How to use WhatsApp Pay for sending and receiving money
After a rocky start, WhatsApp’s payments feature is now widely available in India and other supported markets, marking a big step forward for the Facebook-owned company as it looks to expand beyond its messaging capabilities and prepares to tap into e-commerce opportunities. Here’s everything you need to know about WhatsApp’s ambitious payments feature.
Background — A Long Quest
WhatsApp’s quest to launch its payments service in India dates back to 2018. In February 2018, WhatsApp obtained approval from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to beta test its payments service, which saw the company rolling out the service to one million users.
But what seemed like smooth sailing soon came to a sudden halt as the company engaged in a lengthy regulatory battle, which stretched on for two years. One of the demands put forward by regulators was compliance with Reserve Bank of India’s data storage guidelines, which mandates all Payments Service Providers (PSP) to store financial data of users within Indian territory.
RBI asked NPCI to hold the full-scale rollout of WhatsApp Pay until the company fulfilled these requirements. WhatsApp initially resisted the compliance but realizing there was no way around it, the company agreed to abide by the data localization requirements needed to receive a green light for the rollout.
WhatsApp appointed Deloitte, a third-party CERT-In auditor, to audit its compliance, which submitted its report to NPCI on May 29th, 2020, citing WhatsApp to be fully compliant with RBI’s data localization norms.
Satisfied with the report, NPCI then gave formal approval to WhatsApp and its Payments Service Provider, ICICI Bank, to go live on UPI in a phased manner, with the feature being made available to a maximum of 20 million users in the first wave. In November 2021, WhatsApp received a go-ahead to expand the service to additional 20 million users. That brings the total number of users that have access to WhatsApp Pay to 40 million, a minuscule number considering WhatsApp boasts a 400+ million strong userbase in the country. This brings us to the next question.
Is WhatsApp’s payments feature available in my country?
Unlike other universally available WhatsApp features, the payments feature is currently only available in three countries: India, the US, and Brazil. In India, WhatsApp Pay uses the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform while in Brazil the feature is powered by Facebook Pay, with the credit and debit card operator Cielo handling payments processing.
In the US, WhatsApp users can send and receive money through the Novi wallet. As of now, it’s only available to a limited number of users. Novi is a digital wallet from WhatsApp’s parent company Meta. It allows users to transfer money via a stablecoin called Pax Dollar (USDP) that’s backed by the US dollar (e.g. 1 USDP is equivalent to 1 USD.)
WhatsApp mentions on its FAQ page that it’s “working to bring this feature to other countries” but so far no concrete details about further expansion in other markets have been shared by the company.
How to use WhatsApp Pay
Requirements for using WhatsApp Pay are pretty basic — you only need the latest version of WhatsApp. If you meet this requirement, follow these steps to set up the feature and start sending and receiving payments on WhatsApp:
- Make sure you have the latest version of WhatsApp installed on your phone — stable or beta, it doesn’t matter.
- From within the app, tap on the three-dot menu in the upper right corner and look for the Payments option.
- Even if you see the Payments option in the menu, it’s still not guaranteed the feature is activated for your account. You might either be greeted with the You can’t set up payments in WhatsApp right now error or get a screen that looks like this (in which case congratulations, the feature is available for you).
- The onboarding process is very straightforward. Tap on the Add payment method and select your bank from the list.
- WhatsApp will try to find and link your bank account associated with your mobile number. You might be asked to verify your phone number via SMS — a common ritual among UPI apps when setting up the account for the first time.
- If the linking process went smoothly, you should now have everything in place to start sending and receiving money through WhatsApp Pay.
The WhatsApp Pay Experience
Using WhatsApp Pay is very similar to using any other UPI app, but since the service is integrated right into the WhatsApp app, it makes for a much more simplified and less cluttered experience. The UI is refreshingly clean and intuitive, with the main emphasis on peer-to-peer transactions. You also have the option to scan QR codes for paying at merchants and businesses.
It doesn’t replace a full-fledged app like Google Pay — you can’t pay your bills for example — but for just sending and receiving money, it gets the job done fairly well.
If the recipient has set up WhatsApp Pay, sending money is as simple as selecting the contact number, entering the amount, and punching in your UPI PIN. In case the other party doesn’t have the payments feature yet, you have the fallback option in the form of sending money to their other UPI ID — assuming they use something like Google Pay or PhonePe, or any UPI, for that matter. Just ask them to share their UPI ID, which should look something like [email protected] or <username>@<bankupi>, and complete the transaction.
Similarly, you can also receive money onto your own WhatsApp Pay UPI ID from other service providers by providing your own ID. But the ID WhatsApp generates looks like <Your Phone Number>[email protected], which isn’t as intuitive as other username-based UPI IDs. So the soft “requirement” for both the sender and receiver having WhatsApp Pay is to simplify the username sharing process and take the thinking out.
In the future, it will be even easier to send payments in WhatsApp using a dedicated payments button that will appear right inside the chat bar.
With more than a dozen UPI apps floating around in India, it won’t be easy for WhatsApp to convince people to switch over to its own flavor of UPI overnight, irrespective of the merits it might hold in the way of ease of use and simplicity. It also paves the way for e-commerce opportunities that Facebook has been eyeing for years, as well as a viable way to monetize the instant messaging platform.
WhatsApp has the natural advantage of being a household name in India. Unlike other UPI apps, it won’t have to go on a hunt for new users, nor will it have to beg people to install yet another UPI app on their phone. The app is already present on more than 400 million devices, so the company’s task is reduced to figuring out how to nudge those users to get in the habit of using WhatsApp Pay.
Despite these advantages, WhatsApp Pay remains a relatively unknown name in the Indian mobile payments scene. The latest data released by NPCI reveals that WhatsApp only carried 2.25 million transactions in December 2021. In comparison, Walmart-owned PhonePe and Google Pay processed 2,077.60 million and 1,587.43 million transactions and held number one and two positions, respectively. Whether WhatsApp will be able to turn around the situation and emerge as the top player remains to be seen.