VODACOM RELAUNCHES M-PESA
Telecommunications giant takes a second chance with the money transfer service. This time, it promises an improved product with a new banking partner and greater benefits, writes Neesa Moodley- Isaacs
Transferring money to your loved ones is a fairly simple and inexpensive process if you use a money transfer service. One of the first entrants in the market, Vodacom’s M-Pesa, has just relaunched its offering with a new banking partner and with significantly improved benefits.
M-Pesa has ambitious plans to roll out 30 000 pointsof-presence by December from the current offering of 8 000. This is great news for consumers because the money transfer market just got a lot more competitive.
Hemmanth Singh, managing executive for m-commerce at Vodacom, says M-Pesa is signing up as many as 100 new points-of-presence a day so the offering will be in full force by the time the festive season rolls around.
“Money transfer is the way of the future. It’s the cheapest, safest way to carry cash. Your account is PIN protected and this is one of the cheapest bank accounts available at a flat fee of R5, plus R1 per R100 withdrawn at an ATM,” says Singh.
Deposits are free, regardless of which method you want to use – your phone at a participating store, internet banking or using an M-Pesa voucher in the same way you would load airtime in denominations of R20, R50, R100 or R200.
A cash withdrawal at the point of sale will set you back R2.50, plus R1 for every R100 withdrawn. If you transfer money to other M-Pesa customers, it will cost you R1 and if the recipient is not a registered customer or uses another network, it will cost you R4 to send them money via M-Pesa.
Your phone number acts as your account number. If you lose your phone, or it is stolen, your account is PIN protected and you simply notify the M-Pesa call centre to temporarily suspend your account.
“We’re using multiple store partners and M-Pesa customers will be able to cash in and cash out their money transfer at any number of stores and at any bank ATM of their choice,” says Singh.
“Why should consumers be restricted to just one network or just one bank?”
The single restricting factor is that if you want to send money via M-Pesa, you must be a Vodacom customer.
However, recipients can be on any cellphone network and use any bank ATM of their choice to collect the money you send to them.
When M-Pesa launched in South Africa four years ago, its banking partner was Nedbank. However, the offering was not widely taken up.
“With only 800 outlets, we didn’t have enough agencies on the ground and the registration process was cumbersome. So this time, we are going all out to make the M-Pesa service as accessible as possible,” says Singh.
The registration process has also been streamlined. The new banking partner is Bidvest, but clients are not restricted to using only Bidvest ATMs.
Retail partners this time around include Spar, Mr Price, Shoprite, Edcon and the Foschini Group (which includes Markhams, Truworths and Duesouth stores). M-Pesa is also in discussions with Pick n Pay, Woolworths and Pep.
Every time you purchase airtime using your M-Pesa account, Vodacom will double the amount of airtime you have bought.
For example, if you buy R100 airtime, the value loaded will actually be R200. The catch is that you have to use the airtime loaded on the same day. According to Singh, the most common airtime reload is R5 daily.
Before any transaction is concluded, you are told of the cost and asked if you wish to continue, so all costs are disclosed upfront in real time. There is also an M-Pesa store locator on the M-Pesa menu on your cellphone, so you can identify the nearest participating M-Pesa store.
To use M-Pesa, you have to be a South African citizen aged 16 or older, with a valid identity document. If you only use your phone to transact, transactions are limited to R1 000 a day or R13 000 a month.
If you use your M-Pesa card to transact, the limits increase to R5 000 a day. You must maintain a minimum balance of R25.