Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Pickles or just the cash?

A new phone cash service is allowing customers to use their mobiles as electronic wallets, writes Nesma Nowar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Will customers soon be able to take out cash at supermarkets? This question has been popping into the minds of millions of TV viewers over the last couple of weeks while watching a TV commercial showing the vendor of the deli section in a supermarket asking a customer if he would like to have Greek pickles with the LE500 he has just asked for.

The advertisement is to promote a new service known as phone cash launched by the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) and Fawry, the banking and payment technology services company, last month. The new service enables customers across the country to use their mobiles as electronic wallets, and it is offered in association with MasterCard and the Egyptian Banks Company for Technological Advancement (EBC), the solution providers for the system.

Customers willing to participate in the service have to register their mobile numbers with the NBE by filling in an application form and depositing a sum of money in a phone cash account, called a wallet. The customer then receives a text message with a link through which he can download the service’s application on his mobile.

By using the new phone cash service, customers can transfer money from this account to other participating customers through their mobile phones and load or take out cash at over 20,000 Fawry outlets and 405 NBE branches across Egypt.

 “Once the customer is logged onto the app, all he has to do is to enter a mobile pin that will be used before any financial transaction takes place,” said one source at the EBC.

Phone cash customers can carry out various types of financial transaction, including money transfers, adding money to their mobile wallet (cash-in), and withdrawing money from it (cash-out).

Ashraf Sabri, the CEO of Fawry, explained that for depositing (cash-in) or withdrawing (cash-out) transactions, consumers would need to go to any NBE branch or Fawry outlet, while for money transfers they would only have to log onto the phone cash app and enter the mobile number of the receiving account and the amount of money they want to transfer.

Both parties would then promptly receive a confirmation message regarding the money transfer operation. “However, the recipients should also be registered with the service,” Sabri said.

He added that an extra feature for NBE customers was that they would be able to use their bank accounts to load cash into their mobile wallets.

According to Sabri, the main advantage of the new service was its convenience. By using phone cash, it will be possible for customers to transfer money to anyone, anytime, anywhere across the country, in addition to the value added services provided by NBE and Fawry, a leading electronic bill payments aggregator, which will in turn facilitate bill payments.

Customers will be able to pay their bills using their mobile wallets, with the amounts being deducted from their balances. “Customers using the service will be able to access all Fawry services directly from their mobile phones.” Sabri told Al-Ahram Weekly. “They will not have to go to a Fawry outlet to pay their bills.”

Owing to its convenience, Sabri said that the new service would appeal to all customers whether or not they had existing bank accounts. According to Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) regulations, the maximum wallet balance will be LE5,000, while the maximum daily withdrawal will be LE3,000.

The phone cash mobile service is not the first of its kind, however. The mobile phone operator Etisalat launched a similar service in June known as Filous, the Arabic word for money. This also enables customers to use their mobile phones as digital wallets, allowing them to transfer, load, or withdraw money.

The service is also offered in association with the National Bank of Egypt. Vodafone has also introduced a similar service in collaboration with the Housing and Development Bank.

However, Sabri said that the phone cash was distinct from the other services in that anyone could register with the new service regardless of his or her subscription to a specific mobile operator. Customers could also transfer money to anyone without making sure that that person was registered with the same mobile company.

In addition, the service allowed customers to load money into their mobile wallet using existing bank accounts with the NBE, as well as to access all Fawry services.

Sabri said that it was still too early to measure demand for the new service. “The service is new, and it will take time to pick up,” he said.

The new service is expected to overshadow the newly-introduced mobile banking system. This system, which allows customers to conduct financial transactions through their mobiles, went live in Egypt in April after almost two years of preparation.

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