On Monday, a new payment system will be launched in SA - what you need to know

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  • The SA Reserve Bank and clearing house BankservAfrica will launch a new rapid payment programme, Payshap, on Monday.
  • Payshap will enable instant payments and transfers between different banks.
  • It will not allow people to save money in wallets yet but you can pay others without paying the fees banks currently charge.
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.

On Monday, a new payment system will be launched – which could finally help wean South Africans off cash.

Payshap – which is backed by the SA Reserve Bank and local banks - will allow South Africans to transfer money instantly between their phones, even to recipients without a bank account.

You will be able to send money using cellphone numbers, and recipients won't have to cash out that money first to perform another transaction. Payshap will allow them to make payments from their new balance to other people, and soon also via apps like WhatsApp.

The payments will focus on smaller transactions, and will be cheaper than current instant money transfers between banks. The Reserve Bank hopes it will eventually replace cash.

A similar payment system, also backed by a central bank, exploded in Brazil after its launch in 2020, with more than two-thirds of adults now using it.

Payshap was designed by BankservAfrica, an automated clearing house which is owned by the banks. For now, only the "big four" banks will offer Payshap wallets. Others will plug into the system later.

The service will be rolled out in two stages. The first stage will see the launch of the instant interbank clearing feature, allowing people to make payments to bank accounts or cellphone numbers.

The second stage will introduce a request-to-pay function which makes it possible for a person to request payment and receive it immediately in their bank account.

How much will it cost?

Banks will announce their pricing structure for Payshap after the launch, but it is expected to be much cheaper than immediate interbank payments. Absa used to charge R60 for immediate interbank transfers before reducing it to R10 in 2021. But it still charges R49 for immediate transfers above R1 000. Standard Bank and Nedbank charge R50 and R49, respectively, for immediate transfers above R2 000, and FNB has a flat rate of R45 on many of its accounts.

READ | Banks still charge up to R50 for instant payments – collectively costing South Africans millions

Vaughan Alexander, the chief technology officer at iKhokha owner, adumo, said that in other markets, the rapid payment programmes have displaced 20% of cash transactions, on average.

ALSO READ | EXPLAINER | Can Nigeria really go cashless by ditching old banknotes?

"The reality is that right now, around 25% of the population, when they get money in their bank accounts, they actually withdraw it all. There are still many places where you just need to pay by cash," said Alexander.

SEE| MTN to offer personal loans as MoMo passes 6 million users

BankServAfrica anticipates that by the end of this year, Payshap will be SA's most preferred electronic payment option. It could be one solution that's powerful enough to displace cash, as it estimates that nine out of 10 transactions in the country are still made in cash.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Payshap will allow people to save money in wallet. It will not allow people to save money in wallets yet.

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