What is an Airtime Top-Up? – The Basics


Let’s start with the Basics:
When you connect a mobile phone to a network (a Telecommunication Provider) you need to purchase credits to enable you to use that Telco network’s Airtime. Airtime allows you to access the network’s service offerings, voice, data, sms etc. A Top-Up is referred to as ‘adding more credit / value / currency’ to a mobile phone’s service.

How do you make an Airtime Top-up?
For Postpaid Phone Services, this generally occurs either automatically via direct debit arrangements with your Telco on Bill Due date OR via your chosen method of payment of that bill. Without payment, the Telco has a specified period whereby they can continue your service / airtime before they will de-activate your service. Payment of the bill in this scenario means that you have performed a top-up of your service, however is more often referred to as ‘paying your bill’.

With Prepaid Phone Services, there are a number of options:
– Purchase a card issued by your Telco from a retail shop, which will contain a pin number, you may need to scratch away, or is activated by the retail shop. These cards generally have designated amounts assigned by the Telco.
– Purchase a ‘Voucher’ from a retail shop for your Telco, where you will be supplied with a receipt containing your PIN number. These vouchers may have designated amounts OR they could be arbitrary amounts specified by you.
– Access an application on your phone that enables you to enter credit card or approved payment methods to perform a top-up (supplied or developed by your Telco OR 3rd party retailer).
– Access an online web portal/shop that allows you to top-up your service (supplied or developed by your Telco OR 3rd party retailer).

Is an Airtime Top-Up only for Prepaid or also for Postpaid Phones?
Airtime Top-ups are mostly used for Prepaid Phone Services, BUT, in some countries and for some Telcos you are able to add a ‘top-up’ to use for additional services. Eg prepaid top-up for extra data allowance.

Sending Airtime Top-Up to Others and across borders
Sending airtime top-ups to other people is easy. All you need is a physical or online retail outlet and the recipient’s phone number. You are then able to send as much (or as little) top-up value of airtime as you like
In a retail shop, you may need to know the Telco of the recipient’s phone, as they may only have the ability to sell a particular Telco’s airtime top-up.
Many online shops provide the ability to send and receive cross-border airtime top-ups in almost any country to almost any Telco, with the use of only the recipient’s phone number.

In our last article, we talked about ‘remittances’ and mostly referred to the sending of cash across borders – sending airtime top-ups across borders is considered to be a ‘purposeful remittance’.
An added benefit of sending airtime top-ups is that the value is almost instantly sent to the recipient’s mobile phone service. That means if you send someone across the world $10 they will almost immediately be able to use that $10 to start making phone calls. They will not have to wait for the value to reach them or wait for everything to be processed. This type of purposeful remittance means you don’t need to worry about whether someone else is going to get the money that you intended to send to a family member or friend.

Airtime Top-Up for Charity
Sending airtime top-ups internationally to those in need is a great way to provide financial support. When disasters strike, one of the biggest problems can be getting in touch with people who may or may not have been affected. Family and friends who are not located in the same area may be concerned about those in the affected area

If these types of disasters or emergencies occur it is beneficial to have adequate credit on a mobile phone that allows the individual to contact their loved ones and family members and vice versa. If you have the phone numbers for the individuals (which can generally be gathered from their loved ones who are not located in that area) it is possible to send them airtime to enable then to call their families and let them know if they are all right.

Stay tuned for our next 101 articles:
• Mobilising Remittances
• Remittances are more than just cash