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Unified Payment Interface (UPI): How does it work?

  • Bhumika Dutta
  • May 07, 2022
Unified Payment Interface (UPI): How does it work? title banner

Fintech has revolutionized the banking business by making banking procedures more simple and more comfortable. Customers no longer have to worry about cash withdrawals, deposits, or payments because everything is now only a click away. Today, there are various mobile applications that can quickly transfer payments, one of which is UPI.


Unified Payment Interfaces, or UPIs, are a popular financial technology solution that allows users to transfer money in real-time from one bank account to another. The purpose of this article is to explain what UPI is and how it works.



What is UPI Payment?


A Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is one smartphone application that allows users to transfer money across bank accounts. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) designed a single-window mobile payment system. 


It removes the need for customers to enter their bank account information or other sensitive information each time they make a transaction. It also allows customers to execute transactions from the comfort of their homes, without having to run to the bank every time. This means you may pay an individual, a merchant, or a service provider by sending or receiving money or scanning a Quick response (QR) code to shop, pay bills, or authorize payments.  In a nutshell, the system is stated to be a safe and secure way for two people to transfer money without having to use real currency (cash) or go through a bank.


It is meant to enable peer-to-peer inter-bank transfers with a simple two-click factor authentication procedure because it is a real-time payment system. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India's central bank, oversees the interface. 


How can we know that UPI payments are secure?


UPI payments are usually very secure. This interface uses two-factor authentication and a single-click payment system. This aspect of UPI is in compliance with regulatory requirements, making it the safest option. Two-factor authentication is comparable to one-time passwords. Instead of using OTP, MPIN will be utilized. 


According to Nandan Nilekani, an NPCI advisor, UPI transactions are secure since they are carried out in a highly secured format. The IMPS network of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in march 2022 handles around 15000 crore in daily transactions , which will continue to rise as more mobile phones are used. Let us look into the key features of UPI to understand it better.


  • Security during verification:


The first feature is the verification of a cell phone number during the first registration process. This connects your UPI account to your phone number, providing it with a unique identifier. If you change your phone number, you'll have to start the verification process afresh. If your phone is lost or stolen, you can block the number to prevent any future transactions from your bank account. This serves as a safeguard against identity theft.


  • Security during transactions:


When you join up for the UPI, you can choose to create a 4- or 6-digit mobile pin, known as the MPIN. You may use the MPIN to authenticate every transaction once it's been made. Because the MPIN is only known by you, no one else can use the app on your phone to make a payment from your account.


  • Security during authentication of other parties:


Another advantage of the UPI system is the ability to check the validity of merchants, which helps to avoid fraud. You may check out if a merchant is UPI-verified or not by using the Quick Response or QR code and signed intent option. You'll be told right away if the merchant isn't UPI-certified. The risk of QR code manipulation is also quite minimal, which improves the security of UPI transactions.


Also Read | How PhonePe uses Technology in its road to success


Knowing more about QR codes:


Every transaction has its own QR code, which allows for a smooth payment experience. This is used efficiently by a number of retailers, both online (eCommerce) and offline stores. QR codes are divided into two types: static and dynamic.


Static QR codes are those that are put on a store counter, a television commercial, or at an event. You may make a payment straight to the merchant's bank by scanning them. Data is already embedded in static QR codes. It is unique to a merchant and is tied to their bank account. After scanning the code, all a customer has to do is input the amount that has to be paid. This is especially useful in places like small shops, restaurants, and pharmacies, where the amount of each transaction varies.


Every time the merchant has to make a payment, a dynamic code is created. This code includes the amount to be paid, as well as the merchant's name and bank account information. This is becoming more common in situations such as grocery delivery, internet shopping, and meal delivery. Because dynamic code rapidly closes the payment loop, it enables simple, cashless payments, which may empower more customers and shops. It is better for merchants as they do not have to rely on their customers to show their mobile screens for payment confirmation. 


Key features of UPI:


Here are some features that make UPI unique:


  1. You can use one single mobile application for multiple bank accounts. You just have to insert bank details once and it will automatically connect your mobile phone with your bank account. 

  2. It is completely digital so you can use this to transfer funds any time of the day, even on holidays. UPI apps may be used to pay utility bills, make over-the-counter payments, and make QR code payments.

  3. UPIs use a Virtual Payment Address (VPA), which is a unique ID given by the concerned bank. This helps in keeping the payment secure and safe. Additionally, to authenticate each payment, you'll need your MPIN or Mobile Banking Personal Identification Number.

  4. Two-factor authentication is enabled with a single click, which is compliant with regulatory criteria and also allows for a smooth one-click payment.

  5. Every bank has its own UPI that works on Android, Windows, and iOS devices. The UPI service may or may not be charged by the banks.

  6. You can now easily share bills with friends and associates with the help of UPI applications. 



How does UPI Payment work?


Now that we know about the features of UPI applications that make them so unique, it is important for us to understand how it works. Here we have simplified its working for better and easier understanding. 


  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regulates UPI, which was established by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). UPI is gradually gaining traction as the preferred method of digital payment. To make payments, you'll need a smartphone, an active bank account, an active mobile number that's linked to the bank account, and a reliable internet connection.

  • To guarantee smooth settlement across accounts, UPI makes use of existing technologies like Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) and Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS). It supports both push and pulls transactions, as well as over-the-counter and barcode payments, as well as numerous recurring payments like utility bills, school fees, and other subscriptions.

  • The method allows mobile payments to be sent without the need of credit or debit cards, net banking, or the requirement to enter account data once a single identification is created.


The push and pull transaction:


A "push" is the term for sending money via UPI. The user logs into the interface and picks the Transfer Money/Payment option to send money. He selects the account from which the money will be debited after inputting the recipient's virtual ID and the required amount. After that, the user must input a unique personal identification number (PIN) and wait for confirmation.


A "pull" is the term for receiving money through the system. After logging into the system, the user chooses the option to collect money. The user must next provide the remitter's virtual ID, the amount to be collected, and the account into which the monies will be deposited. The payer is then sent a message with a payment request. If he chooses to make the payment, he authorizes the transaction by entering his UPI PIN.



Understanding Virtual Payment Address (VPA):


The Virtual Payment Network (VPN), which resembles an email address and is unique to you, is johndoe@okicici, for example. Your VPA allows you to take advantage of the enormous potential of UPI payments and transfers. The VPA is a payment gateway that allows you to make payments from your bank account using your phone. It's also feasible to use the same virtual payment address to link several bank accounts.


The VPA saves you time by eliminating the need to put in extensive bank account data for both the sender and the receiver of the payment. It also safeguards your financial details. When compared to digital wallets, credit cards, or traditional bank transfers, the VPA is the reason UPI is such a user-friendly platform for any payment.



How is Aadhaar used for payments?


With the Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) Aadhaar Pay function, the NPCI has enabled payments without a mobile phone to promote social and financial inclusion and to assist individuals who do not own smartphones.


The NPCI built the BHIM app, which is essentially a UPI app available in multiple Indian languages. It also offered a feature called BHIM Aadhaar Pay, which allows a retailer to accept payments using their Aadhaar number and the customer's biometric details. With this, Aadhaar authentication may now be used to pay over the counter at any retailer or dealer who utilizes the BHIM Aadhaar app.


To utilize the BHIM applications, the merchant must have an Android phone with the BHIM Aadhaar app installed, as well as a certified biometric scanner connected to POS equipment. Mobile phones, kiosks, mPOS, and tablets are just some of the POS devices available. Both the merchant and the customer's bank accounts must be connected to their Aadhaar numbers.



What are the benefits of UPI?


Here are some benefits of UPI:


  1. UPI apps serve banks in a variety of ways. Employee workloads have been significantly decreased as a result of the implementation of UPI apps. It facilitates transactions while also being safer and more secure.


  1. UPI applications make it easier for merchants to collect funds, and they may be used for both e-commerce and mobile commerce transactions. The customer's virtual address is not stored at any risk. For in-app purchases, they can even incorporate payment channels into their own website. It also eliminates the hassle of paying with cash on delivery.


  1. UPI apps provide a lot of value to customers. It is a single application that allows you to access several bank accounts and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users may also quickly file a complaint directly from the mobile app.


How to make UPI payments?


Here are some things that you need to remember while making any payment via UPI:


  • Both senders and recipients should have the same UPI app on their phones for UPI transactions, and you'll need the beneficiary's UPI ID, as well as your own, to conduct a financial transfer.


  • Simply input the UPI ID and transfer amount, then select the 'Pay' option to have the funds sent immediately. You can also include the recipient's phone number, which must be associated with their bank account. This is yet another simple method of transferring funds directly to the beneficiary's bank account.


  • You can pay grocers, merchants, and other retailers with UPI. You can scan their QR codes and enter the amount you want to transfer for such payments. You may use the UPI payment option when making online payments through food delivery apps and other similar apps. This will direct you to your phone's UPI application. The money is deducted from your bank account when you input your UPI PIN.




Through the UPI, the NPCI has built a strong payment infrastructure that allows for cashless and hassle-free transactions. With the numerous payment applications and easy procedures to register and begin transactions, it is quite straightforward to learn and utilize. This article served as an overview of UPI payment applications.

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