SA: MTN’s free mobile money service makes comeback


MTN SA has relaunched its free mobile money service MoMo – the service it withdrew a few years ago.

This time around, the telco is partnering with UBank, a financial services provider with a solid presence in rural areas and mining communities across the country to target more than 10 million unbanked or under-banked people in South Africa, Godfrey Motsa, CEO at MTN, says. 

You can open an account and deposit money at a UBank branch or MTN store or you can deposit money from an existing bank account. 

The mobile money service allows you to perform various financial transactions on your cell phone, including buying airtime and data bundles, prepaid electricity, send and receive money as well as pay for municipal bills and expenses such as DStv. 

There is no minimum balance required on the account and no monthly finance charges for customers. You can’t, however, set up an automated debit order from the accounts.

You can use the service regardless of whether you are an MTN subscriber or not and it can be accessed from any feature phones using the unique USSD code *120*151# or through the MoMo app that is downloaded to a smartphone.

The benefit for MTN users only is that they will not incur any data costs when using the service. 

You can open one of two accounts, a Yello account and a Yello Plus account. MTN uses voice and facial recognition as well as a PIN for added security to open your account. 

On the Yello account, your daily cash transactions are limited to R3,500 and you can have a maximum of R20,000 in the account monthly. On the Yello Plus account, there is a R10,000 daily cash transaction limit and an account limit of R40,000. 

MoMo customers can withdraw money from MTN-branded stores and at UBank branches.

Luthando Vutula, UBank CEO, says his vision for the service is to be accessible in all corners of South Africa, including rural areas and townships to improve financial inclusion in the country. 

MTN plans to add popular retail brands to the platform to enable you to shop from the account in its second phase which is expected to be implemented in May. 

“We look forward to bringing a range of other services to MoMo customers in the near future including loyalty rewards, a savings account and loans,” says Felix Kamenga, chief officer of mobile financial services at MTN SA. 

Kamenga says the mobile money service is meant to complement the banking system and “can be used by a variety of different people … from someone working in the city sending money home to a loved one, a mother in the village supporting a child going to varsity in the city and even small business owners operating in areas where banking services are far”.

In order to use MoMo you must be a South African resident, 18 years or older and have a valid South African ID. You don’t have to have a bank account.  

MTN withdrew its original MoMo offering in 2016, due to what it said was a “lack of commercial viability” despite the service being successful in 14 other African countries.