FNB launches contactless payments from your phone


Hot on the heels of its announcement last week that all new cards issued will support “contactless” payments, FNB has become the first South African bank to introduce the same technology into its banking app.

In much the same way as overseas shoppers can tap-and-go at in-store payment terminals using Apple Pay or Samsung Pay from their handsets, customers of FNB can now use the banking app from their smartphone handsets.

The facility is part of the fifth version of its mobile banking app, which is being pushed out via updates today.

The service is, imaginatively, FNB Pay. Just as with contactless cards, transactions under R200 will not require a PIN. The system is fully EMV compatible, so should work with any contactless payment terminal anywhere in the world.

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Payments are authenticated just by unlocking the phone, cards that are already associated with your account can be allocated to the NFC system from within the app. Unlike some systems you don’t have to take a photograph of the card to use it.

Apple Pay, the best known NFC phone payment mechanism, has struggled in the US. Pymnts.com recently surveyed customers and found that one in three people who have tried Apple Pay to tap their iPhone on a reader wouldn’t do it again, and only one in 20 people who could use Apple Pay actually do.

Celliers says that he thinks South Africa will be different because tap-and-go cards haven’t taken off here yet.

“What we are after is the ability to get the contactless experience on the phone before it becomes entrenched on plastic.”

As the infrastructure for using phones and cards to make contactless payments is the same, however, he does expect contactless plastic payments to increase too.

Celliers is dismissive of existing mobile payment mechanisms in South Africa.

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“QR codes haven’t really made much impression in our world,” says FNB CEO Jacques Celliers, “With contactless we’ll get much more uptake more faster.”

About one third of FNB point of sale terminals are currently compatible with contactless, some 40 000, and the bank expects to have updated most remaining readers within a year.

Other updates to the app include fingerprint recognition for logging in and a new “Secure Chat” facility for contacting the call centre via text, rich media or a voice call. FNB is also beefing up security: new in-app notifications called Smart inContact will replace SMS notifications for OTPs etc, and allow customer to reject transactions that appear to be fraudulent. Even better, if you’re overseas and your card doesn’t want to make payments you can confirm genuine transactions within the app too.

According to Raj Makanjee, the CEO of FNB Premium, the bank currently sends over 1.5 billion SMS notifications per year. Makanjee says that the combination of Secure Chat and Smart inContact will see the app become the primary point of contact, “the passport and entry point”, between customers and FNB.

At present, says Makanjee, the Chat feature is available for Premier and Wealth customers, but will be introduced for all customers as time goes by.

FNB is also launching a new watch app, and offering customers a 40% discount on smartwatches purchased through its eBucks store.

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Last week we asked ABSA why it wasn’t supporting NFC payments yet, and it responded that there weren’t enough enabled payment terminals in the market to make it worthwhile. FNB thinks there is, who’s right?

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