Illustration: Colin Daniel

Cellphones have long ceased to be a simple means of communication, and banks are introducing products that allow you to withdraw cash from ATMs using your cellphone without the need for a bank card or even a bank account in some cases.

First National Bank (FNB) is the second bank to launch a product (Cash Withdrawal) that allows you to withdraw cash from your bank account while your bank card stays safely in your wallet or at home. Absa launched CashSend, a similar product in 2008.

Using your cellphone to withdraw money can be safer because you can leave your bank card at home and not worry about becoming a victim of card cloning or card skimming at the ATM.

You can also make use of the cellphone withdrawal facility if your bank card has been stolen or lost. While you should immediately cancel your bank card so that it is no longer active, you will still be able to transact on your account using internet or cellphone banking.

The Absa product (see “Similar cardless transaction options from other banks”, below) also allows you to send money to a recipient such as a child studying in another part of the country or your domestic worker who may not have a bank account (the recipient does not need a bank account to receive money).

Ravesh Ramlakan, the chief executive of FNB’s cellphone banking solutions division, says the increasing number of South Africans choosing to bank via their cellphones is evidence of the channel’s ease of use, safety and convenience. FNB currently has more than 2.7 million cellphone banking users.

According to the latest Reserve Bank industry report, FNB has more than 42 percent of the cellphone banking customers in the mobile banking market.

“FNB developed the cellphone cash withdrawal product with the intention of providing our customers with 24-hour access to their cash – even without the use of a bank card,” Ramlakan says.

He says that withdrawing cash using FNB’s cellphone banking works similar to doing it with a bank card except that you don’t need to use your card.

To withdraw cash using your cellphone, you need to log onto FNB’s cellphone banking and select the banking option. You then select “withdraw cash” and the account you want to withdraw from, for example, your cheque or savings account. You will then receive an SMS with a temporary personal identification number (PIN) to use at the ATM.

“For security reasons, the temporary ATM PIN has to be used within 30 minutes of receipt and can be used only once,” Ramlakan says.

At the ATM you must enter your cellphone number and the temporary PIN to withdraw your cash.

The costs of making a withdrawal from your FNB account using your cellphone are the same as those you would incur when making a withdrawal using your bank card.

Ramlakan says FNB has found that customers often have to enter a branch to get cash because they have left their cards at home.

“Now, if you forget your purse or wallet at home, don’t want to carry your bank card on a night out, or just quickly need cash for life’s little emergencies, you can simply use your cellphone,” he says.

Carmen Whatley, Nedbank’s executive for digital and mobile, says Nedbank offers a money transfer solution called M-Pesa, launched late last year in partnership with Vodacom (see below).

Standard Bank’s media spokesman, Ross Linstrom, says Standard Bank plans to launch a similar cellphone cash withdrawal product later this year. In 2009 the bank launched Mimoney, which allows you to shop online without using a credit or cheque card.


Absa’s CashSend

This is available to you via ATM, internet or cellphone banking. You can either withdraw funds from your own bank account without using a bank card or transfer cash to someone else, even if he or she does not have a bank account.

You must select the CashSend option, whether you are accessing your bank account at an ATM or via cellphone or internet banking. Then you enter either your own cellphone number or the cellphone number of the person you are sending money to, the amount of money to be withdrawn and a six-digit access code created by you. Absa in turn generates a withdrawal number which is sent to either your cellphone (if you are making the withdrawal) or the recipient’s cellphone via SMS.

You or the person you are sending money to can then use the withdrawal and access codes to draw the specified amount from any Absa ATM.

More than a million transactions cumulatively valued at more than R500 million have been made using CashSend since it was introduced in 2008.

Costs: Each CashSend transaction will cost you R6.90 plus R1.05 per R100 transferred. Only the person sending the money incurs costs. According to Absa, the average CashSend transaction value is R450 and the average charge per transaction is about R9.

Nedbank’s M-Pesa

M-Pesa allows you to transfer money from one cellphone to another without the use of a bank account – neither the sender nor receiver of M-Pesa requires a bank account, but both need to have cellphones. Both you and the person receiving the money must be registered for M-Pesa and have M-Pesa accounts. An M-Pesa account is not a bank account; it is an account run from your cellphone that allows you to transfer money via mobile services.

Carmen Whatley, Nedbank’s executive for digital and mobile, says the service was introduced because cellphone penetration in this country is extremely high and yet it is estimated that more than 13 million economically active South Africans do not have bank accounts.

You can load money onto your cellphone at an M-Pesa outlet – these include retail stores, spaza shops and all Nedbank branches. You will need to produce your identity document to register for M-Pesa before you can deposit money into your M-Pesa account. You can also withdraw cash from the account. You access your M-Pesa account using a four-digit personal identification code.

Once you have money in your M-Pesa account, you can transfer it to anyone with a cellphone, regardless of the network they use. That person can redeem the cash at an M-Pesa outlet or a Nedbank ATM. He or she may also choose to buy airtime or transfer the money to another person.

M-Pesa outlets include Pep, Pick n Pay, Boxer, Game, Edgars, CNA and Jet stores, as well as GloCell and Altech Autopage.

Whatley says over 65 000 users were registered on M-Pesa by mid-February this year.

Costs: There are no monthly fees and no minimum balance is required. It will cost you a flat fee of R2.45 to send any amount to a registered M-Pesa customer.


You need to take precautions when using your cellphone to do your banking just as you would using any other banking channel.

Ravesh Ramlakan, the chief executive of First National Bank’s cellphone banking division, says there are several scams that relate to the use of your cellphone for banking. These are:

* Vishing: The criminal sends you an SMS stating that a bank official will contact you to verify or update your banking details. The criminal then calls you under the pretext that he or she is the bank official. You should cut the call immediately and contact your bank.

* Smishing: You receive an SMS that is supposedly from your bank, asking you to verify your bank details immediately by replying to the SMS. Again, do not respond but contact your bank to report the incident.

* SIM swap fraud: This is a scam whereby the criminal contacts your network operator (such as MTN, Vodacom or Cell C) and asks for your cellphone number to be reassigned to a new SIM card in order to gain access to confidential information such as your cellphone banking one-time PIN.

The criminal would first report that your SIM card has been lost or stolen. In order for a SIM swap to be carried out, the criminal has to produce an identity document – this could possibly be either a stolen document or a fraudulent one. However, if the criminal knows your identity number, he or she can use this to request a SIM swap telephonically.

The network operator then activates a new SIM with your existing number and blocks your old SIM card, which means you will suddenly be cut off from your cellphone service.

If this happens, contact your network operator to find out if a SIM swap has been requested. If it has, immediately contact your bank to block your cellphone number on the bank’s system.


Absa is the only bank in South Africa that currently offers you security software specifically for your cellphone, although First National Bank’s Ravesh Ramlakan says FNB is evaluating such software.

Here are the steps Absa clients can take to access its anti-virus software for cellphones (Trend Micro security):

* Register to do cellphone banking.

* Sign on to Absa’s internet banking anti-virus registration page using your internet banking access account number, user identity and personal identification number. (Clients who do not have access to the internet at home can use the internet kiosks at Absa branches.)

* Read and accept the terms and conditions.

* Enter your personal details (name, surname and address) and your cellphone number.

* You will be provided with a serial number.

* Go to on your cellphone and use the serial number you have been allocated to download the internet security software. Install and activate the software on your phone.

Alternatively, you can pick up a Trend Micro anti-virus CD from any Absa branch, which you can run on your computer and transfer to your cellphone.