BANGKOK - Customers of Singtel's e-wallet Dash on a shopping spree in Thailand can now scan and pay for their purchases with their smartphones under a new mobile payment network launched on Tuesday (Oct 2).
The move is the first step in a wider initiative called VIA, spearheaded by Singtel, that aims to do away with the hassle for travellers of having to carry enough cash and "exchange money".
Instead, the plan is to offer e-wallet customers of Singtel and the group's regional associates cashless payments in their home currency, using their home telco's app, at physical merchants while abroad.
For a start, Singtel is working with Thailand's top wireless operator AIS and digital bank, Kasikornbank, to launch the network. More telcos in other countries such as Indonesia, India and the Philippines are expected to come on board in the future. Singtel first announced the initiative in March this year.
At its launch at Bangkok's CentralWorld mall on Tuesday, Mr Arthur Lang, chief executive at Singtel International, said VIA is aimed at unifying Asia's fragmented payments scene by connecting different mobile wallet systems across the region.
"As more people travel around the region, we want them to be able to enjoy the ease and familiarity of using their local mobile wallets abroad," he said.
Singtel Dash is open to all users in Singapore, regardless of their current telco subscriptions, he noted.
Mr Somchai Lertsutiwong, AIS chief executive, said that the "partnership offers Thais a seamless digital payment experience at home and abroad, and adds a new dimension which will take the cashless society to the next level".
More than 1.6 million merchants in Thailand will accept Singtel Dash, and they will carry VIA's logo in their stores. In Bangkok, they can be found in Chatuchak market, CentralWorld and Mahboonkrong Center. Last year (2017), more than 1.5 million visitors travelled between Singapore and Thailand.
Singtel Dash can be downloaded from both Apple's and Android's app stores. Users can top up the e-wallet using cash, credit cards or money from their bank accounts. To use in Thailand, they will also need mobile data.
Shoppers can pay by scanning the store's QR code and keying in the amount or scanning the QR code that comes with the bill, depending on the store's payment arrangement.
The amount payable will be immediately converted to Singapore currency and displayed so users can decide if they wish to proceed with their purchase.
Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel's chief executive of Consumer Singapore, said that the telco's "customers not only stay connected with our mobile roaming service when overseas, they also have a roaming wallet which they can use to make purchases while abroad".
"With VIA, they don't need to change the way they use Dash at home or abroad," he added.
While there are no additional charges for paying with Dash, foreign exchange costs will be factored in. Foreign exchange rates will be competitive to attract users, said Singtel.
Vendor Saroj Cheewasittikron, 33, who has been selling orange juice and meatballs at Chatuchak market for 15 years, said that he expects digital payments to take off in Bangkok in a big way. "More young people are asking to use e-payments," he said. Shoppers can use one of three methods - VIA, Rabbit Line Pay or True Point & Pay - at his store.
"I don't have to carry (as much) money around so it's safer... I also don't have to spend so much time (looking for) change," Mr Cheewasittikron said.
Private tutor Dennis Tan, 35, a Singaporean who was shopping in Chatuchak market on Sunday (Sept 30), said that he will consider using the Singtel Dash e-wallet for its convenience.
"I will use the app because I don't like to carry so much change around... I always end up with a lot of coins before I leave (Thailand) because I prefer paying in notes," Mr Tan said.
He added: "But it still depends on the app's exchange rate."