Apple’s war with the Big Four banks has only just begun

Angus Kidman 27 June 2017

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What will the consequences of its Westpac slapping be?

If there's one thing Apple is good at, it's being stubborn. So it's really no surprise that the iPhone manufacturer has thrown a hissy fit and insisted that Westpac remove a feature from its mobile banking app that allowed customers to make payments through Snapchat, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger.

While no official reason has been given yet, it's not hard to work out what's happening here. Apple doesn't want anyone using an iPhone to make payments that aren't routed through Apple Pay. That's the reason it stood firm against an application last year by several of Australia's major banks, including Westpac, to be allowed access to the NFC chip in iPhones.

The banks sought leave from the ACCC to collectively negotiate with Apple over the issue, an application which was ultimately turned down in March. Apple's argument is that only it can be trusted to keep such payments secure. But the fact that it would also get a cut of any payments made via Apple Pay can't be ignored.

The holdout amongst the Big Four is ANZ, which has agreed a deal with Apple and offers Apple Pay across most of its cards. (Check out our guide to all the cards in Australia with Apple Pay for a full list.) The others are holding out, and it doesn't look like relations are thawing.

In April, Westpac became the first major bank to offer Samsung Pay, which demonstrates that it's not impossible to negotiate a deal between a Big Four bank and a major mobile phone provider. The latest stoush with Apple suggests we won't see any love on the iPhone front for a while though.

The really big question here is when it will start to matter. Australians are already enthusiastic users of contactless payments via credit cards, so it's not like we have to rely on Apple to make that available. But it would seem foolish to predict that we won't eventually want to move to a world where we can just carry a phone, not just a phone and a credit card. Apple doesn't want to open up those gates except on its terms, but that might not be a sustainable approach in the long run.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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