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Absa: bank with WhatsApp

Cool factor 5/5
Usability 4/5
Value for money 4/5

While every Twitter user and their mother has had something to say about the new Absa logo, the bank has quietly rolled out something much more cool and innovative: WhatsApp-based banking.

This feature officially launches on August 1, so full details haven’t yet been released.

But news broke about it at a recent press event, and the service is already up and running.

It’s definitely a first for SA, with some news outlets reporting it as a global first. WhatsApp does, however, have a digital payments and banking service (WhatsApp Pay) that is being tried out in India.

Either way, it’s clear that the newly unbundled Absa intends to put digital and social front and centre in its strategy — which can only be a good thing.

Obviously, you’ll need to have the free WhatsApp app installed on your smartphone, and the Absa mobile app installed and activated. The latter is a crucial part of the bank’s verification system. Then, add 0860-008-600 to your contacts so as to start texting directly with the bank.

When you first open a chat with Absa, you’ll get a WhatsApp Business notification that confirms it as a verified business account, offering extra peace of mind that you’re engaging with the right number. Typing "info" into the chat will prompt an auto-response with more info about the ChatBanking service.

For now, Absa’s WhatsApp banking is limited to basic transactions and queries, but it is still handy to get help using a communication tool you’re probably already using and with which you are familiar.

You’ll be able to request account balances, make payments and transfers, view and redeem Absa rewards, and buy airtime, data and electricity via the chat. You won’t be able to add new beneficiaries via WhatsApp, for security reasons.

Another local company that offers limited support over the popular texting app is FlySafair (+27-76-958-5303).

A handful of local restaurants have also begun to offer WhatsApp-based reservations.

Millennials have a reputation for being averse to phone calls, with a strong preference for text-based communication. Personally, I think anything that circumvents the frustration of your average call-centre conversation is a win.