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As I write this story, I’m tucking into my free lunch. Yep, that’s right, I said free lunch. Remember when you were told that “there’s no such thing as…”? Well, that’s because I’m eating it. Vida e caffè just gave me a croissant and a cappucino without a penny leaving my pocket and all because I signed up to AMMO Mobile, a trendy new mobile banking application developed locally that has come swaggering onto the mobile banking playing field with the confidence of a seasoned veteran.
AMMO Mobile’s funny, hip and user-friendly website keeps you entertained while you register to use it on any WAP-enabled phone. Tammy Lederle, brand director and creator of AMMO Mobile describes it as “a mobile wallet on one’s cellphone, which allows customers to pay in a store environment, top up their electricity meter and cellphone airtime from the comfort of the couch, as well as settle all EasyPay bills such as traffic fines, Telkom bills and municipal tariffs.”
Wikipedia defines mobile banking as “a term used for performing balance checks, account transactions, payments etc. via a mobile device.”
Mobile banking’s popularity is on the rise in South Africa as people get more comfortable using technology in all aspects of their lives, and particularly in areas that have very little access to traditional banking structures. There are a number of impressive players in the South African market, in particular Wizzit and Mowaly provide mobile banking solutions. While AMMO doesn’t offer a service that is especially different, it has distinguished itself by the quality of partners that it has attracted.
The technology employed by AMMO Mobile was developed by wiWallet, a company which is 50% owned by the JCE-listed UCS group and is headed up by CEO Bevan Ducasse, who says that “the ability to use your cellphone in a store environment has garnered serious interest with big retailers and corporates who have been looking for innovative, simple ways of a) talking to their customers or clients directly but in an unobtrusive way, and b) eliminating cash-handling.”
So far, local coffee bars, restaurants and fast-food chains such as vida e caffè, Kauai Juice Bar, Nando’s, Mugg & Bean, and Primi Piatti, and others are on-board with this cash-free system, and while most partner franchises are currently clustered around the Western Cape (with the exception of vida e caffè) there are plans to roll AMMO Mobile out nationally in the very near future.
Registration on the mobile site is very straightforward with easy-to-follow instructions. One of the few problems I experienced was the freezing up of my cellphone after installation, but a simple reboot seemed to have cleared up that problem, and the problem hasn’t repeated since.
Security is a priority for mobile banking and AMMO have put a pin code system in place to protect all your financial data in case your phone is lost or stolen. The system has also been audited by Trustwave, an international VISA/Mastercard accreditation company. Loading money onto your account is easy via either credit card or cheque account, using the Lock and Load button on the mobile application.
AMMO Mobile makes its revenue by charging the retailers a percentage of each transaction, and it is in their best interests to make sure that all the retailers are on-board with the service and using it efficiently. This is part of the reason that AMMO has introduced a loyalty programme called ‘Foot Soldiers’, which encourages members to monitor the service level of the franchises that they use and to convince others to join the programme.
Foot Soldiers are rewarded with R150 vouchers when they sign up and an additional R5 for every other person that they sign up to AMMO Mobile. Which brings me all the way back to my free lunch.
AMMO was launched in October 2009, and the application is refreshingly hip and useful and, while the competition is stiff, I expect South Africans will see a lot more of them in the future.
Their goal is “to make the application pervasive enough for customers to be able to use their phones for anything that needs paying for, be it flights around the country, online purchasing or groceries – a locked and loaded AMMO-armed phone will be the only thing you need.”