On the 30th of December 2016, the Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, launched the Bharat Interface For Money or the BHIM app. The app uses the UPI or Unified Payment Interface and was developed by the National Payment Corporation Of India or NPCI.
BHIM app is simple to use and helps make cashless payments easily. The app is available for free download on Google Play Store.
Steps to use the BHIM app :
- Go to Google Play Store and look for the ‘BHIM’ app or simply click the following link – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=in.org.npci.upiapp&hl=en.
- The NPCI does not have any other applications listed apart from this app. Download the free app.
- Upon downloading the application, it pairs with a mobile handset automatically and sends a verification message. The app needs to be granted permission to access the message on the device or phone. Subsequently, to unlock the application set a passcode. There is an option in the form of a toggle to view or hide the passcode.
- Next a list of banks is shown which are supported by the application. At present 31 banks are listed. Choose your bank from the list that appears. The mobile phone number that the user is using for the application needs to be the same as that which is linked to his or her bank account and which has mobile banking enabled on it. The app will automatically, in a secure manner, retrieve the information of the bank account. This feature is attributed to UPI.
- Next on the app, a payment address needs to be set. The phone number @ the UPI is the default address generated. However payment addresses can be added in the Profile title of the menu by tapping on the ‘add payment address’. A list of suggestions made by the app is provided however users can type in text strings of their own too. A single user can generate multiple UPI addresses and choose one out of them to be the primary UPI address.
- The QR code is also automatically generated on the profile page of the app. The QR code can either directly be shared via the app or saved to a file or can be printed out. Merchants can benefit from this feature. Customers can transfer money by using the ‘scan and pay’ option by scanning the QR code to make the payments. Each UPI payment address will have its own QR code that is unique. The app also ships ‘ready to print’ QR codes to all accounts if you want to use scan QR to pay.
- A secure QR code can even be generated for various transactions. This secure QR code will be different from the one linked to the user’s bank account and is meant to be used for one-time transactions only. Users need to enter the amount plus details regarding the money or payment. This QR code can either be printed or sent via electronic means. The person who scans this QR code will get the cash credited to their respective accounts.
- In the top right corner of the payment menu of the app, there is an interface to allow making transactions using IFSC. Details like the IFSC code, beneficiary name and their account number needs to be filled in by users.
The salient security features of the BHIM app
A thorough security audit was conducted of the app by a team called the Lucideus Tech. The app has several levels of safety and security features on the mobile device. The app binds to the ID of the device and the mobile number.
- During the setup of the app, it binds to the device via a device id.
- Post binding to the device, a message is sent to and verified by the app.
- After that the application asks to enter a pin number that is to be entered every time the app is started or when the screen gets locked.
- Account details need not be entered into the system by the user as they are directly retrieved from the bank. This is a feature developed in the UPI.
- BHIM app does not save or use any of the information and the information is transmitted over secure banking networks in a masked manner.
- UPI pin can be set by users via other banking apps that can support the UPI.
- Even if the phone isn’t secured by a fingerprint scanner or a device pin, in case the device gets lost, transfer of funds using the BHIM app is prevented by the UPI pin.
- In case of a new phone, the process of pin binding and verification is repeated. If the number is ported to another service by the user, the app can be continued to be used as usual.
- However it must be noted that the application has a timeout period before it expires when the app is minimised. Also if the screen of the phone is unlocked within a few seconds of locking it, the app does not ask for a registration code.
Advantages of BHIM app
- The application is simple to setup and starts running within seconds of downloading and setting it up.
- Payments are made in an instant and users need not feed in any account information while setting up an account or while switching accounts.
- The app conducts transactions through all the banks thus doing away with the need for installing apps of various banks.
- The app has an advantage over mobile wallets; it does not need to have money first loaded into the app for making payments, it directly makes transactions through the banks that support the app.
- Transactions are made instantaneously.
Problems faced while using the BHIM app :
As is the case with most App’s these days, BHIM users have also reported back quite a few problems.
- New users are facing problems with binding of the device and the SMS verification phase, even after repeated attempts.
- A few features of the app are not easy to find as they are situated in unlikely locations. Also, how to navigate these functionalities is not apparent easily. Like the IFSC payment option is not easy to find and it asks for the downloading of QR code which could be misleading.
- Certain problems are with the associated banks. For example, IDBI bank requires a new MPIN every time an account is changed. Some other banks have problem retrieving details of the account.
- A few are experiencing problems with the transactions going through. Also, the beneficiary at the other end must have a mobile banking account.
- The app also cannot be used to make high value transactions since it has a limit of Rs 10000 for a single transaction and Rs 20,000 in a single 24 hour day. Thus, multiple transactions exceeding 20000 too cannot be made in a single day.
- The BHIM app is available only in Hindi and English and lacks multi lingual support for the time being.
- Also, the app is not available on iOS, Windows Mobile, Blackberry OS devices.
- Currently, the app allows users to link to only one bank account at a time. Swapping between commonly used multiple accounts would be convenient for businesses.
A solution to some of these issues is to call from the mobile on *99# to the banking services NUUP from any operating system. On smartphones the bank can be selected via a multi modal code. Although the NUUP can be availed in almost 11 Indian languages, the functions available are a minimised version of the interface in English and Hindi. However, the NUUP service has certain issues as well.
For queries and solutions the BHIM app team can be availed at @NCP_BHIM on Twitter.