Thursday, April 2, 2009

Smart Money - Simply Complicated

I finally got to use my Smart Money card for the first time today at a gas station. I opened a Smart Money account about a month ago. This was prompted by inquiries of some customers on exactly how do they fund their PayEasy Wallet account using Smart Money. I didn't really know how to answer the question as I personally have never used it.

Also, we have been accepting Smart Money funding manually with the sysads receiving a Smart Money notification via txt and they would authorize the Wallet funding manually. So I thought we might as well automate it also using our Mozcommunicator SMS Gateway. I resolved to get a Smart Money account to test these once and for all.

Opening a Smart Money account felt straightforward at first. I filled up an application form online and submitted it with a click. Then I received a call after a while from a Smart call center person confirming the details. They had to call me at two separate occassion to confirm and validate the info I provided. Since there's something wrong with my N6120's ringer, I missed one of the calls, so I had to call back their call center to know what the follow up call was all about.

After close to a week, I went to the Smart Wireless Center along Ayala to pickup my Smart Money debit Mastercard. They charged me something like Php30 for that card. Not surprising, the plastic looks really thin and cheap. The card details are just printed on the PVC and not embossed unlike regular credit cards. I take it that nobody uses the old style "plantsa" anymore to capture credit card images at retail stores. If there were, you certainly cannot "plantsa" this card as there is nothing embossed that will come out on the carbon paper.

I don't remember why, but I did not immediately fund my account on that day, and had to go back to the Smart Wireless Center again on another occasion to do the funding. This time, I had to line up at their cashier section to fund Php506 for my testing. It was another long wait just to put a small amount into the account.

Then came the most complicated part of all -- I had to "link" my Smart number to my Mastercard. The instruction on the booklet looked really simple. You txt your Mastercard number to short code '393'. It then prompts you to enter your Wireless PIN (W-PIN); then your Mastercard ATM PIN. The probem is, I don't recall ever being asked for a PIN during my application. So what can the PIN be? I tried my usual ATM PIN's, but it said it was wrong.

I called up the Smart Money trunkline and the lady told me to try the default - '123456'. No luck. So I asked her to just have it reset. This was already around 6pm and I was still at the office. She told me that they were experiencing system problems and she kept asking me to wait a few more minutes as her access to their system is very slow. After about 20 mins of waiting on the phone, I told her I'll just do it tomorrow. She said she will just go ahead and have it reset when the system goes up again and that I will just receive an SMS within 24 hours once its done. Fine.

Next day, I did receive the SMS informing me of the reset. So I quickly tried the process again of sending my Smart Money card number to '393' and went through the motions. This time around, it prompted me that my ATM PIN is wrong! I tried the usual ATM PIN and the default '123456' and neither one worked. So I had to call the Smart Money trunkline yet again, this time, to ask for a reset of my ATM PIN. The lady warned me the other day that I had to go to a BDO ATM to do an actual attempt to use the card in order for them to verify that my ATM PIN is wrong. So I did that earlier already. Luckily, there was a BDO ATM not far from our building.

Again, the long wait to get a request to have the ATM PIN reset. She told me to wait for an SMS confirmation within 24 hours to know if it has already been reset. 24 hours passed and I did not get any confirmation. So on the next day, I called up the Smart Money call center again and gave them the service reference number. The operator told me that the reset already went through and that maybe I just did not receive an SMS notification. Now armed with a new W-PIN and new ATM PIN, I was finally able to "link" my accounts. And it took me almost a whole month to get this whole thing done!

The Smart Money debit Mastercard is a no-balance-required account with Banco de Oro. I believe Smart originally tied-up or acquired a bank (was it Prudential?), which it renamed to 1st e-Bank, then was later acquired probably by BDO. The Mastercard is associated to your Smart number so that when you use it in retail establishments, it sends an SMS notification to your phone also. You can do mobile transactions using your phone, and it will do the debit Mastercard transaction in the background. Its actually quite sophisticated and can do a lot more than Globe G-Cash. But unfortunately, in its effort to do all of that, it has made the product quite too complicated to get up and running.

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