Cash By Optus (CBO) is a free service offered to Optus Postpaid subscribers that enables you to use your phone as a paywave debit card. In order to be eligible for Cash By Optus you must have three things:
- A phone with a functioning and open Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. This covers most modern Android and Windows Phones, but no iPhones*
- A Cash By Optus SIM. This costs nothing and can be registered for online. You can't get it in-store.
- A bank account
*The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have NFC chips, but are restricted to being used for the Apple Pay service only. They will not work with CBO. Apple Pay is not yet currently available in Australia.
How does it work?
Once you have money in your Cash By Optus account, all you have to do is tap the NFC area of your phone, usually on the back of the device, to the Paywave section of a terminal. The payment will go through automatically, just like it would with a credit card.
You don’t need to have the CBO app open. You don’t even have to unlock your device. Just tap the phone and you’re done. You can even be in the middle of a call, or using your phone for any other purpose. It doesn’t matter, the payment will go through without affecting whatever is currently on the screen.
Do note that there’s no PIN, which means you can’t use it for transactions that require one.
Online purchases are also very easy. In the main menu, there is a tab that says “Online Payment”. Tap this and an image of your virtual debit card will appear, complete with card number and security number. Use these as you would a regular debit or credit card.
Is it safe? What are the limits?
It’s roughly as safe as using any regular Paywave card, in that anyone can use it. If you lose your phone then whoever finds it will be able to make purchases, even if you have a password protecting the phone, because it works while locked.
It does seem less likely that the average dishonest person would think of using it as a payment device like would a credit card, so you might say it’s a bit safer in that respect. You can also ask Optus to put a freeze on the account by calling 133 937.
There are strict maximum usage cut-offs. Only $500 can be in the account at any one time and a maximum of $1000 can be loaded on to the account in a single day. The maximum funds that can be loaded on in a month is $3000.
Due to there being no PIN, the maximum single purchase is anything under $100. This is the maximum amount allowed for contactless transactions in Australia. Online purchases of up to $250 are allowed.
As for the concerns that have been raised about phone-payment systems with regards to skimming money straight out of your pocket, there’s no real difference here between a regular Paywave card and Cash By Optus. Both have to be in very close proximity to a payment device, but requires authorisation from you to make a payment.
Transferring money on to Cash By Optus
Getting set up with your Cash By Optus account is a little odd. Optus will deposit a small amount of money in to the bank account you wish to link. This deposit amount, plus a code associated with the randomly-generated transferee name, will be the two confirmation codes you need to sync the account.
It’s not too difficult to do, but it does take up to 3 business days for the initial transfer to complete. After that, any transfers you make from the linked account to your CBO account will also take up to three business days to clear. The whole setup process can therefore take up to 6 business days – over one week. You can either set up automatic transfers, or do one-off manual ones.
The three day waiting period for each successive transfer means it’s not going to be useful if you suddenly realise your Cash By Optus is low on funds. This is a service that you need to keep up to date in advance of when you need it, but works very well once you actually have the funds in there.
Will Cash By Optus replace my wallet?
Almost definitely not. You can’t make large purchases with it, nor can you transfer money to it quickly in a pinch. Cash By Optus is a convenient way to make small purchases, but not a complete replacement for a credit, debit or eftpos card.
It’s just a small way of making your life easier, but it’s up to you to decide whether or not you think you’ll use it. At the very least it’s free to try and will be a talking point the first few times your friends see you use it.