Updated: Mobile payments in Australia: state of the banks
- 29 January, 2014 09:28
Updated 11 March 2015: 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.
CommBank was the fastest mover on NFC, but for a long time only supported embedded NFC payments on the Samsung Galaxy S4.
In March 2015, CommBank announced expanded support for Android devices with an NFC chip and running KitKat 4.4. For all other devices, including the Apple iPhone, 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 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 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
NAB is working on mobile contactless payments for iOS and Android, but has yet to announce specific details.
“Contactless payments on mobile devices represent an exciting opportunity for NAB to meet our customers’ growing and ever-changing needs,” an NAB spokesman told us.
“NAB is working towards a secure storage solution for devices so that consumers can shop online or in-store with their iOS (iPhone) or Android devices in a convenient and secure way.”
For now, NAB supports peer-to-peer payments through its Flik app, which was recently integrated into the main NAB mobile app. The bank also enables small businesses to accept payments on a mobile device.
“NAB has long recognised the importance of small business to our business and to the Australian economy — small businesses are the lifeblood of Australian communities. That is why NAB has decided to prioritise its efforts in this area on innovative ways for mobile businesses to accept payments via their smartphone.”
Suncorp has announced it will roll out contactless payments in its banking app for selected Android devices in 2015. In addition, the bank has said it will support Apple Pay when it becomes available in Australia.
While Suncorp in the past had held off on supporting NFC technology due to a perceived lack of consumer interest, the bank is now seeing increasing demand for a service that lets customers tap their phones on payment terminals to pay.
“Over the past 12 months, consumer demand for NFC mobile technology from our customer base has increased significantly due to improved awareness and device availability,” a Suncorp spokesperson said.
Suncorp’s move into NFC follows a trial with peer-to-peer payments using SMS and QR codes.
“We have been experimenting with P2P payments with our SMS/QR Code powered payment solution 'QuickShare', which has enjoyed great success and positive feedback from our customers since it was launched earlier this year,” the spokesperson said.
“This was a trial for us to assess the appetite for payments innovation and it was successfully embraced by our mobile customers.”
Bendigo and Adelaide Bank
In June 2014, Bendigo Bank launched a mobile wallet called Redy that provides incentives to users who make payments by scanning QR codes.
The QR code approach differs from other banks using NFC. While it does not allow tapping the device against a terminal, it supports a broader number of smartphones since it only requires a camera.
To make a payment, users scan a QR code displayed on the merchant’s Samsung tablet. The user is then asked to accept the payment on their device. The app supports nearly any Apple or Android smartphone with a camera.
By paying with Redy, users receive credits called “creds” that they can spend on charities or future Redy purchases. The customer gets 0.5 per cent of each transaction back in creds, with one cred equal to one dollar.
After amassing creds, users can use the app to make a payment to a charity or elect to use the money toward their next transaction.
CUA released a tap-and-pay mobile payments app for Android smartphones in July 2014. The app, called Redi2PAY, uses a phone’s embedded NFC chip and does not require a smart sticker.
Customers can make payments up to $100. However, the CUA app only supports adding CUA Visa debit cards.
Unlike the CommBank app, CUA payments work on any NFC-enabled Android phone running on KitKat 4.4 or later.
“We are keen to extend this opportunity to those of our customers using compatible Apple phones,” said Chris Whitehead, the CEO of CUA.
“We welcome the incorporation of NFC chips into these devices and the launch of Apple Pay, which we hope will be available in Australia shortly.”