Why you need a physical card to use a bank account

People around the world are slowly moving away from cash-based payments to electronic options, including credit cards and mobile payment apps.

However, it can be argued that these cards are also unnecessary in certain cases thanks to third-party and native banking payment app payments.

This could negate the need to carry around a bank card, along with the need for banks to supply customers with cards when opening new accounts.

Local banks often require customers to link a physical bank card to their bank account for it to work, even if they do not plan to use the card.

Physical bank cards become inseparable from their linked bank accounts, and an expired card can impact banking services in certain scenarios.

To find out why users are required to have a bank card, MyBroadband asked major South African banks about their account rules.


FNB logo

FNB told MyBroadband that customers are able to open a bank account without a linked card, but it strongly discourages this practice.

“FNB provides customers with a range of bank account options, from eWallet Xtra to a fully-fledged cheque account that cater for a diverse range of customer needs,” FNB said.

“Customers are able to opt out of a card, however this is discouraged for the very reason that card payments are accepted universally and provide a convenient, secure, cost effective alternative to cash.”

“In addition, bank cards enable a number of other important functions that benefit the customer, such as interbank ATM cash withdrawals, secure digital banking channel registration, and authentication.”

FNB customers can open accounts via the bank’s digital channels and receive their linked card via courier delivery, and they also have access to the bank’s digital payment mechanisms such as Scan to Pay.

The bank said that as the acceptance of digital payments grows, it will introduce new digital capabilities which further reduce the reliance on a physical card.


Absa logo

Absa issues bank cards with all transactional accounts due to the high demand for bank card payments in South Africa.

“Currently, cards are issued with all Absa transactional accounts,” said Absa Head of Card Issuing Tshipi Alexander.

“Absa regularly reviews its offerings in line with customer insights and feedback – resultantly the proliferation and demand for cards in the South African market remains, and will continue to remain, compelling,” Alexander said.

He added that catering to the needs of the bank’s customer base, Absa supports Samsung Pay which allows users to pay without a physical bank card.

“However the reason why we issue cards to customers is to ensure that they are able to access their funds and perform their day-to-day banking across point of sale, ATM, and online platforms.”

Alexander noted that while digital payment methods are gaining momentum globally, acceptance levels are not as mature as traditional bank cards – and vary from country to country.

“It is important to note that cards are still the primary mechanism for ATM cash withdrawals and similarly ‘lives’ side-by-side with products such as CashSend, Absa’s electronic money transfer facility,” he said.

“Virtual cards are also on the increase and will certainly grow in usage over time.”


Nedbank logo

Nedbank card issuing and payments executive Chris Wood said that customers can open a MobiMoney transactional account without needing a physical bank card.

Additionally, traditional accounts are linked to physical cheque cards which are instantly digitised inside the Nedbank MoneyApp for Scan to Pay transactions.

“The concept of a transactional account has very little to do with the actual plastic card, and everything to do with the customer’s need for convenient, secure, and instant payment mechanisms,” Wood told MyBroadband.

“For us at Nedbank, this understanding has always underpinned the design and delivery of all our payments channels.”

He said that Nedbank’s goal is to ensure that consumers have access to a vast and diverse payments ecosystem wherever they are in the world, from which they can select the methods that best suit their unique needs and preferences.

“The digitisation of payments is accelerating at an eye-watering pace, which, in all likelihood, means that the days of plastic cards may be numbered,” Wood added.

“For developed markets, that has meant an increase in NFC mobile or contactless card payments. However, in the emerging markets there has been an increase in the use of QR codes to make payments.”

“The flexibility of the QR code market has increased and this technology is set to remain popular for some time,” he said.

Standard Bank

MyBroadband reached out to Standard Bank for comment, but the bank did not respond.

Now read: International bank transfers from South Africa can cost R870 – This is why

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Why you need a physical card to use a bank account