South African banks told MyBroadband they are eager to support more smartphone payment wallets when these become available in the region.
Currently, South African banking users are able to use a number of contactless payment methods.
Tap-and-go is offered on multiple cards, and there are also several scan-to-pay options available for users who prefer to use their smartphone for payments.
Banking apps, Zapper, and Snapscan allow customers to link their cards and make payments with their smartphone by opening the relevant app and scanning a QR code at checkout.
These services aren’t as widely supported by retailers as the contactless payment terminals which support NFC transactions, though.
When it comes to tap-and-go payments with a smartphone, Samsung Pay is the only mobile wallet from a major smartphone manufacturer currently supported in South Africa.
Various cards from South African banks are compatible with the app – including ones from Absa, FNB, Standard Bank, Nedbank, Discovery Bank, and Investec.
Apple Pay and Google Pay
Apple and Google offer their own “Pay” services too, but these are not yet available in South Africa.
To find out whether Apple Pay and Google Pay are arriving soon in the country, we asked the two companies what the status of their rollout plans were.
Google South Africa said it was unable to comment on plans to bring Google Pay to the country, and Apple did not provide comment by the time of publication.
We also asked local banks what their plans were for these payment wallets and when South Africans could expect support to be available.
Absa Managing Executive for Everyday Banking Cowyk Fox said the bank’s adoption of wallet solutions is guided by the capabilities a product offers, as well as the potential for market adoption.
“Our digital payment innovation framework considers many customer-centric principles, which represents the whole customer payment value chain – consumer, platform, bank, or merchant,” Fox stated.
“Importantly, it is up to the likes of Apple, Google, and other technology companies to prioritise South Africa as a rollout country – this is a necessary precursor to Absa adopting and integrating these technologies,” Fox said.
“Absa will review these technologies as and when they are released to the market. We will inform customers of the availability accordingly,” he said.
He explained the process involved with adding support for a digital wallet starts with the bank developing and providing an application programming interface (API) to support integration facilitated by the major schemes – such as Visa or Mastercard – with the respective wallet.
“The API links the wallet to the issuing bank and allows for the bank card to be loaded onto the payment wallet,” Fox said.
“Banks have very tight rules around how data is collected, transferred, and stored. To this end, any digital wallet provider must conform to data security, protection and management standards required by the issuing bank,” he added.
Fox said 15% of Absa cardholders who own Samsung smartphones have registered or transacted via Samsung Pay since its launch in August 2018.
“As the payments environment evolves and customers continue to adopt mobile technology, we anticipate that wallets will be more widely adopted and will complement the use of plastic cards.”
Head of FNB Retail Bank Payments Jason Viljoen said the bank would start providing more digital payment solutions when companies roll out support to South Africa.
He said there was a clear demand for digital payment solutions across FNB’s customer base.
“Since launching FNB Pay, support has been added for Scan to Pay, Samsung Pay, Garmin Pay, and Fitbit Pay,” Viljoen said.
All FNB and RMB Private Bank cards, with the exception of business credit cards, support FNB Pay, Samsung Pay, Garmin Pay, and Fitbit Pay.
“Across the available ‘Pays’ we saw uptake surges during their respective launch periods. Post initial launch phases, all ‘Pays’ have seen similar consistent growth as customers adopt their solution of choice,” Viljoen noted.
Standard Bank Head of Payments Digitisation Gwenaël Trotel said the bank was considering wallets from Apple, Google, and Fitbit as part of its contactless payment programme.
“The ability to pay in an interoperable manner in South Africa and overseas by doing contactless payment from your cellphone is really something that has been at the top of our priorities for years,” Trotel explained.
“As a matter of principle, when they get ready, we bring them on board. Obviously the implementation depends on their presence in the South African market.”
“We basically build the interfaces with the major schemes – Mastercard and Visa – and then after that, the biggest part of the work is done and it’s about bringing in the wallets as part of this global network that enables contactless payment,” Trotel said.
Currently, all Standard Bank’s cards issued through Mastercard are supported on Samsung Pay, and the bank is working on adding support for Visa cards.
“From a Standard perspective, whatever your device is and whatever Standard Bank card you have, we want to be sure that you are able to load your card onto your device,” Trotel said.
Nedbank’s Divisional Executive of Emerging Payments Chipo Mushwana told MyBroadband the bank was keen to enable Apple Pay and Google Pay on its cards.
She stated that Apple Pay, in particular, has recently begun to look into operating in South Africa and said that discussions were underway. However, no timelines for availability have been agreed upon at this stage.
Mushwana added that a number of issues have to be addressed before payment wallets are supported.
“We will need to ensure our client’s needs are met, understand the operational requirements and ensure commercial terms are sustainable.”
The bank offers Samsung Pay functionality for all its cards.
“We have seen positive adoption of Samsung Pay and this is indicative of the need in the market but also driven by the current global situation that has seen an acceleration in the adoption of the digital payments in general,” Mushwana said.
Discovery Bank said because it is a digital bank, it can easily adapt its systems to support Apple and Google Pay.
“As and when these features become available in South Africa, Discovery Bank will be able to roll out solutions very quickly,” the bank stated.
Discovery Bank supports Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, and Garmin Pay. It said customer feedback for these payment platforms has been “encouraging”.