My life revolves around M-PESA, the mobile money service offered in Kenya by network operator Safaricom and around the world by the Vodafone Group and its affiliates. The reason is simple: I get to pay for goods and services in an easy and fast way. Like most people around me, I am always on my phone and M-PESA is just the most convenient way to do things.
However, up until recently, making payments for goods bought, services rendered and the like wasn’t the most painless experience at all. For starters, there was always the likelihood of sending money to the wrong party and never getting it back again. Ever. Where luck was not on one’s side, they could also end up doing the wrong thing. Like, for instance, buying airtime when one was interested in withdrawing cash at an agent or sending money to someone.
Safaricom has over the last two years moved to address most concerns.
For instance, it introduced the Hakikisha feature whereby users are notified immediately after making a transaction of the specifics of that transaction and given a brief window to verify the particulars and cancel the transaction incase anything is wrong or ignore it and let the transaction happen. Safaricom’s customer service team has also been very helpful when it comes to reversals of wrong transactions made. When one buys airtime instead of withdrawing, all they need to do is contact the customer care team either by a phone call or through social media (Facebook, Twitter) and they are sorted.
For over a year now, Safaricom has had the mySafaricom application available on the Google Play Store for users to be able to better manage the services they receive from the telecommunications company. However, it wasn’t until March this year when the application was updated to include M-PESA.
With M-PESA finally integrated, the over 1 million smartphone users can now take full advantage and transact even faster thanks to the app. While good ol’ SIM toolkit still works wonders and remains a good backup option when you’re not connected to the internet or when the mySafaricom app is acting up, using the application, which has since been updated to reflect Safaricom’s recent rebranding, is way better than using the otherwise cumbersome SIM toolkit.
1. Contacts look up
I can’t remember when this particular feature was introduced but back in the day when “update your M-PESA menu” was a standard response from Safaricom’s customer care team everytime there was an M-PESA upgrade/M-PESA got a new feature, it popped up. When making an M-PESA transaction, one can opt to look up a contact and not have to remember their phone number or open their phonebook/contacts app and copy paste or write it down somewhere for reference. Just select Search SIM Contacts and you’re home and dry. There is a big problem with this approach, though.
As the menu name suggests, you can only search contacts you have saved on the SIM card on your device. In 2017! As far as the SIM card goes, you may be limited to just 250 contacts. I have over 2,000 contacts in my phonebook going as far back as 2008, when I first got my Safaricom SIM card, a hand-me-down from my father. I had long forgotten about saving contacts to a SIM card until I bought the Nokia 3310 (2017) and found the contacts I had saved almost a decade ago. Back when I had no WhatsApp and texting random girls I’d met at the high school regional science congress was a thing. So, as you can see, this feature, available through the SIM toolkit, doesn’t cut it. Not just for me but for many other smartphone users out there. Luckily, the M-PESA menu on the mySafaricom app takes care of things.
Regardless of where your contacts are saved, you can lookup any contact before sending money. In the field where you are supposed to key in the recipient’s mobile phone number, there’s a faint phonebook icon. Click on it and you’re taken to your device’s default contacts app from where you can enjoy that app’s search and filter functionality to be able to pick out the right contact before finally sending the money.
One more thing: Trick/hack: You don’t need to send someone 10 bob so that you can look up their name. It’s not exactly what Safaricom had in mind but hey, it works!
2. Confirmation before sending money
That Hakikisha feature that lets you know transaction details just before a transaction is completed? It’s nice and all but it could be better. If you actually got those details before hitting “Send” and not after. That’s exactly what happens when you use the Safaricom app to send money or pay bills. You get a quick heads up on the amount you’re about to pay and to whom (person, business entity etc).
3. You get to know the transaction cost upfront
While at it, you just don’t get notified of the particulars of the transaction upfront, you also get to know how much it costs to make the transaction. Safaricom introduced the feature, where users are notified of the transaction costs, back in February. However, just like the Hakikisha feature, you only get to know of the transaction fees after you’ve completed a transaction, in the confirmation text message you get from the M-PESA system. Need to know beforehand? You have to use the Safaricom app. Yeah, you could get a third party application to let you know transaction costs upfront, or even use Safaricom’s own M-Ledger app but good luck getting those to help you when it is a Lipa na M-PESA transaction you’re making.
That SIM toolkit we really don’t like that much? Well, it’s not wise to throw away the baby with the bathwater. We still need it. It’s the layer that holds the keys to your M-PESA account. After all transactions are initiated on the Safaricom application, approvals, by way of keying in the PIN, are done via the SIM toolkit. It makes the process a bit cumbersome but it’s the price we have to pay for keeping things secure.
5. Pay bill/Till number lookup
It’s not just contacts and the transaction costs that one can lookup. Instead of downloading another application (before the Safaricom app came around I was heavily dependent on M-Ledger for this), you can use the M-PESA app to check the Pay bill or Till number of a company or business before going ahead to make a payment. When you search and find what you’re looking for, simply click on the search result and it is inputted into the respective field. No need to copy and paste.
No more “accidents”
Buying airtime accidentally when all you wanted to do was send money is no longer an issue. “Buy Airtime” and “Send Money” menus have their own well-defined icons that are far apart that it’s no longer possible to perform a transaction for one while you meant the other. I have a friend from my college-going days who lost a student governing council election because of such a thing. He went to withdraw money meant for his campaign agents but instead ended up buying Kshs 12,000 airtime. On the eve of the election. I am sure there are more horror stories out there. Costly “accidents”. Thankfully, they can all be avoided.
Don’t have it yet? The mySafaricom app is an app store away. Download link.