Vodafone says it has launched the Hotlink mobile payment service, which allows customers to top up prepay and on-account balances with their cellphones
Hotlink allows users to transfer money from a nominated bank account into Vodafone's coffers.
Hamish Samson, Vodafone's manager of Mobile Commerce, says the initial pilot shows 95% of those who tried the service would prefer to use it over purchasing the existing scratch cards for topping up their accounts.
Over 8% of Vodafone's customers are using the prepay option, Samson says.
BNZ is currently the only bank that the Hotlink service works with, but Samson says two other major banks are expected to sign up soon.
He wouldn't reveal the names of the banks, but the My Vodafone system menu on its phone service has been updated to include ANZ, ASB, National Bank and Westpac, as well as BNZ. When Computerworld tried using BNZ as the Hotlink bank on a top-of-the-range Sony Ericsson mobile, an SMS message was returned with the message, "We're sorry, your handset does not support HotLink. you will need to upgrade it before you can use this service."
According to Samson, the service works with SIM2 cards. Customers with older SIM cards are offered an upgrade discount that doubles the amount they choose to top up their balance with.
Samson says the service is secure and uses two-factor authentication. The Hotlink service has to be set up with the bank, using the customer's EFTPOS card for authentication via an ATM.
Vodafone hopes the Hotlink service will see wider use in the future. Samson says some of the other uses would be to authenticate online banking users and payment for goods and services directly via Vodafone mobiles.
Asked if retailers currently selling Vodafone prepay cards were upset at losing revenue to Hotlink, Samson says Vodafone has kept them informed of the service. "It's not unexpected," he says.
In fact, Vodafone would be "happy to see the scratch cards go", Samson says, because it would mean less hassle for the carrier and its customers.