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Cash by Optus brings NFC payments to Android -- no battery required

Optus postpaid customers can now make contactless payments (linked to any bank account) through their Android smartphone. And thanks to Optus' new NFC SIM, they can even pay when their battery's dead.

The Cash by Optus app in action. Optus

Optus has become the first Australian telecommunications company to move into the contactless payment space with Cash by Optus -- a smartphone app designed to replace cash and card purchases below AU$100.

Similar to other contactless payment services, such as the recently launched ANZ Mobile Wallet app, Cash by Optus utilises NFC technology and Visa payWave to make payments. However, unlike other services launched by financial institutions, the Optus app is not tied to a specific bank.

At this stage, the service is available only to postpaid customers with a compatible Android smartphone (there are more than 20 compatible devices listed on Optus' website). To utilise the service you'll need one of these compatible smartphones and the Cash by Optus app (available for free download via the Play store), as well as an NFC-enabled SIM card, which customers need to request from Optus.

Optus describes its contactless service as a kind of "virtual card" that "works just like a Visa Prepaid debit card" and can be used at any payment terminal that accepts Visa payWave.

While Cash by Optus is linked to a bank account, customers need to load up to AU$500 at a time to use for payments, with the app allowing you to top up and check your remaining balance online in real time. The app also lets you shop online or over the phone for purchases up to AU$250, and you can contact Optus to close your account and request the return of the remaining balance if you lose your phone.

Thanks to the NFC SIM, Optus says, you'll be able to use the app without opening it on your phone, and "on most phones, it works even if the battery is flat." Optus also says the lack of obvious branding on your phone (in the form of an NFC sticker or similar) adds to the security.

According to Optus Vice President of Mobile Marketing Ben White, there are currently nearly 1 million postpaid Optus customers that will be able to use the service, and it's just the start of the company's push into contactless payments.

"We're the first Australian telco to launch a mobile-payments app," White said, and because it's compatible with many of the latest Android devices and can be linked to any Australian bank account, we've got a huge opportunity to bring this technology to a lot of people."

"This is our first step towards launching future contactless applications in areas like public transport," White said. "Australians never leave home without their mobiles, so it makes sense to build this technology into smartphones now."