SINGAPORE (Oct 22): During recent trips across the US and the UK, I conducted a small experiment. Though I still carried some cash and credit cards, I decided that I would not reach out for my wallet unless I absolutely had to. Only digital payments. I am a long-time user of Apple Pay, which is connected to all my credit cards as well as my bank accounts. I also regularly use PayPal’s Venmo and Square’s Cash App.
From getting an Uber in Detroit to get downtown to catching the Heathrow Express to Paddington station in London to paying for accommodations in the US and breakfast at Starbucks outlets in several cities, I successfully avoided whipping out a physical credit card or cash and paid for everything digitally. Across North America, over the past several weeks, I have had trouble getting into museums and galleries that are not digital-payment-friendly. At a flea market in Detroit where Apple Pay did not work and after I had finally resigned myself to paying cash, suddenly access to Square’s Cash App came in handy.
To be sure, governments around the world are increasingly focused on digitising payments to create greater efficiency in the domestic economies, reduce crime and boost tax revenues. Mobile payments and digital wallets are not only convenient but helping enhance the payment experience as well as offer financial inclusion. The digital payment boom has been spurred by the growth of e-commerce and by low-cost acceptance. Contactless, mobile, QR, or quick response, code-based payments are powerful catalysts for digitising payments globally. The key enablers for digital payments in Asia include the growing penetration of smartphones as well as the widespread availability of mobile internet, near field communication (NFC) enabled handsets and biometrics — such as facial or fingerprint recognition — technology. Regulations in China and other emerging markets, particularly in India, Japan and South Korea, have also helped boost the adoption of digital payments.