What is WhatsApp Pay and How It Works


Last week, Whatsapp Pay, or payments made headlines, and for good reason. The money product has been under development by Facebook (that owns WhatsApp) over an extended period, but was not launched in India following a series of legal issues.

In this case, India was selected because of the numbers. The country has more than 400 million active WhatsApp users, and WhatsApp Pay has been allowed to service up 20 million customers in the first phase.

It is now official, and the India people can use it freely to make payments.  

However, there are a few things to note about the platform, such as how to sign up, how it runs, and whether users pay any transactions fees.

Here are some interesting elements of WhatsApp Pay:

  1. It should be noted that the platform is based on Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which is also used by other popular platforms like Google Pay. UPI is also used by primary banks across the globe.
  2. The sign-up process is available on the three-dot menu on the WhatsApp screen. Users are then asked to add a new payment method, choose their bank from a list, which should the user’s UPI account. Afterward, a user authenticates the exercise with a phone number via SMS. It is that simple.
  3. Since the system is based on UPI, customers do not have any money in their WhatsApp wallets. The cash is held in the bank, and WhatsApp will only help you transact with the cash.
  4. Sending money is done by hitting the attachment icon, the same one used to send media files.
  5. It only works in India, and with Indian phone numbers. International numbers cannot work with the platform.
  6. Transactions are limited to ₹1 lakh in a day, which is equal to about KES 100k. This is the same limit applied for UPI.
  7. UPI is a free service; hence users are not charged for transacting on WhatsApp Pay.

This a good start to instant payments that are done within a popular chat app, and comes in handy in a country that uses the app a lot.

It is also a big deal because the country is not like Kenya where users have in-house solutions, such as M-PESA that has been a success story since launch.

People have been asking about the effect WhatsApp Pay would have in Kenya if it launched here. Well, that is a comprehensive discussion that has many variables and a ton of considerations, hence will be dedicated for another day. It should also be remembered that the reason M-PESA has been so successful is because it does not require as many as requirements as say WhatsApp Pay (you need to have a bank account – M-PESA reaches out to the unbanked).

Nonetheless, WhatsApp Pay is an interesting product, and we will be on the lookout about its progress in India.