Singapore and Thailand Considering a New Connection for Digital Payments

October 9, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

Singapore and Thailand aren’t exactly super close together—it’s a two-hour plane ride by some reports—but the two are working just the same to bring their digital payments systems in closer unity. In fact, what’s brewing right now, according to Bloomberg, is an “unprecedented regional alliance” between the two as they both push their populations to use less cash.

Under the arrangement, which is still in the discussion stage, Thailand’s PromptPay and Singapore’s PayNow systems would be largely interoperable, allowing users to use the one wherever the other is accepted. Full details are still sketchy, and any details that have emerged might well change by the time it gets through, if it actually gets through the discussion stages.

Countries are said to prefer mobile and digital payment systems as they’re more efficient than bills and coins, which require materials to mint and distribute. Digital payment systems only require a communications infrastructure sufficient to handle the data traffic and accompanying electricity.  Plus, there’s the issue of governments’ ability to track that currency, which is much easier when it’s connected to a network.

One more point seldom noted is the growing competition in the field, particularly from Chinese options. Alipay’s constant overseas expansion is pushing more and more into places like Singapore and Thailand, and though there’s probably less risk of their citizens using Chinese systems, there’s also the chance that local firms won’t be able to get in on that payment processing. That’s a loss, if only on a percentage basis, that Thai and Singaporean banks are eager to stem as much as possible.

It might be reasonable enough to suggest there’s business between Singapore and Thailand; a two-hour plane ride is about what you get from, say, New York to Atlanta. Travelers between the two countries are likely substantial in number, and that could make easier mobile and digital payments systems a priority for the two countries. It’s all about improving the customer experience in the end, no matter which country the travelers come from.

A better customer experience increases the chance of return business, and that’s a valuable development for tourism or business in any country. While we might not ever see PayNow and PromptPay get together, it’s an idea that’s at least worth considering.