Commonwealth Bank brings iPhone NFC to Australia

The bank has unveiled ‘Commbank Kaching’, a next generation mobile payments service that lets iPhone users easily send money to their Facebook friends, email contacts and phone contacts as well as make payments in stores via an add-on NFC case.

KA-CHING! The name evokes the sound of an old-fashioned cash register

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Australia’s largest financial institution, has unveiled Commbank Kaching, an NFC-based payments service that makes it easy to send money from a mobile phone to Facebook friends, email and phone contacts, and also to make payments in stores.

The service will be available “in the coming months” to customers with an iPhone, initially via an iCarte NFC case, and will be expanded to include Android phone users “soon”.

The bank describes the new service as “the most all-inclusive payments app on offer by any banking institution in Australia and abroad” and “the first fully operational NFC iPhone”. In particular, Commonwealth Bank says it has invested significant time in making the NFC user experience as easy and “iPhone-like” as possible. An Android version will follow once CBA has tailored the offering to the operating system in the same way it has integrated it with the iPhone.

Commonwealth Bank says it doesn’t plan to generate income directly from providing the new payments service. Instead, the goal is to deliver a better service to customers in order to persuade more Australians to choose CBA as their bank.

“There’s an inherent problem with payments,” says David Lindberg, the bank’s executive general manager for cards, payments and retail strategy. “There’s not much money to make, so you have to have partners.” To that end, CBA has already partnered with Visa, MasterCard and American Express, as well as with handset makers Apple, Samsung and HTC. Deals with both Facebook and Google are also in place.

Once customers who sign up for the service receive their iCarte case, they attach it to their iPhone and download the Kaching app. All their payments cards, including those issued by other bank partners, will then be downloaded to their NFC-enabled phone and can be viewed in graphical or list format.

In use, NFC functionality is automatically switched on for the first sixty seconds that the phone is on. NFC is then switched off until the user next enters their PIN. Each time a PIN is entered, all the payment cards the user has added to their phone are available to view on the screen, in graphical or list format. Whenever NFC is switched on, the app also displays the location of the nearest ATM and the balance on the user’s primary account.

For security reasons, the app is authorised to be used on only one handset, and no personal banking information is stored on the phone. Receivers of peer-to-peer payments are also protected, and all unclaimed funds are credited back to the payer after 14 days.

Customers can also use Commbank Kaching to make mobile-to-mobile payments. They can send payments to anyone in their phone contact list or their email address list, even if the recipient isn’t a Commbank customer. In a world first, users can also send payments to any of their Facebook friends, and even post an optional message on the friend’s wall. The time required to complete mobile-to-mobile payment transactions is about the same time needed to send a text message, says the bank.

As well as enabling mobile payments via NFC, email, mobile and Facebook, Commbank Kaching also allows users to check and transfer money between their accounts, and also to settle accounts using Australian bill payments service BPay.

Six million Commonwealth Bank customers currently use the company’s NetBank online banking service and 1.4m now access NetBank via a mobile device. Sixteen million logons were made from mobile phones in August 2011, up 229% on the previous year — and 79% of those logons were made on an iPhone.

“Already, more than half our 10 million customers own a smartphone, and Australians are 65 per cent more likely than the British to bank on their phones,” says Lindberg. “Now, for the first time, Australian consumers will no longer have to rely on cash or cards to make payments to family, friends or even businesses.

“The launch of Commbank Kaching is indicative of our commitment to customer service and satisfaction through improvement and innovation,” he adds. “We look forward to this continuing, and welcome our customers to the future of banking.”

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