Updated: Mobile payments in Australia: state of the banks

CommBank, Westpac, CUA and Bendigo enable smartphone transactions

Updated 16 December 2014: Major Australian banks have made mobile payments a priority tech initiative and are in various stages of rolling out technology that lets customers pay with smartphones.

Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, Credit Union Australia (CUA) and Bendigo Bank have released mobile payments apps, while ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank (NAB) say they are planning to make their own moves soon.

Except for Bendigo, mobile payments in Australia are largely based on near-field communications (NFC) technology, which can be embedded either inside a smartphone or a smart sticker that can be attached to the phone. NFC is included in many major Android, Windows and BlackBerry phones.

A long-time holdout, Apple finally included NFC in the iPhone 6 – however, it has tied the technology tightly to its new Apple Pay service, which has not yet been released in Australia.

Mobile payments is an increasingly competitive space, with not just banks but also telcos, tech companies and credit card companies all developing mobile digital wallet services.

In this feature, which will be updated as the situation develops, Computerworld Australia takes a look at the status of NFC rollouts at top Australian banks.

Commonwealth Bank

CommBank was the fastest mover on NFC, but the bank still only supports embedded NFC payments on the Samsung Galaxy S4. According to an update in September, the bank is working on support for the Galaxy S5 but can’t commit to a release date.

For devices other than the Galaxy S4 – including phones with Apple, Android and Windows – the bank offers PayTag stickers that users can attach to their smartphones.

Customers can make contactless mobile payments of up to $100. The smart stickers cost $2.99.

An update in April 2014 added the ability to from 3000 of the bank’s ATMs.

Former CommBank CIO Michael Harte said the bank’s foray into NFC will “deliver a whole new level of trust and convenience to the way consumers make mobile payments and manage their everyday mobile banking”.

Westpac

Westpac rolled out mobile payments in 2014 through a partnership with Visa. The mobile payments service uses NFC chips embedded in Android smartphones and supports Samsung Galaxy S5, S4 and Note 3.

Users can store all of their Westpac debit and credit cards – Visa, MasterCard and American Express – in the existing Westpac banking app. However, cards from other banks are not permitted.

Unlike CommBank, Westpac rejected the idea of using smart stickers for phones not supporting NFC. "Westpac has trialled the use of stickers for mobile payments but has decided not to roll them out to customers,” Westpac chief product officer David Lindberg said in December 2013.

“Westpac continues to support all handset providers and will be excited to support them when they do develop payment solutions for their phones in the future.”

In September 2014, Lindberg said in a statement that Westpac hoped to support iOS devices in the future.

“At this stage, the Apple solution is US-only and we look forward to working with Apple to open up the solution to our mobile banking application in the same way they have opened up the Touch ID fingerprint security in iOS8.”

St George Bank

Westpac subsidiary St George Bank has plans to support near-field communications (NFC) payments in the future. CIO Dhiren Kulkarni has said the functionality rolled out by Westpac will be extended to St George.

In the future, St George wants to enable mobile payments using a smartwatch equipped with a secured NFC element, Kulkarni said. The bank already has a banking app for smartwatches for viewing balances and locating ATMs.

“What we find is people don’t want to take anything out of their pocket now ... If they could pay through their smartwatch, then they would do that,” the CIO said.

Also, St George is conducting trials on Google Glass and hopes to have an app ready whenever Google decides to launch, he said.

ANZ Bank

ANZ announced an NFC pilot for Android devices back in October 2012. The trial began with 25 ANZ employees.

Following two years of trials, the bank will be launching its mobile wallet offering in early 2015. The mobile wallet uses NFC technology to provide customers with a contactless mobile phone payments system.

Customers will be able to add multiple ANZ cards on their phone and make payments by tapping the phone on a contactless terminal.

Like CommBank and Westpac, ANZ has also announced a service to withdraw cash from ATMs using a smartphone. It is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2015.

Next page: NAB, Bendigo, Suncorp and CUA

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