The convenience of paying with a smartphone took off last year in South Africa and it’s here to stay.

I’m a huge fan of convenience so anything that cuts out minutes from what I already do, I’m keen to try. Like not taking out my wallet from my bag, finding the right card, swiping, signing, putting the card back into the wallet and then into the bag. See, that’s quite a process right?

I’d much rather cut that process out and pay with something that’s already in my hand – my smartphone. I’ve tried 3 major ones and they all take about 30 seconds to complete the transaction, with no effort. I have signed up for 5 which I found available in South Africa, but have yet to try two of them.

I’ve heard people say stuff like “do we really need another mobile payment app”, as if signing up is such a chore (also: nobody is forcing you). It’s like saying there should only be one credit card and it should be Visa. The more mobile payment apps there are, the better – provided they are secure. The key here is convenience. And it’s really up to the merchant who they want to partner with. It’s not a competition for me – whatever they choose to adopt, I probably signed up for.

These are the 5 ways you can make mobile payments through your smartphone in South Africa:

1. SnapScan
The award-winning SnapScan app lets you pay for stuff by simply opening the app, and scanning a QR code and entering a PIN. From experience, this happens literally within seconds. Upon registration, you are required to scan or manually enter either a debit or credit card details to your profile. The information is saved on your phone only, and not an external server (to put you at ease). You need to set a PIN to proceed. The app lets you store more than one card to your profile. SnapScan lets you search for merchants nearby or in South Africa. By far my favourite. Popular at Neighbourgoods Market and other small markets/festivals that pop up every few months.
FREE: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry


2. FlickPay
FlickPay has been primarily rolled out at Vida e Caffé store (first cappuccino free with FlickPay – recently discovered another voucher). Signing up is really simple, they all work the same way. Download the free app, register and add your card details, set a PIN and you’re ready. When you need to pay, just open the app, enter your PIN, hold your phone to the camera at the till for scanning, and confirm amount – this step is a good way to double check that the correct amount was entered. The app lists merchants supported (by location), transaction history and vouchers (a lot are CT based).
FREE: iPhone, Android


3. MasterPass
The MasterPass is the first digital wallet in South Africa from MasterCard and Standard Bank. It works with most debit and credit cards, including Visa, for both in-store and online purchases. The process is seamless, quick and secure. Card details are only stored on the app, like a regular wallet. Launched last July, some merchants include Takealot, Flysaa, ORMS with Netflorist and Thompsons Tours joining soon, and over 40 000 merchants globally. Once you download the app and register, you just have to select “Buy with MasterPass” as a payment method with supporting merchants online. This is my payment method of choice on Takealot, you really can’t beat the convenience of holding your smartphone in front of your laptop and the transaction being done in seconds.
FREE: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry


4. Zapper
Zapper is mainly for making payments at restaurants, and it claims you don’t need to call your waiter for the bill (not sure how that works). I have yet to try it, have signed up and see a fair amount of options near me. The QR code appears on your bill where you scan to make payment. It supports splitting the bill. The interface isn’t as slick as SnapScan. You can find merchants near you, view history and you have an inbox.
FREE: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone


5. VCPay
VCPay is a virtual credit card and you can choose to link your CC to it or use it to pull funds through a prepaid method. I’ve only signed up to it and to be on honest, this app makes me feel it shouldn’t be listed under “top” 5. It’s very poorly designed, displays ads (euw), and doesn’t have the same sense of security like SnapScan. It can be used at places that supports a MasterCard “card not present” option and have over 400 merchants supported like paying for traffic fines, TV licence, doctors fees, school fees, etc.
FREE: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry


Are there any other mobile payment apps locally that I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments.

What I’d like to see next: loyalty cards in digital format.