Buying online during Level 3? Banks warn against popular payment system

There's been a massive spike in online shopping during the Level 4 and Level 3 lockdowns, but customers are warned against using one popular online payment system.

A person shopping online (file).

Some of New Zealand's major banks aren't convinced the POLi system, which encourages consumers to log in with their bank username and password, is sufficiently secure.

They're even warning customers to change their passwords if they've used it.

POLi distributors Merco Limited today said online shopping has spiked by 450 per cent in April, with online transactions for technology alone jumping by 170 per cent.

More than 4000 New Zealand businesses use it, including well-known brands like The Warehouse.

But before you splurge online, check your bank's terms and conditions.

ANZ and Kiwibank both told 1 NEWS they recommend that people don't use POLi or similar online payment systems, where bank details have to be entered, while ASB warns customers on its website that it does not endorse the POLi system.

"If a customer has used such a payment method, our fraud team recommends they reset their password as a way of re-protecting themselves," Kiwibank says, adding that they "do not endorse any non-Kiwibank payment system that requires users to share their internet bank username, security questions, and password".

The banks warn that using POLi can be a breach of their various terms and conditions, posing a serious security and fraud risk.

Despite the wariness from banks, POLi insists it's safe to use and says it hasn't seen a single breach in the 11 years it's been operating in the country.

While users need to input their bank username and password, that data isn't stored by the POLi system.

"Over the past few years, more than 1.3 million New Zealanders have trusted POLi to make online payments for them without any security issues," a spokesperson says.

"POLi works seamlessly with all major banks and leading merchants in New Zealand with no security issues. 

"The issues raised are purely theoretical and detract from the great job POLi is doing day in day out for New Zealand commerce and New Zealand's merchants, particularly at this very difficult time through the Covid isolation."

The spokesperson says POLi has an "open invitation" for banks to audit them at any point.

"This has been done in the past and no issues were uncovered."

When the banks' concerns were put to The Warehouse, which uses POLi on its online website, head of payments Jamie Jermain says they use it to make online shopping "as accessible as possible for our customers".

"We have found POLi to be an extremely secure method of payment, and we will monitor it closely to ensure we are always improving our online offering for our customers."

While POLi is confident in its security, New Zealand's major banks are still warning customers to be aware.

"It is difficult to block these companies without a significant impact to both our consumer customers and our business customers who are expecting to be paid," ANZ says.

"We never recommend disclosing your password to any other person or website other than"

Westpac and BNZ were unable to comment by time of publication.