The Future of the Debit Card in South Africa

September 2021

Even with many payment options available, South Africans are putting their debit cards to use. With no sign of slowing down, Banks in South Africa are still putting their focus on their debit cards, ensuring their debit card services are in line with the latest industry trends.

That’s where debit cards have been. But where are they going?

There’s no doubt that debit cards will remain a popular payment type. However, what the future holds in store for the debit card depends largely on how cardholders of the future are inclined to make transactions.

Advanced card control apps such as 22 seven, allow cardholders to manage their cards directly from their mobile device. Cardholders can elect to receive real-time transaction updates, notifying them of every purchase made on their debit card. Allowing cardholders to set spending limits and designate certain use locations and geographical parameters.

Going card-less

Removing the physical card from the payment equation might seem like the end of debit cards altogether. However, syncing smartphone technologies with the functionality of the debit card could just be the next step in its evolution.

In recent years, we’ve observed a slow shift towards NFC technology that supports the use of mobile wallets and contactless cards.

By adopting mobile wallets, cardholders are transitioning their spending process and changing how merchants accept payments. As they begin using mobile wallets for their convenience, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with using innovative payment technologies with sensitive personal information – provided that they feel their information is kept securely.

Contrary to some commonly held perceptions, mobile wallets are even more secure than debit cards. Built-in security hurdles authenticate the user, which limits fraudulent use before the mobile wallet is even activated. Combining the extra securities of a fingerprint touch ID, six-digit passcode, and the device chip itself, smartphones offer strict user protections in addition to the standard PIN and signature components of debit card.

In addition to the advanced security measures of mobile payments, debit cards linked to mobile wallets like such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Wallet which are all becoming popular in South Africa, are advancing the convenience of shopping. Prompting easy and instant payments, mobile wallets simply require a near touch to the merchant’s NFC-enabled point of sale terminal which the consumer can either use their smartphone (all the latest Samsung’s and apple iPhone have this service as well as certain Garmin and smart watches) – a transaction more immediate than the exchange of cash.

Is South Africa ready for the future ?

With many South Africans adding debit card information to mobile wallet apps that are available for download on their mobile devices and using apps that monitor debit card usage, cardholders are finding innovative ways to transform the payment process, benefiting not only themselves, but merchants and their financial institutions, too.

But just because cardholders are putting down the traditional plastic card in favour of newer and innovative electronic forms of payment, don’t be fooled into thinking that traditional PVC debit cards will be left behind entirely.

As long as consumers value the immediacy and flexibility of a debit payment option – whether in the form of physical card or mobile wallet – debit cards will continue to have a place in future transactions