A customer makes a payment with her smartphone, enabling her to avoid touching a point-of-sale device to enter her PIN. Picture: 123rf.com
A customer makes a payment with her smartphone, enabling her to avoid touching a point-of-sale device to enter her PIN. Picture: 123rf.com

The coronavirus has accelerated the adoption of onl ine shopping in SA and is nudging more of us towards contactless paying as we opt to stay out of shops and shy away from touching point-of-sale terminals.

Francois Viviers, the executive in charge of marketing and communications at Capitec, says the bank has seen a greater numbers of customers take to online shopping in recent months and that Covid-19 is driving this behaviour, with people becoming more comfortable online.

Absa has seen the
volume of tap-andgo transactions on credit cards double during the lockdown
Cowyk Fox, Managing executive of everyday banking

Jason Viljoen, the head of retail bank payments at FNB, says that as customers seek to avoid contact with point-of-sale (POS) devices, the adoption of both tap- and scan-to-pay on the FNB app has accelerated.

"Scan-to-pay on the FNB app enables the customer to scan a QR code to make secure payment without entering a PIN on the POS device. As a result, both Pick n Pay and Checkers enabled their POS devices for scan-to-pay acceptance last month."

Gwenael Trotel, the head of payment and digitisation at Standard Bank, says there has been a "massive" increase in the registration of merchants - "two and three times more than usual during the pandemic, in response to people not wanting to touch cash and PIN pads".

Absa has seen the volumes of tap-and-go transactions on credit cards double since the start of the lockdown, says Cowyk Fox, the bank's managing executive of everyday banking.

Viviers says that since October last year, all of Capitec's cards are tap-and-go enabled.

Speed and security are the main benefits of tap-and-go payments. You merely tap your card against the card reader to make payment.

There's a R500 limit per transaction, which is imposed by the Payments Association of SA and applies to all such transactions across banks. If your transaction is for more than R500, you must enter your PIN.

This is a security measure mitigating some of the risk of you suffering a big loss should your card get stolen.

Viviers says fraudsters prefer to try other means like phishing that allow them to get hold of bigger amounts. But most customers realise quickly if there's been an unauthorised transaction on their accounts because the vast majority get transaction notifications to their phones - and most people are rarely without their phones.

If you're not comfortable with tap-and-go for fear of your card being stolen or lost, Capitec customers can disable the functionality on the app, he says.

Trotel says that in many countries, contactless paying has overtaken paying with a card and PIN. But most who use tap-to-pay still use their cards rather than their phones, he says.

The use of smartphones as payment tools in SA is being driven to some extent by Samsung Pay, which has been available here for more than a year.

Trotel says that while it started out being a feature of phones in the premium segment, it is following the trend that saw cameras become standard on any smartphone.

Samsung Pay currently works on Galaxy smartphones and watches. With your bank cards loaded on a Samsung Pay-supported smartphone or watch, you pay by swiping the virtual card on your device, authenticating (either by PIN, fingerprint or iris scan) and then placing your phone or watch next to the card reader.

For additional security, tokenisation from Visa and Mastercard protects your physical card information so it is never used during the payment process but instead a unique cryptographic sequence is used for the transaction and changes for every subsequent transaction made.

Samsung Pay can be downloaded, for free, from the Google Play Store.

If you're not a Samsung user, you can still use your phone to make payments using your own bank's app if you bank with FNB or Nedbank. You can make payments via scan-to-pay technology, but instead of having to download payment apps like Zapper or SnapScan, you fire up your banking app and use it to scan the merchant's QR code.

Viviers says Capitec is building this functionality into its app and that it will be available in the next few months. Trotel says Standard Bank will also do so "in time".

Until then, Absa, Capitec and Standard Bank customers have to use an additional app - the Masterpass app - for scan-to-pay at any merchants who accept QR code payments.

Fox says Absa is phasing in a fully integrated virtual card that will offer a number of mobile payment options.

About a fortnight ago, the bank launched digitally issued cards to users of its app. This means you can now view your full debit and credit card details, including the 16-digit personal account number, CVV and expiry date, in the app.

Fox says this enables you to transact without the physical plastic card - you can use the details available in the app to enter your card details on external, e-commerce platforms.

"Customers will receive an authentication message to view the details and be able to view all cards linked to their profile. This will enable them to load and/or capture their card details and make payments from other payment apps such as Play Store, Netflix, SnapScan, Uber and Deezer. Customers can now immediately use their card for online transactions as soon as it has been issued."

Fox says if you have loaded your card virtually, on the Absa banking app or payment apps such as Zapper and SnapScan, you must ensure that your phone and payment app have been set up with different, strong passwords that are not shared with anyone.

"It is also good practice to change all virtual passwords regularly, to enhance security. If your mobile phone has been loaded with your card details, you should also ensure that at all times it remains secure and is in your possession, requiring a PIN to be unlocked.

"Remember that even though a virtual card has an added level of security - requiring a user accessing their mobile device via password and the payment app via password - it can be defrauded in the same way a physical card can if passwords are shared and if the mobile device itself is not kept secure," he says.

Later in the year, Absa will introduce a scan-to-pay feature to its app followed by tap-and-pay.

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