For those of us who would rather eat roadkill than attend to personal admin, there’s now an app that not only pays your bills – including Telkom, Eskom and municipal accounts – but also enables you to earn rewards in the process.

The app, which is free, is called walletdoc, and it notifies you when bills arrive, reminds you when payment is due and enables you to pay your bills at the tap of a screen – so no fumbling around to enter the correct amount due.

Walletdoc also gleans account and reference numbers, so you don’t have to enter this information for a recipient to reconcile the account on its side.

The app digitally stores your bills indefinitely, or until you deactivate your account. It also stores your payment history indefinitely, thus saving you the hassle of having to print bills and file them with proof of payment. When you make a payment, walletdoc sends you a receipt reflecting the account paid, the amount and the account from which you made the payment.

Although Absa is marketing the app to its clients and the public, you don’t have to be an Absa customer to use walletdoc.

Willie van Zyl, the head of card issuing at Absa, says the bank is encouraging customers to use the app. “We have piloted walletdoc with some of our clients and they have been delighted by the simplicity of this innovative solution.” Absa regards walletdoc as another step forward in the bank’s mobile banking journey, Van Zyl says.

How to use it

Once you’ve downloaded the app from Google Play or the App Store, you are allocated a walletdoc email address. You can either forward your bills to this address or have your creditors or “billers” send your accounts to that address. As soon as a bill drops into your walletdoc email account, it is “processed”, which means that all the relevant details are captured and stored by the app. When the bill arrives, you are notified by push notification (which is similar to an SMS that you receive even if the app isn’t running) and notified again the day before payment is due, although you can change this setting to one week or even two weeks before the due date. Payment can be made in full or in part, or you can schedule the payment for a future date.

Payment is made from your internet-enabled debit or credit card (a card enabled for online/e-commerce transactions), so you have to link one of them to the app. You can do this by using the camera on your smartphone to scan your debit or credit card.

By using walletdoc to pay your bills, you can earn points on your bank’s rewards programme.

Most of the major banks have loyalty programmes that reward you for using your cards.

With Absa Rewards, for example, you earn a cash reward of up to one percent every time you use your Absa debit, cheque or credit card. Similarly, First National Bank customers earn eBucks, Nedbank customers earn Greenbacks and Standard Bank customers earn UCount points.

This week, I put the app through its paces and found that downloading it and linking it to my credit card was a cinch. I don’t have many accounts, but the only one that I don’t pay via debit order is Telkom, so I sent my latest Telkom bill to my walletdoc email address. Within minutes, the app prompted me to pay it. I checked the amount and authorised the payment from my credit card. So far, so good. But then I got to thinking about people with multiple accounts – some of which would be hefty – being paid with the bank’s money, rather than their own. The money that would have gone off their current account immediately is now available (to be spent), while debt is mounting on their credit card.

Leonard Shenker, the joint chief executive of walletdoc, says you can send your credit card statement to your walletdoc profile. When payment is due, walletdoc will remind you to pay your credit card. “Payment is, however, done outside of walletdoc [because you obviously can’t use your credit card to pay your credit card],” he says.

Walletdoc keeps consumers informed at all times – bills received, bills paid, payment values, recent payments, overdue payments and payment due shortly – thus helping them to manage their payments and avoid unnecessary spending or debt, Shenker says.

Walletdoc users who want to link a credit card to the app would be well advised to prepay their credit card before using the app, or to make sure that they pay off their credit cards in full at month end, via debit order from their current account, to avoid racking up debt and high interest charges.

Shenker says walletdoc aims to remove the time-consuming administration associated with paying bills. “Many consumers are already paying their bills using their credit card, but are having to wait in long retail queues to do so. Walletdoc addresses these inefficiencies by enabling these payments via mobile app and/or the web.”

A glitch

My credit card statement is password-protected, so walletdoc cannot open it. Shenker says they are working on a solution, which will be implemented next year so that password-protected PDFs can be accessed and processed.

He says walletdoc accepts any PDF bill in its original format – so you can’t send a scanned copy of a bill – and then uses proprietary technology to process the bills.

Walletdoc doesn’t charge consumers for using the app; it makes money by charging the billers for processing payments.

The fintech start-up has partnered with EasyPay, an independent service that facilitates the payment of accounts and is linked to an extensive network of over 400 of South Africa’s largest billers including municipalities, Eskom and Telkom.

Shenker says walletdoc does not share information with third parties. In the new year, it aims to analyse users’ expenditure and present this information to them graphically, so they can understand their spending habits better. “We have lots of ideas to help consumers improve their financial literacy, and there are some exciting features to come next year. We will also launch a facility to enable you to pay more billers, including small to medium size enterprises, such as doctors, lawyers and plumbers.”