

    What happens when you have less than 10c left?

    It’s the regulators that have let us down. You have a right to know how much money you have and shouldn’t be charged for it. Sadly, mobile money operators and banks do this.

  10. martin

    ecocash USD is a good and reliable service but on reminding about balances it causes pandemonium

  11. TheDon

    If the message is intended for people who have not seen their notifications itvmay be helpful.

    1. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      If they are missing their notifications, they should also miss that notification.

  12. The Empress

    It’s a Zimbabwean disease/problem. Take a well thought out beneficial and mature system and then tweak it in such a way that it can be used to take advantage of people!
    Econet is quite diabolical because it costs them less than 10% of 1 cent to send out a 1000 of these booby trapped sms’s the profits are quite large

  13. Banga Tichaona

    Ummmm kungorega zveEconet ndkuzvpedza chet ini even Whastapp l changed to Netone accont ecocash also not using it kkk

  14. Anonymous


  15. Onwell Masaraure

    Kushandisa econet ingori nhamo zvayo. What a bad service provider.

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