Friday, 14 November 2014 09:53

Yes: Optus cashes in on cashless NFC mobile payments Featured

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Promising to make your smartphone even smarter, Optus is the first Aussie telco to launch a mobile payments app known as ‘Cash by Optus’

Beating Telstra to the cashless mobile app payments punch is the Singtel-owned Optus, in collaboration with Visa and Heritage Bank.

Called Cash by Optus, https://cash.optus.com.au which made my brain think of potential name mashups like Cashtus, CashOp (at it surely is an op for Optus to make a lotta cash through what will eventually be millions of transactions), Optush, Opcash and Cashus (as in cash us in), it’s kind of a catchy name.

As an NFC-powered contactless payment app working on one of 20 compatible Android-handsets (and requiring an ‘NFC enabled SIM’, according to Optus, which it says it will send to you on request), it lets you use your smartphone like a contactless Visa debit card to pay for goods and services instead of cash, and without needing to carry plastic debit and credit cards around.

NFC is ’Near Field Communications’ and it is paired with Visa’s ‘payWave technology’ that has replaced cash purchases below $100 for many Visa payWave users, so Cash By Optus makes it easy for users to ‘pay for small purchases like lunch, petrol and groceries using their smartphones.’

Ben White, the Optus VP of Mobile Marketing remarked that: “There are already nearly one million Optus postpaid customers with compatible devices who could download this app, get the SIM and make purchases using Cash by Optus.”

“We’re the first Australian telco to launch a mobile payments app, and because it’s compatible with many of the latest Android devices and can be linked to any Australian bank account, we’ve got a huge opportunity to bring this technology to a lot of people.”

As noted above, Cash by Optus works just like a Visa Prepaid debit card.

You’re able to load ‘up to $500 at any one time and make contactless purchases under $100 at any of the hundreds of thousands of retailers that accept Visa payWave.’

There is a tiny catch - you’ll need to be an Optus postpaid mobile account holder, so pre-paid customers can’t cash in on Cash by Optus as yet.

You’ll also need one of more than 20 existing and popular Android smartphones with NFC capabilities (you can check to see if your Android is compatible at the Cash by Optus site here), and as mentioned above, you’ll need an ‘NFC Enabled SIM’ which Optus will send to you free of charge on request. You’ll also need to download the free Cash by Optus app from the Google Play Store as per usual with Android apps.

The site linked just above has a great series of images showing how it works, although as you'll see, it is very, very easy to use. 

There’s even a ‘sweet little bonus’ as Optus calls it that it is advertising on its ‘Cash by Optus’ site, where Optus will ‘give you $15 to get you started on Cash by Optus as long as you are one of the first 10,000 customers to register before 15 December 2014.’

Optus has helpfully provided a quick and kinda obvious comparison between using ‘Cash by Optus’ vs ‘Traditional, actual cash’.

These are:

- No need to carry heavy change in your wallet or pocket
- No need to worry about losing your cash
- No need to waste time at the checkout, just ‘wave and go’ in seconds
- No need to have an account with a specific bank
- No need to go to the ATM to withdraw small amounts of cash

Optus’ Ben White adds that: “As technology and communications converge, Cash by Optus is a natural evolution for Optus. This is our first step towards launching future contactless applications in areas like public transport. Australians never leave home without their mobiles, so it makes sense to build this technology into smartphones now”.

Of course, as a payWave enabled solution, using Cash by Optus can save you time for purchases under $100. As it is contactless, you can pay and go - no fumbling for cash, wallets, coins, cards, pin numbers or anything else - just your phone which is either already in your hand or easily accessible in your pocket.

Optus and Visa note contactless payments can be three times faster than paying with cash, and note that Aussies are ‘leading the world for contactless payments with over 64 million Visa payWave transactions in September 2014’, with ‘more than (55%) of face-to-face Visa transactions in Australia are made using Visa payWave’.

George Lawson, Visa’s Head of Emerging Products and Innovation said “Australians are clearly choosing more convenient ways to pay. The rapid growth of contactless payments in Australia has set the right conditions to enable a mass shift to mobile payments. We’re excited to support Optus in its drive to provide a simple mobile payment experience for its customers.”

Not only is Visa’s payWave tech backed by ‘some of the most widely adopted cryptographic security’, you won’t need to worry if you lose your phone.

Just give Optus a call - presumably using someone else’s phone or a home phone or any phone - and Optus can close you Cash by Optus account and you can request your balance to be returned. Optus says that ‘you can also cancel your account at any time or dispute transactions if you don’t recognise them.’

Heritage Bank is Optus’ banking partner, and even though I’ve personally never heard of it before, Optus says it is ‘known for its expertise in prepaid cards. Heritage is responsible for the banking aspect of Cash by Optus, drawing on its extensive experience in this area.’

John Minz, CEO Heritage Bank, said, “We’re delighted to have the opportunity to partner with Optus and Visa to make the Cash by Optus facility a reality. Heritage Bank is a relatively small financial institution, but we’re already recognised for our ability to deliver really creative and effective payment solutions for our corporate partners, particularly in the area of prepaid transactions.”

“The launch of Cash by Optus now also establishes Heritage as a leader in mobile payments. Our specialist expertise in this emerging area of payments reinforces our position as an enabler of innovative new services that the customers of leading Australian companies are seeking.”

To wrap up, Cash by Optus lets you check your remaining balance in real time with your phone’s Internet connection or Wi-Fi, you can see a detailed transaction history, which as Optus states is ‘great for people who like to keep track of purchases for security and budgeting’.

You can filter and review your transaction history by date, report a fault through the app and request a call back from the support team.

You can use the app without opening it on your phone, and incredibly, on most phones, it works even if the battery is flat!

You don’t have to worry about accidental payments – Optus says ‘you need to hold your mobile within four centimetres of the contactless terminal.’

You also don’t have to ‘worry about obvious cash branding on your phone. There’s no sticker to let people know that the phone has the app which is great for security,’ which is presumably Optus having a dig at banks that do provide stickers for your phone.

And, if you want to buy stuff online or over the phone using your virtual card, you can make purchases up to $250, as opposed to the $100 maximum when you use the Cash by Optus system in person in store.

More information is at the Cash by Optus site here.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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