We are living in the subscription era.
Want a copy of your favourite magazine? Well, how about subscribing for a digital copy? Want to watch that Breaking Bad movie that has been hyped for months? You will need to pay Netflix for that if pirating is not your portion. The same for if you want to pay to access a catalogue of over 40 million songs and take them with you everywhere you go using music streaming services like Apple Music. Or grab an eBook on Amazon’s expansive Kindle store. Heck, even newspapers like the major ones from the West will need you to drop some coins every month for continued access to the drama unfolding in the West Wing and in the land of Brexit.
While Kenya prides itself in being the home of pioneering mobile money service M-Pesa, which has revolutionized money transfer and payments in the country, most foreign-based services from various vendors and providers don’t have options to pay via M-Pesa and, as such, cards still come in handy. Now, in a nation that is not particularly receptive to plastic money, therein lies a problem. Many find it challenging paying for things like streaming video-on-demand services and music streaming services. The same for purchases made on global e-commerce platforms.
Don’t get me started on the bit where some of these vendors, for example, those domiciled in the United States, might even have issues processing local-issued credit and debit cards.
Compounded by the fear that one’s card details can fall in the wrong hands resulting in their bank accounts being wiped clean and the usual lengthy bureaucratic processes that are still associated with some local lenders before they can authorized cards to be used online, there’s been a surge in popularity for prepaid cards like NCBA’s Loop card.
For those that have not got around to getting a prepaid card for their online shopping and other needs, there’s now yet another option that doesn’t involve much on the part of the end-user: Tingg’s virtual prepaid card.
Tingg, since we are talking about it here on Android Kenya for the first time, is the payments super app that we previously used to know as Mula. Remember Mula? We have covered quite a bit of the app from one of the continent’s leading FinTech companies, Cellulant. Given the aggressive direction shared at its launch, it wants to be Africa’s WeChat, minus the personal and group chat features, of course.
The rebrand from Mula to Tingg, which officially happened at the start of October after several months of trialling it as a separate application, brought with it features that weren’t available in the former. Like food and cooking gas delivery as well as expense tracking. Chamas are also accommodated.
The card is not exactly new, though, as it had been teased during the app’s launch and it is only now that the feature is starting to roll out to users.
The virtual prepaid card is being made available through links Cellulant has been sending to Tingg users and is not available directly in-app.
It is only upon clicking the activation link sent via SMS that one sees a prompt to get the virtual card after completing a series of steps that should be familiar to anyone who has used Barter, a payments app developed by Nigerian startup Flutterwave that links consumers to merchants and allows them to do exactly the same kind of things that Tingg’s virtual prepaid card will let them do.
After going through the onboarding process, which involves biometric identification to match one’s face to the photograph used on their national identity card, one has to await verification from the Cellulant team. How long that takes, I have no idea since hours after submitting my application for the card in-app, I am still awaiting clearance.
For a virtual prepaid card, powered by MasterCard, no less, it remains to be seen if Cellulant will follow the Visa-powered Flutterwave’s lead and let users generate virtual cards that are not limited to the boundaries of one’s country of origin. This will make it handy to do things like pay for PlayStation Plus subscriptions and Spotify, services which the average Kenya-issued card struggles to service because of geo-restrictions (Kenya isn’t a PlayStation Network region and Spotify is not officially available in the country).
Other features of the app advertised at launch like agency banking, micro-lending, use of augmented reality (AR) to try out products like cosmetics before purchase and bus booking are still yet to make it to the app and should be what we look out for in the future, among others.