Commonwealth Bank’s PayTag – Hands On

commanz

The Commonwealth Bank are, in my opinion, the leaders of consumer banking technology. They’ve got all sorts of ways to avoid walking in to a branch and talking to person – which for a nerd, is the best thing a business can do. With the latest (excellent) update to their iOS and Android app a new feature was enabled called Tap & Pay.

If your smartphone has an NFC chip inside of it, the Commonwealth Bank app will let you use your phone to mimic a designated Commbank card. Tap your phone to the EFTPOS terminal and away you go, just like a regular Paywave/Paypass transaction. But many phones, including the iPhone, do not have NFC capability. What do we do then?

Not wanting to leave iPhone customers out in the cold, probably knowing that they drive technology adoption more than the handful of Android handsets owned by people who actually know what NFC is, the Commonwealth Bank developed the PayTag. It’s a sticker that contains the same NFC circuitry as in the traditonal card. Stick it on your device and tap away.

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You get the PayTag from within the CBA app. There’s an icon in the bottom right where you can order it – it costs $2.99 and the money is taken out of your bank account and posted to your mailing address attached to your account. Super easy. It took 4 working days to arrive and comes in a card like this, together with a little pamphlet. Launch the app, tap the Tap & Pay icon, enter in the number on the tag to activate it and you’re set.

I stuck it on the back of my silver iPhone 5s and well, look at the thing.

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Ugh. You don’t need to put it on your phone though. You can attach it to any surface you like, like the back of a case. You could insert it to the inside of a case, but if the case is particularly thick, I’m not sure how well the the tag will operate. I keep my iPhone naked (I loathe cases), so having this ~thing~ on the back of my iPhone is a slap in the face to Mr. Ive and his hard work. It’s larger than I thought too (30mm x 40mm) and thicker (almost like a credit card) which makes it stand out even more.

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In practice, using the PayTag is a bit iffy. I took it out to the shops today and rolled it out at the post office first. No matter how I positioned it, the terminal wouldn’t accept the PayTag. It worked fine with my traditional Paypass card however. Also got a weird look from the person behind the counter, wondering what the hell I was doing. She even told me “you need to put a card there, not a phone” – I showed her the sticker on the back and explained and it went totally over her head.

“you need to put a card there, not a phone”

Next was at a Coles self-serve checkout (another brilliant innovation), where I managed to get it to work. It took a few goes, positioning the tag in the right spot, but it got there. The size of the iPhone also made it hard to see the lights above the LCD on the EFTPOS terminal, to show me if the card has been accepted. Also, again, people stared at me, which as an introverted nerd, is not cool.

The transaction appears in your account info as using the PayTag.

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Useful I suppose, if someone pinches your phone, you know what they used it on. Also related to this, is the ability to enable and disable the tag. The tag isn’t “active” in the sense it can communicate with the phone – but Commbank’s servers know your tag and their payment infrastructure knows when you use the tag specifically. Within the Commbank app, you can disable the tag and re-enable it on the fly. Nice for if you want to hand your phone over to someone else but don’t want them spending your money.

I haven’t tried taking the PayTag off my phone yet (I’ll give it a bit more of a shot), but it’s really firmly stuck on. I attempted to casually use my fingernail to pry it off the back, but it’s not budging. I’d probably need a blade of some sort. I really hope it doesn’t damage the back of my phone, as I normally sell my iPhone every year when the new one comes out and having a big scratch or some sort of unremovable residue as a result of the tag would seriously hamper my ability to sell it.

As soon as I saw the option to buy the PayTag in the new Commbank app, I got it. $2.99, no harm done. But it’s not going to change your life. Maybe you can consolidate your every day carry down to an iPhone only, now that you don’t need a wallet, you lucky bastard. I don’t think most of us will be throwing away our wallets just yet. It smells so much of a hack that unless you’re super desperate for this sort of feature, I don’t know why you’d tarnish your iPhone’s form with this sticker. The fact that placing your phone on the EFTPOS terminal is awkward doesn’t help either. Kudos to the Commonwealth Bank for actually doing it though – many banks have been talking up NFC payments, but none have had the balls to do it. Keep it up CBA.

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Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

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