Money is a very crucial part of travelling and surviving in foreign lands. You will need money for almost all activities including eating, transit, purchasing goods and services etc. You can choose to carry all your cash at hand, but then you are at a high risk of losing a lot if a robbery was to occur. You can also choose credit cards, but some local businesses are not able to accept these and you are back to carrying cash at hand. In Kenya however, we have a third option: mobile money. With this alternative, you do not have to worry about being pickpocketed or not being able to pay because almost all individuals and businesses operate with MPESA. Here is everything you need to know.
What is MPESA
MPESA is a mobile money service offered by the largest telecommunication company in Kenya called Safaricom. It allows you to transfer money wirelessly to and from your mobile phone to various destinations including the bank, a purchase, a bill, buying airtime and even to another person’s phone.
Advantages of MPESA
MPESA has various advantages to it including:
- It saves you wait time as the transactions are instant and at the tip of your hand.
- It is safer than carrying hard cash because even if your phone was to get lost, one cannot access your MPESA account without your secret pin.
- It is available in almost all corners of Kenya including rural areas.
- You can receive money directly to your MPESA from other specific countries including USA.
How do you get an MPESA account
For you to get an MPESA account, you must purchase a Safaricom sim-card. A new simcard is only 100 Kenyan shillings ($1). You can get this at any Safaricom Shop, which are available in all major towns. Just search one on Google maps to find the one nearest you. Apart from the money, you will also need your identification for registration. Your passport will suffice. This helps with making the sim and account particular to you. The operators at the Safaricom shop will set up the simcard for you and activate your MPESA account for you. You will then be able to change the pin (through the pre-existing sim-tool kit app) into a secret number afterwards so that only you can operate it.
Where can you use MPESA
In Kenya, MPESA is useful in almost every avenue that involves the exchange of money. From hospital bills, to supermarkets, to hotels, to cab fare, to safari deals. Even schools accept MPESA if you stay long enough to enrol in a class. Most local banks have also collaborated with MPESA to allow users to transfer money to and from their personal accounts without queuing.
Alternatives to MPESA
Other similar services to MPESA include Airtelmoney and Orangemoney. If you are looking to receive or send money to and from abroad, consider Moneygram or Western Union, both of which are available in all banks and money exchange bureaus.
You should be aware however that the system has fees for various transactions, which you can easily find on the Safaricom website. Do not be alarmed when you check your balance and you cannot account for some money.
For any assistance with matters MPESA or anything else related to MPESA, you can always contact their 24hr free of charge customer service numbers: 100 or 234.