The Absa brand was officially launched in Uganda in November 2019, closing the Barclays chapter in the country and opening a new digital initiative. It is at the time that the bank introduced a new portrait-oriented ‘Vertical Debit Card’, replacing the existing horizontal cards while coming with new and enhanced features.
Among these is an interesting innovation that lets the card perform contactless “Tap to Pay” transactions at contactless-enabled point-of-sale (POS) terminals. Basically, beyond the usual insert and enter PIN mechanism that we’ve been used to when dealing with card payments, the new contactless payment card lets you complete transactions with just a wave above the terminal.
What is a contactless payment card?
The key identifier on this is a Wi-Fi symbol or contactless icon. This signifies that the card uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to allow payments between it and a contactless payment terminal.
So, when your card has the symbol, it is an indicator that you can simply tap to pay immediately. The capability ensures the card never leaves your hand, making the payment process simple, safe, and fast; and with no contact made at all.
As one of the requirements set in 2018, any new cards to be issued out by VISA subscribing banks must be contactless. It is in this vein that Absa bank rolled out the new technology on its cards and POS devices to all the markets in which it operates.
The institution is the first in Uganda to issue this kind of card and we can only wait to see how the adoption takes shape across the industry. The timing is just in time when the COVID-19 pandemic has kept business cold and everyone cautious, with limited contact now becoming a norm to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
How the Absa contactless payment card works
The contactless payment card is basically built for the Absa Bank Uganda customer to use for payment and bill clearance at merchants with an Absa point-of-sale machine. These include supermarkets, salons, beauty shops, fuel stations, boutiques, restaurants, and pharmacies among others.
When you get the card, you need to enable it in order to perform contactless transactions. You can enable it by inserting into an Absa payment device and entering your PIN. You will have to perform up to two more chip-and-PIN (swipe) transactions to fully turn on the contactless feature. Alternatively, you can perform a financial transaction at an Absa ATM, after which you will have to perform up to two more chip-and-PIN (swipe) transactions to enable the card for contactless payments.
Once enabled, you will then only need to tap the card onto a contactless-enabled point-of-sale terminal to initiate an immediate payment. Key to note is that the merchant must first initiate the transaction and the card must be 2mm away from the terminal for a payment to be processed.
To perform a contactless transaction, ask the cashier or merchant whether you can pay with your contactless card. Once they affirm to this, go on to wave the card on the POS device, and also ask for a receipt if you want one.
However, if the merchant does not have the contactless-enabled POS, this should not limit you from performing chip-and-PIN transactions. The card is backward compatible and you can also complete payments if the device available requires the traditional insertion and PIN authorization.
How to get an Absa contactless payment card
To get the contactless payment card, you should be an Absa bank customer with an actively running account. So, if you do not have one, you ought to visit any of the bank’s branches to ask for it.
You could be having the Barclays branded card and have not yet replaced it with the Absa card. You are encouraged to turn it in at any Absa branch and get a free Vertical Debit card. This is because the old Barclays card is different from the new card. These new contactless payment cards are hybrid – with the chip and magnetic stripe, while the previous Barclays branded cards came with a magnetic stripe alone.
The pros and cons
The new Absa contactless payment card promises convenience. This is because contactless payments are faster and customers experience shorter queues, along with a faster ‘check-out’ process. Plus, you do not need to carry around a lot of cash to perform your transactions.
Of course, with the health and safety concerns as a result of COVID-19, the contactless feature on these cards is a perfect choice. You will only need to touch the card, thus reducing the chances of viral infection from contact with infected hands and objects.
The other key advantage that this comes with is enhanced security. There are reduced chances for fraud as the card never leaves your hand and is designed with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which encrypts each transaction and ensures that account and payment information remain secure. Additionally, the card cannot be read from a distance, only within close proximity to the card reader on the POS device. So, you don’t have to worry about someone utilizing your presence to pay a bill!
Some of the issues you might have with the card include limits on how and when to use it.
In case of loss (without notice), the card can easily be used for contactless purchases by another party because it requires no PIN. You can only notice with an SMS confirming the transaction. If the card is stolen, customers must call the Call Centre on 0800222333 or 0312218348 immediately to cancel it.
The card can only process a limited number of transactions in a day, and a set amount of money per transaction. The transaction limit for contactless payments is UGX 100 000 up to a maximum of 4 transactions a day. Any amount above UGX 100,000 will require a PIN to be entered. Also, transactions beyond the designated 4 times a day will also require a PIN to be entered.