Here in Canada, we have a revolutionary system of instant banking. Why? Because our economy is so vast that credit card companies rarely offer debit cards in Canada. Instead, the banks here had to come up with their own system. So they did.
Almost every financial institution – all of the major ones, and most of the mid-size and smaller ones – use it. It’s branded as Interac, and it’s the fastest way to make a payment, whether it be at the grocery store, to an online casino, or just paying back a friend who helped you out in a pinch.
It all started in 1984 when Canada’s five major banks, RBC, CIBC, TD, Scotiabank and Desjardins, came up with a government-regulated network system for instant debit payments. The inter-banking system has grown exponentially since, gaining more supporting banks, more accepting merchants, and upgrading into more verticals.
Interac Contactless Payments
A few years back, the company launched Mobile Interac Flash, a mobile version of their Interac Flash chip-engineered debit cards. It made contactless payments possible virtually anywhere, even if you forgot your wallet or pocketbook at home. That technology evolved so rapidly that they dropped the fancy Flash title. Now, it’s simply Interac Debit, available as a card and/or mobile wallet (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay). Tap your debit card or wave your phone over a payment kiosk and it’s done.
Similarly, the network’s online banking mechanism, formerly Interac Online, has evolved into Interac Debit for Online Payments. Why the switch? Who can say, although it’s surmisable that it keeps in line with the branding of Interac Debit.
Interac Becomes For-Profit Business, Still Free for Consumers
For many years, the Interac Association was a not-for-profit organization. That meant bank account holders would pay no fees to use the service. When an application for a for-profit business licence was rejected, they launched the Acxsys sister-company in 1996. As a for-profit business, Acxsys began introducing Interac-branded services, including Interac E-Transfer. Then in 2018, Interac and Acxsys merged to form a single for-profit company, Interac Corp.
The good news is that Interac stands behind its original committment to consumers. While the company now charges fees for its services, it’s never the consumer that has to pay them. It is the financial institutions that support Interac payments that foot the bill. And in some cases, they may pass that bill on to their customers. So be sure to check with your bank or credit union to see if they charge a fee for using any Interac-brand services.