The banks behind smartphone payments in Australia

Smartphone banking with Commonwealth, Westpac, St George, ANZ and more

“Signature or PIN?” is a question people won’t hear when making a credit card purchase nowadays. The antiquated method of signing for a purchase was retired on the 1 August and signifies the continuous shift towards an all-digital age.

In its place are savvy smartphones equipped with nascent near field communications (NFC) technology. NFC is the technology behind tap-and-go payments, and its inclusion brings smartphones one step closer to replacing the currency and identification housed in our wallets.

Major Australian banks investing in tap-and-go technologies include Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and St George. Some banks have operational technology today; others are a work in progress.

Westpac

Smartphones running the Android operating system have rapidly adopted the technology, but only premium Samsung devices are currently supported in Australia. Customers of Westpac can make transactions less than $100 from a Samsung Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5 or a Note 3 smartphone.

The adoption of smartphone tap-and-go payments follows the surging trend of contactless payments made by credit and debit cards, said David Lindberg, Westpac’s chief product officer.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S5 review

“Based on existing uptake of contactless card technology, together with customer usage of our mobile and online banking platforms, we anticipate that there will be around three million Australians making contactless payments using their mobile in 2015,” Lindberg said in a statement.

“In line with this, we believe that there will be nearly $3 billion worth of contactless mobile transactions made in 2015.”

Samsung leads in smartphone transactions on account of its global NFC payment infrastructure; however, most banks will continue to invest in the technology as manufacturers support the standard.

“Where we can ensure that we provide the right customer service then we will definitely look to provide contactless payments on other devices which are NFC-enabled,” Westpac representative Danny John told Good Gear Guide, adding the institution “would be very interested” in supporting a NFC capable Apple iPhone.

Commonwealth Bank

Commonwealth's PayTag sticker
Commonwealth's PayTag sticker

Apple has contentiously snubbed NFC technology in its range of iPhones. Commonwealth Bank has solved the dilemma with an NFC sticker. The ‘PayTag’ sticker was launched in January and can be ordered by customers from the CommBank mobile application for $3.

“We had a look at stickers and couldn’t get the right customer satisfaction,” said Westpac’s John. “We’ll be working with Apple when they get the right kind of transaction method.”

Commonwealth Bank lingers behind Westpac with support for only the year-old Galaxy S4. However, the company’s PayTag sticker can be used with additional smartphones running Android and Windows Phone for transactions less than $100.

The CBA went one further by enabling the withdrawal of funds from an ATM without requiring a bank card. Customers can organise up to $200 a day to be withdrawn from a smartphone’s CBA application.

Westpac plans to follow suit with the launch of a revised application in September or October. During the interim the company will facilitate cardless ATM withdrawals over the phone.

St George Bank

Read more: Android NFC payments switched on at Commonwealth Bank

St George Bank has yet to jump onto the NFC bandwagon in spite of being a part of the Westpac Group. This will change as representatives told Good Gear Guide the bank will roll out NFC support “early in 2015”.

The first devices to be supported by St George will be Samsung’s Galaxy S4, S5 and Note 3. “St.George will look to support other devices that are chip-enabled,” said company spokesperson Mark Roberts.

ANZ Bank

Deviating from the norm is ANZ after completing a trial with Visa and Australian carrier Vodafone. The bank demonstrated its mobile wallet at the Australian open in 2013 and 2014, and claims it will “release an ANZ mobile digital wallet using NFC technology in the first half of 2015”.

ANZ representatives would not confirm which platforms its mobile wallet will support at the time of writing. Good Gear Guide will update this article as more information becomes available.

Samsung and Google

Samsung unveiled a pioneering partnership with e-commerce site PayPal at the launch of its Galaxy S5 smartphone. Owners of the Galaxy S5 can authorise online PayPal purchases by swiping their finger over the smartphone’s finger scanner.

Google’s electronic Wallet service has proven popular overseas, but company representative Shane Treeves said the developer behind Android has no plans to introduce Wallet into the Australian market.

Interestingly a 'lighter' version of Wallet is used locally to make transactions on Google's Play store. The complete Wallet application was posted on the company's application store on the 17 of July, but it is listed as "incompatible" with Android devices.

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