MTN, like most other South African mobile networks, is known to allow its active clients to purchase airtime and data bundles on credit through its XtraTime service, which was launched in 2016.
In the past, the only way the company was able to recover XtraTime money owed to it was through deduction of airtime when the owing clients recharged their accounts.
However, to delay or avoid repayment of the owed amount, some clients often purchased data bundles and minutes directly using other methods e.g. bank cards, the Mobile Money (MoMo) app, etc., without loading airtime first. Clearly, MTN found this to be problematic.
A few months ago, the mobile network announced that as of 20 September 2023, if a customer had an outstanding XtraTime balance, they would not be able to purchase certain data bundles until they repaid the amount owed. In other words, money would be deducted from direct data bundle purchases to settle the outstanding balance.
Surprisingly, until yesterday (16 November 2023), we have been able to purchase data bundles (particularly the 300MB rush hour bundle, which costs R2) from the MoMo app using a number that had had a negative airtime balance for months, without the owed amount being deducted.
Because of this, we assumed that data bundles purchased through MoMo were not used to recover outstanding XtraTime balances. However, yesterday, when we purchased the 300MB bundle using the app as usual, the bundle was not loaded. Instead, we received a message saying R2 had been used towards settling our XtraTime debt.
It is unclear whether MTN’s failure to deduct airtime from MoMo purchases all this time was intentional or a glitch. Either way, it is important for MoMo users who have outstanding XtraTime loans to be aware that they will no longer be able to use their MoMo balance as they please. If you wish to delay repaying your XtraTime loan, make sure that the bundle you want to purchase is not part of the list of bundles that MTN uses as part of their new XtraTime debt recovery method.