Absa to launch world-first mobile payment device for small businesses

The Payment Pebble – another first from Absa

November 29, 2012

In another first from Absa, the bank continues to broaden its payments strategy as part of a journey to make its customers lives easier with plans to launch a mobile payment acceptance service for businesses that works using a mobile phone.

Absa, a subsidiary of Barclays, has entered into an agreement with a local payment innovations company thumbzup, to enable businesses and entrepreneurs on-the-go across South Africa to accept debit or credit card payments using their smartphones or tablets through a world first, plug-in device called ‘The Payment Pebble.’

Under the agreement, Absa is set to provide its Payment Pebble as a value added service to all small business owners and merchants on-the-go with availability scheduled for early 2013.

Offering major improvement to card readers currently available in the market that ordinarily get attached to mobile phones to process merchant payments, the Pebble is a small card-reader device (taken from the concept of the size and shape of a pebble) that plugs into a 3.5mm audio input on any mobile smartphone or tablet and includes a mobile app.

As a first step, the merchant simply downloads the Pebble’s mobile app and, once registered, receives a pre-configured Payment Pebble that plugs into the mobile phone. Once plugged into the mobile phone Absa’s Pebble is turned into a mobile point-of-sale terminal where merchants can accept card payments in real-time anywhere in South Africa simply by “dipping” the card into the Pebble, entering the pin in a safe and secure manner and then following the prompts on the mobile app to conclude the transaction.

One of the key differentiating features of the technology is its ability to enable safe and secure payment acceptance as a pin entry device, for both chip and magnetic swipe strip cards. Another important benefit is that the Pebble is priced at a highly affordable price for small business, which will allow more merchants to accept card payments from their customers anytime anywhere. The Pebble is also extremely simple to use because it seamlessly interacts with any smartphone without the hassle of complex synchronisation or power supply concerns.

Speaking during the announcement of the strategic partnership today, Absa Head of Retail Markets, Arrie Rautenbach, said there was no other mobile acceptance device in the world that enables merchants to process payments remotely – with a plug in device – containing a mobile app that supports chip, pin and magnetic stripe cards and allows both debit and credit card transactions without the need for a power supply.

He said the technology would truly make the bank’s customers’ lives much easier. “It is a game changing innovation with the potential to transform the way in which entrepreneurs can safely accept offsite payments.”

Rautenbach continued to explain that the exclusive deal with thumbzup enabled Absa to launch this global-first solution to the South African market with further potential to export this to other African countries through a relationship with the bank’s parent company, Barclays.

Speaking at the same event, thumbzup CEO and founder Stafford Masie described the agreement as a major milestone for both organisations.

Says Masie: “We are extremely excited about our partnership with Absa, not only because we will bring a world first innovation to the market with the largest retail bank in South Africa. But because we have gained a business partner that understands our vision for payments into the future and a bank that is truly forward-thinking in their ambition to change the lives of their customers for the better. This is the success story of a local company achieving extraordinary things globally, and Absa made this happen.”

Absa leads the market with contactless card payments (tap and go), where the bank recently launched Potentiate, a first-of-its-kind lifestyle and financial solution with tap and go functionality. The tap and go card is a bank card that has a button and digital LCD display that provides a one-time PIN and allows clients to transact on any of their underlying credit, cheque and savings accounts. Being at the forefront of the country’s mobile banking strides, Absa has already run mobile payment trials with their staff using what is known as Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a technology that transforms cellphones into payment devices for individual consumer payments at point-of-sale terminals. The bank is also currently in beta phase for a transactional banking app for smartphones and tablet devices, expected to be released in early 2013.

“We have a strong global commitment to innovation. As the payment technology landscape changes Absa is focused on delivering pioneering solutions, to fundamentally transform the customer experience and build strong foundations for growth. The announcement of our partnership with thumbzup is critical to ensuring that we remain highly competitive in the payments industry and become the go-to-bank,” concludes Rautenbach.