The Japanese may have been using their mobile phones to pay for stuff for years using NFC technology, but today the Commonwealth Bank announced that it would begin dragging Australia into the 21st century by launching Kaching, a new iPhone app that allows instant payments, including NFC payments using a special iPhone case.

The new app – which will launch in the coming months for iPhones only (although an Android version is also in the works) – will be a free download, and offers access to 99 per cent of the bank’s online banking functionality. It also introduces pretty handy features, like the ability to give money to people instantly via email, SMS or Facebook.

Yep, Facebook. Kaching has integrated Facebook Connectivity, so you can browse your Friends and decide who to send money to, then write on their wall to tell them when you’ve paid them back for dinner. No money actually passes through Facebook, for anybody worried about the security side of things.

If you send a payment via mobile and the recipient is a Kaching customer, they will have immediate access to the funds. Because Commbank has updated its backend to allow real time banking, it means that Kaching customers can reap the benefits in instant payments and transactions.

But while the notion of giving money away to people may sound good in theory, the most impressive aspect is the inclusion of NFC in the app. Because of security, the bank has decided to initially stick with an iPhone case with an NFC chip and security chip installed, which it will sell for cost in a few months when the service launches.

Combining the Kaching app with the NFC case allows for instant, contactless payments using your phone. Every time you launch the app, it will automatically switch on the NFC chip for a minute to allow you to se it for the transaction, although if you’re security conscious you can add a PIN to make it more secure. In addition, if you have multiple accounts that support PayPass or PayWave – the contactless standards from Mastercard or Visa respectively – you can quickly and easily select which account you wish to use before making a payment

Until Apple include both the NFC chip and appropriate security chip into an iPhone, the case solution will be the default option, although the bank is committed to launching an Android version in the future. But even so, being able to pay for stuff at Bunnings with a smartphone is the kind of future I want my kids to grow up in.

Web: Commbank