National Common Mobility Card: One for All!!!

Introduction: 

Todays generation is an evidence of revolution which’s taken place under the tag of Digital India. So far, face of the Payment industry is changed drastically and that too within last few years. And a good thing is, uprising phase is still in-process.

One of the positive and important outcomes of this is, rise in the Technological awareness within common man. Trust towards technology has grown within Indians. Day by day people are becoming more comfortable with digitalization. Result of which, people have understood the importance of cashless transactions. Per individual average usage of a card or mobile phone to make any payment is now increased. Matter of fact is, people are avoiding cash transactions wherever it’s possible.
Bill payments, Fund transfer, ATM transactions, POS purchase, recharge and top-ups of mobile/DTH, E-commerce, Online Ticketing of movies, transit etc. can be easily done by using any of the options from Cards (Debit, Credit, Prepaid, Gift, Transit etc.), UPI, Online/Digi Banking, e-wallets etc. But each payment method requires its respective product to be used to perform a transaction. Like one cannot use a bank issued standard debit/credit card on all transit systems, a transit card cannot be used at fuel stations, prepaid cards cannot be used everywhere and so on.

National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) identified this gap and came up with a solution of having a ‘single card’ which can support maximum possible payment methods and channels.The card got its name as ‘National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)’ aka ‘RuPay Contactless Card’.
It is based on qSPARC specification, which is NPCI’s Dual Interface Open loop payment specification with the feature of loading multiple payment applications on a single card. This card is supported by diversified sections like retail shops, restaurants, retail outlets, ATM/Kiosk, Vehicle Parking stations, Buses, Cabs, Metros etc.

Some more information like, how to get it? other aspects? pros & cons? etc.

Card issuance: 

The card can either be a Debit, Credit or Prepaid card. To get this card, one will need to make an application at Bank. One can apply for a new card or an upgrade for existing one.

As of today, these cards are available with below banks.

  • Debit Card – PNB, BOB, Saraswat, TJSB and UBI
  • Prepaid Card – ICICI, Axis, HDFC, SBI, CSB, YES, Paytm, Andhra

NCMC card can be issued by any member authorized by RBI. Near future, this card will be available with some more banks as well.

Usage: 

This card can be used at all those channels on which the existing cards are being used in traditional ways. For example, at ATMs, POS & online (ecommerce) payments etc.
On top of it, this card can also be used at additional services such as transit, toll, parking & other small value merchant payments where a traditional bank issued Debit/Credit fails to work.

Service area/compartments:

 As the NCMC card is based on qSPARC specifications, this card comes which a unique feature of storing values on card.
It enables Acquirers or Operators to own independent blocks on the payment card. These blocks are referred as ‘Service’.
An acquirer who wishes to implement special function along with the EMV based payments on specific terminals can do so using empty storages area called as ‘service compartment’ or ‘service area’.
Service compartments may contain data which is specific to a particular operator.
Single card is capable of supporting multiple services for payment and non-payment capabilities.

Service area activation:

  • To use these additional services, a card needs to have the service areas activated into it.
  • There are two ways by which the service areas can be activated.
    • Pre-issuing: Service can be personalized on a card by bank while personalization of card.
    • Post issuing: User can have services personalized on card by writing desired services on it. This can be done using special Terminals which are capable of writing services on card. Please check below flow diagram.

Card Top up or recharge:

Top up is purely categorized on the basis of types of services.
Let us assume that one wants to use the card at metro station. Then the person will need to top up the card for its respective supported service area like ‘Transit’. Later on, the same topped up amount available on card can be used for other services as well, which falls under same service area.

Below are the options by which a top up can be done.

  • Online using card
  • Internet banking
  • IVR
  • ATM
  • Over the service counter using Cash
  • Auto top-up

Comparison between NCMC and Other Proprietary prepaid cards:

Concern NCMC – Open loop smart card Proprietary – Closed loop smart Card
Customer Friendly Customer can use the same card for Metro and Bus travel in all the City and States within the country. Customer need to buy different cards for transport Systems.
Convenience Customers will use their bank issued NCMC card for fare payment rather than waiting in a queue for card/token/ticket issuance. Customer may require to stand in queue for card issuance, Top up etc.
Loyalty Points Consumer may benefit from loyalty/reward points from partner banks, as provided in case of Debit and Credit cards. No such provision. Any such loyalty and discount are cost to the Public Transport Operators.
Minimum Infrastructure Public Transport Operators can minimize their cost involved in maintenance of infrastructure and manpower for card issuance, Top-up, card replacement and refunds, as open loop cards can be issued by multiple partner banks. Each Public Transport Operators need to bear the significant expense for maintenance of infrastructure and manpower for card issuance, Top up, card replacement and refunds.
Negotiating Power As open loop acceptance devices are based on open interoperable standards, there are multiple vendors available for payment acceptance devices, which provide an opportunity for cost and service negotiation. Closed loop cards may be of proprietary standards, leading to vendor lock in for subsequent purchase and renewals of acceptance devices.
No vendor lock in Open standards-based payment acceptance devices provide the freedom for subsequent purchase and renewals of devices. Proprietary standards may lead to vendor lock in for subsequent purchase and renewals of acceptance devices.
Ease of Implementation Well standardized payment acceptance devices and availability of multiple vendors provides ease of implementation. Payments related scope of work to be taken care by partner bank and hence PTOs may focus on their key activities. PTOs need to evaluate multiple proprietary specifications leading to difficulty in implementation.
Fast Deployment Due to similar implementation process, best practices and reference implementation guidelines, there will be standardized procurement practices, and RFPs. This considerably expedites the deployment of digital payments in Public Transport Operators. Each deployment will have specific requirements and considerable expertise is required by each Public Transport Operators for selection of appropriate solution.
Retail acceptance NCMC open loop card offers acceptance at all the existing retail POS devices. Closed loop cards can only be accepted within their operating environments.

Now let us see what are the Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • No need to keep multiple types of cards in wallet (Like debit, prepaid, transit etc.). As one card supports maximum services.
  • Supports online as well as offline payment modes with minutest risk of fraud.
  • Motivates customers for cashless payments and provides a mechanism of including Low Value Payments (LVPs) into cashless. Result of which, customers end to end everyday needs would shift from cash to cashless transactions.
  • Supports EMV based contact and contactless payment transactions with standard guidelines.
  • Supports both Account based and Card based payment models.
  • Supports cashless and contactless ticketing across various transit operators.
  • Reserved space on card for acquirer or operator specific program implementation. Supports Closed, Open and Semi-closed loop environment.
  • Multi-level wallets: qSPARC specifications supports creation of wallets in card at two different levels – Global and Local.
  • Other benefits:
    • Open Standards
    • High Security
    • Vendor Agnostic
    • Data storage
    • Inter-operability
    • Scalability
    • Stored Value

Cons:

  • Presently the number of merchants who are supporting qSPARC cards is very less.
  • Certification will be applicable for Acquirer, Issuer and Terminal vendor. Which involves both the factors ‘time and money’.
  • Cost is involved to replace already issued RuPay cards with new qSPARC cards. Hence either issuer Bank or customer has to bear the cost.
  • People are not yet very much aware about this card and its features. A strong product marketing will be needed to promote this card.

Future of NCMC:

  • Understanding perspective: Looking at the pace of digitalization towards cashless transactions in the era of Digital India, we know very well that how people have managed to utilized services made available so far. NCM card and its features not being exception, people should not find it difficult to understand.
  • Card issuance view point:Issuer would prefer to re-issue an expired card with new NCMC. Techno-savvy’s and exited ones would not think of bearing cost to go for this new card. Reaching up to large number of card base would take some time.
  • About transaction volume:
    Projects like smart cities would accelerate the future of NCMC. Apart from this, many other types of acquirers are supporting NCMC card.Looking at overall market available, if the supported platforms are made available in decent numbers then, it will be a definite addition to the list of NPCI’s successful products.
Abhishek Mhaske

Abhishek is working as Sr. Consultant in Verinite. He is a Techno-functional expert in Cards & Payments domain having experience in Switch Implementation and Business Analysis. His passion is to explore new things, likes to read and travel. He believes in the saying "A Change of Work is the Best Rest".