Optus extends NFC payments to iPhone through sticker

iPhone users can now make tap and go payments via Optus' sticker and app, with a wearable also providing a payment solution for those without a phone present.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Optus is extending its Cash by Optus near-field communication (NFC) payments platform to Apple smartphones through the use of a sticker, with a new wearable smartband also enabling customers to make contactless payments worth under AU$100 without their smartphone present.

Optus' new Payment Sticker can be stuck onto the back of an iPhone to make it NFC Visa PayWave-compatible, while the Optus Band can be linked to a customer's Cash by Optus smartphone app.

"Optus is excited to expand Cash by Optus with the introduction of the new payment Stickers and Bands," said Ben White, acting managing director of Product and Marketing at Optus.

"It has always been our aim to bring the ease and convenience of Cash by Optus to as many customers as possible, across a range of smartphones and these new payment accessories enable us to do just that."

Without either accessory, Android phone users can purchase a Cash by Optus SIM to insert in their device.

Cash by Optus, which works via NFC combined with Visa PayWave technology, works on select Android smartphones running Android 4.0 and above, and Apple smartphones on iOS 8 and above. Windows Phone and BlackBerry smartphones are not currently supported.

Both prepaid and post-paid customers can make use of Cash by Optus.

Optus first launched NFC payments on Android in November 2014 through a SIM announced in partnership with Visa and Heritage Bank.

In March last year, Optus then extended this solution to a range of wearable devices with NFC and EMV technology, such as smartwatches.

The Cash by Optus smartwatch and wristband connect to smartphones using Bluetooth, and provide real-time information on the credit available in their Visa prepaid account.

"Customers tell us they love how fast this is, how easy it is, and how secure it is. 70 percent of the transactions are under AU$15 ... Almost half of the transactions relate to food. Either fast foods or grocery purchases," managing director of Optus' customer unit, Vicki Brady, told journalists at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last year.

Apple Pay, the native NFC payments solution within iPhones, was launched in Australia in November -- but with only American Express signing on as a financial institution partner.

Google Pay has received a more positive reception in the country, announcing in December that it would be partnering with Westpac, ANZ, St George, Bank of Melbourne, Bank of South Australia, Bendigo Bank, Cuscal, ING Direct, and Macquarie Bank to launch Android Pay in 2016.

Android Pay works on smartphones running Android KitKat 4.4 and higher, with the platform set to support Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards within the first half of 2016. Eftpos support for Android Pay is also on its way.

Google has partnered with payment providers including eWay, Braintree, First Data, and Stripe, to ensure that stores are able to accept Android Pay.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) last month announced an update to its own mobile banking app, allowing Visa users with an Android smartphone running KitKat 4.4 and above to make NFC payments.

NAB Pay is the first NFC payments solution to utilise Visa tokenisation within Australia.

"Visa's approach to security consists of multiple layers. If a fraudster gets past one door, they'll find the one behind it is locked. What tokenisation does is add another layer of protection, which is important as payments become increasingly digital and mobile. As payments evolve, security has to evolve with it," said Stephen Karpin, Visa group country manager for Visa in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific.

"Australians have proven to be a nation of early adopters with respect to payments innovation, with almost seven in 10 face-to-face Visa transactions now made using Visa PayWave, setting the scene for a move to mobile."

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has had its own tap and go payments system for Android smartphones in operation since October 2013, though it originally required users to obtain a sticker to make any phone other than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 NFC-compatible. In March 2015, all Android NFC-enabled phones running KitKat 4.4 and above could be used with CBA's payments system.

Westpac has likewise provided tap and go from compatible Android devices since April 2015, while AMP activated its AMPwave technology last year for Android payments.

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