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Tap into credit card trends

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Apart from taking advantage of the standard benefits of using a credit card (including up to 55-days interest free credit), ETHEL NYEMBE, Head of Card Issuing at Standard Bank, says there are numerous other advantages of signing up for one.

As with many inventions in modern society, credit cards are evolving rapidly. Once deemed an emergency tool only, the credit card has become so much more than that; used wisely, credit cards can be secure and convenient methods of payment that offer valuable rewards to the consumer.

“The credit card industry is one of the most competitive in the world, and card issuers go to great lengths to retain existing customers while convincing new customers to join and experience the convenience of a credit card – so much so that they are forever looking for new and unique ways to increase their value offering. So, apart from taking advantage of the standard benefits of using a credit card (including up to 55-days interest free credit) there has never been a better time to acquire this type of revolving credit,” says Ethel Nyembe, Head of Card Issuing at Standard Bank.

Below are just a few current trends that were designed to work in the consumer’s favour:

New ‘cash back’ card innovations

Cardholders who use reward cards earn valuable points, frequent-flyer miles at some banks, or cash back for the purchases they would have made anyway. Those who earn cash back – or in the case of Standard Bank, Ucount Rewards points – are realising helpful discounts on purchases, whether in the form of actual cash, or in points that can be exchanged for discounts, flight miles and other rewards.

Competition is tight among financial institutions to offer their customers the very best in rewards and loyalty benefits, and credit card holders are urged to do their homework, keep abreast of changes to their bank’s rewards programme, and make sure they are optimising all the benefits available to them.

Increase of secure mobile payment solutions

Standard Bank’s SnapScan and Snap Beacons are two such innovations. With more consumers and vendors making and receiving payments using their cellphones, the SnapScan series of payment solutions allow customers to pay at SnapScan-enabled merchants by simply scanning a payment code. SnapBeacon lets customers do the same, but in a more convenient way, as no codes need to be scanned. By using Bluetooth technology, merchant beacons detect where customers are and invite them to “pay here” for goods or services.

Innovative chip card communications and security features

To avoid long queues, all cheque and credit card account holders can use Standard Bank’s Tap to Pay payment solution. All that is required is a simple tap of their credit card within 5cm of the terminal at the point-of-sale (POS). Easy and secure, your card never leaves your hand, making it the ultimate in safe payment solutions. And if your card is stolen, the holder cannot tap for any amount over R500 without your PIN, giving you time to cancel your card with minimal risk of financial loss. “In addition, to mitigate the risk of any transactions on your account without your knowledge, Standard Bank offers MyUpdates – a free service that alerts you via SMS and emails of all activities on your account, enabling you to identify and report any transactions that may be suspicious or that you didn’t authorise,” says Nyembe.

Newly designed websites, apps and services

Banking customers are among some of the most tech-savvy, and, as such, are ever in search of new, fast and convenient ways to conduct their day-to-day banking. Standard Bank recognises this, and – as one example among many – offers the latest in credit card functionality on its web and mobile banking app. The update has reimagined the way customers use credit cards and aims to convert the app into a remote control for cards. Via the mobile banking app, clients can now activate their bank cards for use during international travel, toggle cards on or off, stop cards in case of loss or theft, order new cards, and manage ATM limits.

Peace of mind

One of the less appreciated benefits of a credit card is that consumers are protected when a merchant fails to deliver goods or services paid for, or if what you received was not what was promised. To get your money back, you simply have to contact your credit card issuer and request a chargeback. A temporary credit for the amount in dispute is immediately received, and it becomes permanent once the card issuer has researched and substantiated your claim.

For example, if you paid for a product that never arrived by mail, you would receive a full refund. Or, if you purchase a service for one year, and the service provider goes out of business after a few months, you would receive a pro-rated refund for the service you didn’t receive.

“Not too long ago, credit cards were seen as a dangerous, but at times ‘necessary evil’ whose overuse could lead their owners down the road to over-indebtedness and financial ruin. This inaccurate view is fast being dispelled as it becomes obvious that credit cards are not only a fast, convenient, and secure, payment method, but also an effective financial management tool,” says Nyembe.

 

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Did an earthquake take out SA Internet?

Seabed avalanches caused by an earthquake could have cut several undersea cables, leading to one of South Africa’s biggest Internet outages yet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Picture by TooMuchCoffeeMan from pixabay.com

There is still no official explanation for freak breaks 11 days ago in two separate undersea cables that provide international access to South Africa’s Internet users. However, as reported in the Sunday Times yesterday, the most common causes of such breaks are damage by ship anchors and earthquakes at sea.

However, the freak occurrence of two separate cables being cut simultaneously far out at sea, as happened on the morning of 16 January, can only be explained by sea-bed activity.  One of the cables was cut in two places, and it is widely believed that a third major cable was also cut.

The cable damage mostly occurred in or near an area called the Congo Canyon, which starts inland and extends 220km into the sea. It is known for having the world’s strongest “turbidity currents”, underwater sediment avalanches over hundreds of kilometers, which are known to destroy undersea cables.

The most likely culprit is a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlantic Ocean near Ascension Island shortly before the cables were cut on the morning of 16 January. The earthquake occurred just before 8am South African time, and local ISPs reported losing international access from just before 10am. The epicentre of the earthquake was more than a thousand kilometres off the coast of Africa, but disturbances caused by seismic activity at sea become more powerful as they approach the coast. Combined with turbidity currents, this could well have taken out all cables in the area.

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was cut in two places, and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT3) cable in one location. Industry insiders believe that the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable was also cut, but it has not been publicly confirmed.

South Africa is connected to the global Internet via seven such cables, with a total capacity of 42.3 terabits per second (tbps).  These cables, in turn, connect to additional cables connecting the West and East coasts of Africa, with a single cable running from Angola to Brazil providing another 40 tbps.

However, it emerged in the past week that smaller ISPs in South Africa had bought capacity on only one or two cables. In a freak occurrence, two of the most commonly used cables, the WACS and SAT 3 cables, were cut simultaneously, plunging millions of Internet users into data darkness.

Customers of the major mobile network operators – Vodacom and MTN – were largely unaffected, as these tend to have both part-ownership and access to most of the cables running up both the East and West coasts of Africa.

Visit the next page to read about how ISPs have battled to reroute access, how massive resources are needed to deal with these kinds of outages, and when the ship will reach the breakage points.

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Lenovo express-delivers new range from CES to SA

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Lenovo has unveiled its new range of ThinkBook laptops, barely two weeks after they were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

The company’s newest sub-brand, ThinkBook, is intended to meet the demand for more aesthetically pleasing, yet agile and powerful devices.

The new range is aimed at small and medium enterprises. According to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), there are more than 2-million SMEs in South Africa – although there are only 667,433 in the formal sector. This tallies with estimates in recent editions of SME Survey, produced by World Wide Worx, which suggest 650,000 active, formal businesses in South Africa. These SMEs employ about 14% of the South African workforce. 

Lenovo argues that access to affordable, yet efficient, technology is a crucial factor in aiding business success and contributing towards the success of the nation. The company has found, in its own research, that younger people prefer working, creating and communicating online “with stylish devices that make a statement”. This means they require streamlined laptops which can be used to collaborate from any remote location, to enhance productivity.

Lenovo said in a statement on Thursday night: “Backed by customer research, ThinkBook is specially designed for SMEs, who typically purchase consumer laptops for perceived design and price advantages but can no longer rationalise their lack of extended services and warranties – core needs of any business. ThinkBook allows growing firms to keep a competitive edge in attracting today’s young tech-savvy execs with trendy yet cost-effective devices. 

Thibault Dousson, general manager of  Lenovo for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said at the launch event: “With the capacity, SMEs have to grow and upskill the country’s workforce, they are perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between the public sector and large enterprise. Bearing in mind the demands of the digital economy, this sector needs skills and resources in order to compete, and that is where devices such as the ThinkBook come in.”

In South Africa, ThinkBook laptops are now available in 13-, 14- and 15-inch variants. The flagship ThinkBook 14 and ThinkBook 15 devices are powered by Windows 10 Pro and up to 10th Gen Intel Core processing, which Lenovo says combines high performance with intuitive, time-saving features. Options include Intel Optane memory, WiFi 6, and discrete graphics.

The ThinkBook 15 comes at just 18.9mm thin, while the ThinkBook 14 is a mere 17.9mm, both with FHD displays and two Dolby Audio speakers, dual-array, Skype certified microphones and a USB 3.1 (Gen2, Type-C) port.

Lenovo has also introduced the ThinkBook S series, including an elegant 13.3-inch ThinkBook 13s. The sleek and light device is constructed of a metallic finish on an all-aluminium chassis, alongside a narrow bezel display. As with the ThinkBook 14 and 15, the ThinkBook 13s also features advanced Intel processing and an FHD display, Dolby Vision and Harman speakers with Dolby Audio.

Visit the next page to read about the design and features of the new ThinkBook range.

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