Digital payment wallets in South Africa – how they work and which banks support them

With the local launch of Apple Pay at the end of March 2021, South African banking customers now have wide selection of digital payment wallets to choose from.

The service is the fourth device-based payment app to go live in the country, following Samsung Pay, Fitbit Pay, and Garmin Pay.

These wallets allow users to load their bank or loyalty cards to an app on a smart device – such as a smartphone, tablet, or smart watch – which they can then use to make contactless payments.

It uses the NFC technology of a device to support tap and go at payment terminals – similar to how contactless bank cards can process payments.

Given that South African banks recently reported that the majority of their payment terminals now offer NFC, the functionality will likely work at most retailers.

These payments wallets can therefore provide great convenience by allowing bank customers to leave their wallets at home when they go the shops or have to pay for transport on services like the Gautrain.

In addition, they offer robust security, with the user required to provide a PIN, pattern, fingerprint, or facial ID scan before the payment can be processed.

Samsung Pay Image

Apple Pay allows iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and MacBook users to make payments with their device. 

For the time being, this digital wallet is limited to Absa, Discovery Bank, and Nedbank.

Its primary rival in South Africa is Samsung Pay, which has been around since August 2018.

The latter is now supported by all of the major South African banks – with the exception of Capitec – and allows users to make payments with many Galaxy smartphones or smartwatches.

The service surpassed two million transactions in South Africa in April 2020.

This is not surprising, given that Samsung leads smartphone sales in South Africa, and Samsung Pay is supported on a variety of the company’s mid-range smartphones.

Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay are limited to smartwatches, accessories which fewer consumer can afford in South Africa.

Garmin Pay

The other major international digital payment wallet which remains to be supported by any bank in South Africa is Google Pay.

This service allows Android-based devices capable of running Android version 5.0 (Lollipop) or greater to perform tap and go payments.

Given the popularity of Android as an operating system on mobile devices in South Africa, it could see significant uptake.

Unfortunately, according to the latest update from South African banks, there are no set dates for its launch in the country.

The table below shows the digital wallets available in South Africa, which banks support them, and what device you will require to use the payment feature.

Digital payment wallets Supported banks Devices
Apple Pay Absa
Discovery Bank
All iPhone models with Face ID or Touch ID, except iPhone 5s
All iPads with Face ID or Touch ID
All Apple watches
Fitbit Pay Absa
Discovery Bank
RMB Private Bank
Charge 3 Special Edition
Charge 4
Versa Special Edition
Versa 2
Versa 3
Garmin Pay Absa
Discovery Bank
RMB Private Bank
Standard Bank
Vivoactive 3
Vivoactive 3 Music
Vivoactive 4s
Vivoactive 4
Vivomove Style
Vivomove Luxe
Legacy Saga Series
Legacy Hero Series
Approach S62
Forerunner 645
Forerunner 645 Music
Forerunner 945
Fenix 5S Plus
Fenix 5 Plus
Fenix 5X Plus
Fenix 6S/6
Fenix 6 Pro Series
Fenix 6X Pro Solar
Fenix 6 Sapphire Series
MARQ Athlete
MARQ Aviator
MARQ Captain
MARQ Adventurer
MARQ Driver
MARQ Commander
Samsung Pay Absa
Discovery Bank
Standard Bank
RMB Private Bank
Virgin Money
Galaxy S21 series
Galaxy Fold and Z Fold2
Galaxy Z FlipGalaxy Note 20 series
Galaxy S20 series
Galaxy Note 10 series (including Lite)Galaxy Note 9
Galaxy S9+ and S9
Galaxy Note 8
Galaxy S8+ and S8
Galaxy S7 Edge and S7
Galaxy A9
Galaxy A80
Galaxy A8
Galaxy A72
Galaxy A71
Galaxy A70
Galaxy A7 (2017)
Galaxy A52 LTE and A52 5G
Galaxy A51
Galaxy A5 (2017)
Galaxy A32 LTE and A32 5G
Galaxy A31
Galaxy A30s
Galaxy Watch 3
Galaxy Watch
Galaxy Watch Active
Galaxy Watch Active2
Galaxy Gear S3
Galaxy Gear Sport

Other payment apps and features

It is important to distinguish these services from other Tap to Pay and Scan to Pay apps provided by banks and other providers which are typically software and not hardware based.

Absa, FNB, Nedbank, Standard Bank, and others offer various of their own Tap to Pay features within their banking apps.

Scan to Pay, meanwhile, lets users point their cameras at a QR code to complete a payment.

This is supported natively in a number of banking apps as well as by third-party apps like Snapscan and Zapper.

Huawei Pay also uses Scan to Pay rather than Tap To Pay and requires a merchant to support Zapper.

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Digital payment wallets in South Africa – how they work and which banks support them