The Lipa na M-Pesa payment card, just like most debit/credit cards out there, uses Chip and PIN, and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, meaning they can be used at a regular ATM or at a contactless point of sale (POS) terminal or ATM.
Safaricom started piloting the card last year among students and staff at the United States International University-Africa, Catholic University of East Africa, Kenyatta University and Mt Kenya University.
The cards reduced errors typically made by entering wrong payment amounts at the till, stated Safaricom. The telco also stated NFC increases the speed at which customers make payments at the till, and it expects the cards to improve the speed of M-Pesa transactions.
16,000 of the payment cards were distributed during the pilot phase, and 47 companies are already accepting payments with them.
Following its success, the company is now using information gathered during the pilot phase to prepare for a commercial launch some time this year.
“We are currently analysing data and feedback generated during the pilot stage to improve users experience before we do a formal launch this year,” said Sylvia Mulinge, Safaricom consumer business unit director.
Once launched officially, the Lipa na M-Pesa cards will enter a space dominated by the likes of MasterCard and Visa, which are well-established players. Whether it’ll survive remains to be seen.
It should be noted however, that this isn’t the first time Safaricom is delving into the payment cards business. In 2014, it launched a bus fare payment card, My 1963, and in 2011 it launched a payment card in partnership with Visa and I&M Bank.