Bank Zero is already up and running for some clients, who are using its new patented cards

Business Insider SA
  • Bank Zero already has a group of individual and corporate clients, ahead of its official launch later this year.
  • They are using the bank’s new card, which has patented anti-fraud technology.
  • The new bank, which was founded by former FNB staffers, is entering a crowded field.
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Bank Zero is already up and running for a limited group of customers, ahead of its official launch later this year.

CEO Yatin Narsai told Netwerk24 that Bank Zero's platform and payment systems are currently in use by a group of individual account holders and businesses.

Bank Zero – the “zero” refers to the fact that it won’t charge monthly banking account fees - was set to launch by the end of 2019, but its plans were delayed. It should be launched, officially, before the end of the year, Narsai said. The bank was started by mostly former FNB staffers, and one of its backers is former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan. Structured as a mutual bank, it won't have branches, but will be online-only. 

The first account holders are using the bank's patented new type of bank card, Narsai told Netwerk24

There are three different card numbers used for every Bank Zero card, two of them invisible to customers. Like other cards, the card number is encoded in three different places: visibly embossed onto the card face, plus in the magnetic strip on the back and in the microchip or "processor memory".

But with Bank Zero, all three of the numbers are different.

The number actually displayed on the card "can be used in situations where highly secured 2-factor authentication can easily be implemented" (according to its 2018 patent), such as online payments, and then locked for use only in such transactions. A second, different number in the mag strip can be locked for use only for swiping at point of sale devices where smart cards can not be used, and a third number can be unique to the smart card, for chip-and-PIN type transactions.

Bank Zero card
(Zero Research patent 2018/06287)

A card-skimming device of the type scammers attach to ATMs will be able to read the card number on the magnetic strip – but will not be able to use it for fraudulent online transactions, even if they capture a customer's PIN with a hidden camera too.

Importantly, Bank Zero account holders will never need to change their card numbers – even if they are issued new cards - so you will never need to update your online details, removing some risk.

Bank Zero is entering a crowded field, with a number of new banks – including Tyme Bank and Discovery Bank - already doing business for some time.

And in a clear dig against the new upstart, FNB itself launched a zero monthly fee bank account, called Easy Zero, last year.

READ | FNB launched its zero-fee bank account ahead of Bank Zero - here’s how it compares to other entry levels accounts

According to Narsai, he has saved R2,000 in banking costs since switching to Bank Zero.


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