The rise of the cashless city: 'There is this real danger of exclusion'

Cities from Sweden to India are pushing for a totally cash-free society. But as more shops and transport networks insist on electronic payments, where does this leave the smallest traders and poorest inhabitants?

Homeless man begs in London

Scrolling through my online bank statements at Christmas, I was surprised to find I had not removed cash from an ATM for well over four months. Thanks to the ubiquity of electronic payment systems, it has become increasingly easy to glide around London to a chorus of approving bleeps.
As more shops and transport networks adapt to contactless card and touch-and-go mobile technology, many major cities around the world are in the process of relegating cash to second-class status. Some London shops and cafes are now, like the capital’s buses, simply refusing to handle notes or coins.
Could we see a whole city go cash-free? From Seoul to Bergamo, cities big and small are at the forefront of a global drive to go digital. Many of us are happy to tap cards or phones to hop on a bus, buy a coffee or pay for groceries, but it raises the prospect of a time we no longer carry any cash at all.
No spare change for the busker at the station, the person sleeping rough in need of a hot drink, the market trader, the donation box. Although even on-street charity fundraisers are now broaching the world of contactless payments, what might the rise of the cashless city mean for street vendors, small merchants and the poorest inhabitants?
Some experts now fear a two-tier urban realm in which those on the lowest incomes become disconnected from mainstream commercial life by their dependence on traditional forms of currency.
“The beauty of cash is that it’s a direct and simple transaction between all kinds of different people, no matter how rich or poor,” explains financial writer Dominic Frisby. “If you begin to insist on cashlessness, it does put pressure on you to be banked and signed up to financial system, and many of the poorest are likely to remain outside of that system. So there is this real danger of exclusion.”
Ajay Banga, Mastercard’s CEO, has spoken about the growing global risk of “creating islands, where the unbanked transact [only] with each other”.
In India, the question of how the poorest might connect with the digitised world of the middle-class consumer is now of central importance. In November, the prime minister Narendra Modi announced the removal of 500 and 1000 rupee notes from circulation. Part of a wider attempt to jolt the nation into joining the cashless revolution, Modi’s government believes restricting currency and pushing the take-up of electronic payment will help tackle corruption and regulate India’s untaxed, “black” economy.
A customer uses a credit card to make a contactless payment.
Saurabh Shukla, the Delhi-based editor in chief at NewsMobile Asia, says he has seen many small “mom and pop” store owners introduce card readers and learn how to use Paytm, a mobile payment platform, over the past two months.
“They realise a big change is here and they are trying to adjust to electronic payment,” he explains. “But they still want to convert back to cash at the end of the working day or the working week. It will be a gradual adjustment. We might not be able to create a completely cashless India, but we can aim to create a low cash economy.”
Modi is encouraging state government to create “smart” cities by connecting their public services with the latest online technology. Officials are aiming to make the Chandigarh – famously designed by modernist architect Le Corbusier – India’s first cashless city by insisting all bills are paid electronically at government offices. And the government of Goa is attempting to turn its capital Panjim cash-free by offering discounts in digitally bought services like train tickets, and by setting up classrooms to teach small traders e-payment technology.
Yet huge queues remain outside banks as many Indians continue to demand cash. Some of the poorest street vendors cannot afford card readers, and have struggled to operate Paytm payment transfers on their mobile phones.
Aires Rodrigues, a human rights lawyer in Goa, says traders in Panjim are suffering. Rickshaw drivers and fish market sellers have been left with no way of accepting payment from middle-class customers now inclined to do everything digitally. “It’s senseless to try to make everyone go cashless,” says Rodrigues. “The government seems to have lost sight of the plight of the common man.”
If India’s urbanites are being forced to undergo digital shock therapy, city dwellers in much of Europe have been moving steadily away from cash. Consumers like convenience. Governments like the idea of tax transparency. And retailers like cutting down on the costs of cash handling.
People queue outside bank in Lucknow, India
According to a recent report by Fung Global Retail & Technology, nine of the top 15 “most digital-ready” countries are in Europe. It predicts Sweden could become the world’s first completely cashless society. Niklas Arvidsson at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology thinks it could happen by 2030.
Yet even Sweden has seen an enthusiasm gap emerge, mostly along demographic lines. Older people in the rural north, tending to be the least tech-savvy, resent the economic power of Stockholm and Gothenburg, now almost entirely cash-free urban zones. The National Pensioners Organisation is a key player in the “Cash Uprising” coalition now campaigning to make sure older Swedes can still deposit and remove cash from banks.
Wealth, however, remains the key factor in determining who might be entirely left behind by the evolving digital economy. Some of the poorest people in Europe’s richest cities have found themselves pushed aside.
In Amsterdam, homeless people selling street magazine Z!, the Dutch equivalent of The Big Issue, now struggle to find customers still using cash. Z! trialled card payments by giving a dozen of the city’s vendors iZettle readers back in 2013, but the method was deemed too cumbersome.
“After a few weeks, our vendors said, ‘Look, this is too complicated’,” says editor Hans van Dalfsen. “It became too clunky and time-consuming for the vendor to juggle their magazines, the card reader and their own mobile phone connected to Bluetooth – all that stuff was needed to carry out the transaction.”
Van Dalfsen says he is now talking to a major telecoms company to try to find a simpler way for homeless vendors to accept payment using only their mobile phones, perhaps with help of unique QR code on their ID badge.
M-Pesa Africa’s Mobile Money Market
“Like Scandinavia, we are close to being cashless in Amsterdam,” he says. “I’m an optimist, but we really need bright people in the tech companies to come up with simple, convenient solutions that work for everyone. We cannot let people become cut off from the life of the city.”
Like many of the world’s poorest people, much of Amsterdam’s homeless population remain without a bank account. So even if they own a mobile phone, most fall back to cash.
Kenya may offer a guiding light here, having found a way to allow unbanked citizens access into the cashless society using cheap mobiles. Launched in 2007, M-Pesa has become the world’s leading mobile money platform, allowing millions of users to transfer money to each other by sending text messages and store their funds digitally without opening a conventional bank account.
In Zimbabwe, last year’s cash liquidity crisis led to renewed distrust in the banks and helped mobile money platforms take off as an alternative way of doing business, first in the capital city Harare, then in rural areas. The country’s most popular text-based service EcoCash now has more than six million users.
“There has been a huge explosion in cashless payments, down to the very poorest street traders using mobile money solutions,” says Nigel Gambanga, a Harare-based technology analyst. “Everyone has begun to realise, ‘If I don’t figure this out, I might not be in business tomorrow.’ People are adaptable.”
Dave Birch, director of innovation at UK firm Consult Hyperion, thinks it would be foolish to insist on clinging on to cash on behalf of the poor. “If you keep people trapped in a cash economy, you leave them to pay higher prices for everything, you leave them struggling to access credit, and more vulnerable to theft,” he says.
“We’re going to replace cash with electronic platforms,” Birch adds. “I don’t think poverty or being unbanked is necessarily a barrier, because everyone has a phone. Given the technology we have, we can develop new ways of moving digital cash around, even on the most basic of phones.”
The challenge for banks, regulators, tech innovators and officials keen to push forward “smart city” initiatives, is to make sure evolving platforms are accessible and keep everyone interconnected.
If we cannot find a common payment ecosystem, we may find ourselves wandering through divided cities, separated by the sound of bleeps and the shuffling of cold, hard cash.
Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, andexplore our archive here

Since you’re here …

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.
I appreciate there not being a paywall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information.Thomasine, Sweden

Website: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jan/09/rise-cashless-city-contactless-payments-exclusion-cashfree-society 


We’re moving toward a cashless society, and lots of people are going to be left behind

We’re moving toward a cashless society, and lots of people are going to be left behind

The tech industry has offered partial solutions to this inequity, but mostly in self-serving ways.

A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry.

This week, I was driving in my neighborhood when I spotted that most American of sights — a bunch of kids running a lemonade stand, waving signs and trying to flag down passing cars. In some ways, it seemed like a great business opportunity — the temperatures where I live have rarely dipped below the high 90s lately. And yet I didn’t stop — not because I don’t like lemonade (or kids), but because I simply don’t carry cash anymore, and I’m fairly sure the neighbor children weren’t taking credit cards.
This got me thinking about all the people and sectors of our economy that are still dependent on cash, and how they might be affected by our increasingly cashless society.

Cash is in decline

Whether anecdotally or based on solid data, I think most of us have a sense that cash is in decline. One study from last year suggests that cash is the preferred payment method of just 11 percent of U.S. consumers, with 75 percent preferring cards. In other markets such as China, cash is dying out even more quickly, with mobile payments increasingly eating into both its share and that of cards. Though my local dry cleaner in New Jersey was a rare (and suspicious) exception, I very rarely come across businesses that don’t take cards, to the extent that it now really takes me aback when it happens. For many of us these days, credit and debit cards — and to a lesser extent, mobile payments — are making cash largely irrelevant. I still have a huge jar of loose change I accumulated over many years, and which now mostly gets used for the occasional school lunch or visits from the tooth fairy, but not much else.

But not for everyone

However, assuming that this pattern holds for everyone would be a mistake. There are still big sectors of the economy and large groups of people that remain heavy users of cash and are heavily dependent on it, and as others move away from it, that’s increasingly going to cause them problems. Sadly, this likely applies most to some of the more vulnerable and marginalized parts of our society, who will be least in a position to make the changes necessary to keep up as the rest of society moves on.
Just a few examples of people or businesses still dependent on cash:
  • Homeless people and others who ask for money on the streets
  • Charity workers soliciting cash donations in public areas
  • Manual and casual laborers who get paid in cash, either for convenience or for tax reasons
  • Cab drivers
  • Those who don’t have bank accounts or credit cards, including many without regular incomes
  • The elderly
  • The very young, also unlikely to have bank accounts
  • Anybody who works based on tips, from waiters and waitresses to maids and barhops in hotels to valet parkers
  • Small local retailers and restaurants that can’t justify high credit card processing fees on mostly small purchases.
The list could go on much longer than that, but the point is that there are those who are in some cases heavily dependent on cash and are relatively powerless to make the changes necessary to keep up. These are often among the poorer and least educated people in our society, and therefore those with least access to technology, the traditional banking infrastructure or information about how to adapt.

Tech has offered partial solutions

The tech industry has offered partial solutions, but mostly in self-serving ways. Payment processing company Square has transformed many a small retailer or producer from a cash-only business to one that can take credit cards and even Apple Pay, and has created ways for those without traditional cards to carry balances and make payments with their phones. Amazon has introduced methods for those who deal mostly in cash to obtain one-off or refillable cards to be used to pay for things on its site. Venmo has turned erstwhile cash transfers into electronic payments. But these solutions mostly tear down limits to the addressable markets for their own products without necessarily expanding economic opportunity or promoting inclusion, while also often being based on internet and mobile technology not available to all.

But needs to do more

What we need are solutions for the rest of society, and especially for those without access to the internet and phones to be able to receive non-cash payments. What about an app that allows patrons or would-be donors to set up a transaction in an app, and allows the recipient to walk into a bank or store to pick it up in cash with a privately shared code? Or an app that allows users of basic smartphones to receive payments and carry a balance without creating an ongoing relationship with the payer? What about a service that would provide meals, access to beds and other facilities, or other needed items to the homeless based on donations from smartphone users?

Technology has such an enormous potential to reduce friction and make payments simpler, but what we need are innovations that do the same on the receiving end, including in ways that don’t themselves require technological solutions.
Calling on the tech industry to step up to big societal problems has been something of a theme lately in my columns, but I can’t help but think that this is yet another area where those already most on the fringes of society will just be left further marginalized by technology rather than brought into the fold by it. It doesn’t need to be that way: The bright minds that have created so many technologies that help us deal with our “first-world problems” can surely find ways to help those with more biting and pressing challenges as our society continues to evolve.

Jan Dawson is founder and chief analyst at Jackdaw, a technology research and consulting firm focused on the confluence of consumer devices, software, services and connectivity. During his 13 years as a technology analyst, Dawson has covered everything from DSL to LTE, and from policy and regulation to smartphones and tablets. Prior to founding Jackdaw, Dawson worked at Ovum for a number of years, most recently as chief telecoms analyst, responsible for Ovum’s telecoms research agenda globally. Reach him @jandawson.
Website: https://www.recode.net/2017/7/24/16021630/cash-payments-cashless-mobile-inequity-square-apple-pay-venmo-amazon 


WeChat Pay Has Launched In M'sia, Here's Everything We Know So Far

  • WeChat Pay is now available in Malaysia, and we are one of the first markets outside of China with the wallet localised to our currency. 
  • WeChat will be able to capitalise on the existing 20 million users in Malaysia.
  • They also have an existing partnership with Hong Leong Bank to enable WeChat Pay merchants. 
Rumour has it that WeChat Pay will be launching in Malaysia sometime in June, preferably before Raya Aidilfitri hits.
And the launch will be happening just in time too, as PM Mahathir has expressed interest in turning the country cashless.
While it’s seemingly just another e-wallet to join the multitudes of other e-wallets that have appeared in the Malaysian market recently, one key difference is the role WeChat played in changing the payment infrastructure of the whole of China.

Tencent’s secret was QR codes / Image Credit: Edward Lindeman on YouTube

Tencent’s brainchild was able to win the e-wallet battle in China, and the e-wallet movement in China is so thoroughly entrenched that you can feasibly live an entire month in China without ever touching cash—even when buying hawker foods or shopping in wet markets.
Could WeChat Pay be the final missing link that truly brings the e-wallet era to Malaysia?
Here are a few things to know about WeChat’s launch into Malaysia.

1. Malaysia will be the first country outside of China to receive WeChat Pay.

WeChat Pay is technically available for everyone across the globe, but Malaysia will be the first country to receive WeChat Pay in our local currency—the ringgit.
“Malaysia is actually quite large in the sense that we have 20 million WeChat users, huge potential, and the market is quite warm towards internet products from China,” said senior vice president SY Lau.
WeChat might have an advantage in the acquisition of users in Malaysia, but time will tell if this can translate to a lead in the region that sees AliPay operating for about 1 year now.
Payment methods that will become available in Malaysia include Quick Pay, where vendors can scan a QR code on a customer’s mobile phone once they’ve made a payment for a quick transaction. Or, users can scan a QR code set up by the vendors to see a product’s information or transaction guides.
WeChat also offers options for In-App Payment, where vendors can authorise WeChat to process payments when users make payments through other apps.

2. WeChat Pay Malaysia has been on beta for 2 years now.

Tencent Group has been beta testing an early run of the ringgit-enabled wallet for two years now, by selecting 10,000 Malaysian WeChat users.
Those selected get a dual version of the wallet—one for ringgit and one for RMB, though users at the time weren’t able to transfer currencies from one wallet to the other.
That being said, on the user’s side, WeChat Pay should be compatible with any credit or debit card, and WeChat has already enabled foreign credit cards to be tied to WeChat Pay accounts.

3. Local banks are already on WeChat Pay.

As early as November 2017, Hong Leong Bank has already enabled merchants to accept payments for WeChat Pay, in anticipation for the wallet’s launch in Malaysia.
When this collaboration was done, it was to ensure that Chinese tourists can continue using their WeChat accounts while visiting Malaysia, though once WeChat Pay launches for Malaysians, then there will already be a list of merchants that accept the e-wallet from day zero.
WeChat Pay’s wallet can be found in the “Me” tab of the normal WeChat app.
Topping up the balance is relatively simple.
1. Hit the “Balance” icon in the wallet.
2. Accept the “I understand” popup explaining that the maximum limit is RM4,999.
3. Set up your payment PIN for the e-wallet.
4. Enter your card payment details, and key in the amount.
5. Verify the top up through your bank’s security page.
6. You’ll be able to see your new balance after that’s done.
At the moment, it appears that you can only do mobile top-ups or buy bus tickets in the app itself. There will probably be more merchants coming on board in the near future.
  • For more on e-wallets, you can read up about the homegrown e-wallet, BigPay that will apparently “be worth more than AirAsia”. 


Tencent confirms plans to launch WeChat Pay in Malaysia

Tencent confirms plans to launch WeChat Pay in Malaysia

Tencent Holdings plans to unveil WeChat Pay in Malaysia in early 2018, having obtained an e-payment license for local transactions in the country, according to Reuters. This follows Tencent’s announcement in July this year that it applied for a licence in Malaysia because of the large Chinese community in the country.
Quoting Tencent’s senior VP S.Y. Lau, the report stated that there are 20 million WeChat users in Malaysia, and that the market is welcoming towards internet products from China. Lau added that the company is “not in a hurry” to quicken its expansion plans overseas or boost the monetisation rate of its digital assets. He also said that WeChat, which now has 980 million monthly active users, could be the “killer product” to front expansion abroad for Tencent, as its payment function attracts more services from merchants.
According to Lau, the eventual aim was to spread Chinese culture worldwide by creating “super intellectual property” that leverages Tencent’s various businesses from upstream to downstream. One example would be its publishing arm, China Literature, selling popular novels and turning them into video games and dramas through other businesses within Tencent.
For the third quarter ended 30 September 2017, Tencent saw a 61% increase in earnings to US$9,825 million. Online advertising business revenue jumped by 49% to RMB11,042 million, while media advertising revenues increased by 29% to RMB4,122 million. This was mainly due to growth in revenues from its mobile media platforms such as Tencent Video, which benefited from popular drama series such as Nothing Gold Can Stay and self-commissioned variety shows such as The Temptation of Dinner Season 2.
Social and other advertising revenues increased by 63% to RMB6,920 million, reflecting higher advertising revenues derived from Weixin (also known as WeChat) – mainly Weixin Moments and Weixin Official Accounts – as well as other mobile applications. According to Tencent’s third quarter 2017 financial announcement, advertisements in Weixin Moments increased due to strong advertising demand, as well as further expanded key accounts and long-tail advertisers.
Tencent also reported a 56% increase in social networks revenues to RMB15,280 million. This was driven mainly by revenue growth from digital content services such as live broadcast and subscription video-on-demand, as well as from the sales of virtual items. In its latest financial announcement, Tencent stated that it will continue to boost investment in video content, especially self-commissioned video content, and reinforce its content recommendation algorithms.
Meanwhile, revenue for online games increased by 48% to RMB26,844 million, reflecting mainly contributions from Tencent’s smartphone games such as “Honour of Kings” and the China version of “Contra Return”. Revenues from Tencent’s other businesses also increased by 143% to RMB12,044 million due to higher revenues from our payment related and cloud services.
“We believe this success reflects our increasing investment in self-commissioned video content, our improved selection of licensed video content, and our scheduling and audience management initiatives. The listing of our online literature platform, China Literature, in November also reflects the value of our years of investment in the business. We believe our multi-faceted digital content businesses are synergistic with each other, and allow us to deliver unique content to our users,” chairman and CEO of Tencent, Ma Huateng, said.
The potential launch of WeChat Pay comes after Alipay made its foray into Malaysia in June this year, with the collaboration of Genting and CIMB Bank introduce cashless payment at Resorts World Genting. In August, Public Bank also partnered with Alibaba Group’s affiliate company Ant Financial Services Group to offer Alipay mobile wallet services. Last month, Malaysia Airports partnered with Alipay to create awareness, boost interest and strengthen its brand positioning among Chinese travellers. According to Badlisham Ghazali, managing director of Malaysia Airports, partnering with the cashless payment platform is a “major step” towards embracing the future of retail and F&B transactions at its airports.
Website: http://www.marketing-interactive.com/tencent-confirms-plans-to-launch-wechat-pay-in-malaysia/ 


WeChat Pay now allows users to bind overseas credit cards

WeChat Pay now allows users to bind overseas credit cards

Tencent’s WeChat Pay, one of China’s major mobile payment services, announced today that international credit cards are now allowed on the mobile payment platform. Expats living in China and residents of Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan—places where WeChat is ambitiously expanding its user base—can now bind and activate WeChat Pay accounts with credit card services provided by MasterCard, Visa, and JCB.
It’s worth noting that this is the first time users are able to use WeChat Pay without having a Chinese bank account or credit card, according to a company statement from Tencent.
As China is going cashless, WeChat Pay and Alipay—a mobile payment service under Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Financial—have become ubiquitous and embedded in all kinds of daily consumption settings, such as online shopping, ride-hailing, ticket purchasing, bike renting, food delivery, and hotel booking.
Released in August 2013, WeChat Pay has expanded to 25 countries around the world, serving the large amount of Chinese tourists traveling abroad. “WeChat is initially a social app,” Grace Yin, Director of WeChat Pay Cross-border Operation at Tencent, told TechNode last week in Guangzhou. “If [local users] don’t have experience using WeChat, then we cannot ask them to establish WeChat payment,” she said.
In fact, WeChat Pay is popular among the expats living in China. According to a data report released by Tencent last year, over 64% of foreign expats in China used WeChat Pay for their daily needs. It’s fair to say that most people (including the TechNode team) don’t need to leave their house with their wallet any longer.
Website: https://technode.com/2018/01/24/wechat-pay-now-allows-users-to-bind-overseas-credit-cards/ 


Jack Ma’s Alipay takes on WeChat’s ‘instant apps’

Jack Ma’s Alipay takes on WeChat’s ‘instant apps’

China's central bank considering tough regulations on online payments
Photo credit: Ant Financial.
In China, smartphone apps have never felt more obsolete. WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, hosts an overwhelming number of services inside itself: food delivery, ride-hailing, live streaming, and more. Now, China’s leading mobile payment app, Alipay, is trying to kill off apps too.
Alipay is pushing out “mini programs,” lightweight apps that live inside Alipay itself.
Like WeChat’s own instant apps, which launched in January, Alipay’s don’t require users to download anything. Instead, people scan a QR code to access them.
Here’s Ofo’s bike-sharing instant app in Alipay. You can’t open it in WeChat or a web browser.

Alipay – run by Alibaba spin-off Ant Financial – opened up its mini programs system to developers at the end of August. According to an Ant Financial spokesperson, they will become accessible to users “soon” but declined to specify when or how.
For WeChat, mini programs are a way to rope in the plethora of offline services and payment scenarios still outside the ever-expanding WeChat-verse. Bus stops and shops, for instance, can roll out their own mini programs, which can then tie into customer loyalty programs and marketing campaigns in WeChat.


Alipay, which is locked in a fierce battle with WeChat Pay, is now playing catch up with mini programs. According to research firm Analysys, Alipay captured 53.7 percent of China’s mobile payment market in this year’s first quarter. Tencent’s equivalent was in second at 39.5 percent.
Chasing after WeChat has had its own advantages, though – Alipay was able to copy parts of WeChat’s mini program source code. In August, the company was caught and apologized after someone found the name of a WeChat developer left inside Alipay’s development files.
Alipay captured 53.7 percent of China’s mobile payment market in Q1 2017.
Like WeChat’s system, Alipay’s instant apps will make it easier for more services to join the app’s ecosystem. Already, the app has services embedded inside its dashboard, such as car rentals. Mini programs could make it easier for more companies and products to become part of Alipay without bogging down the app with more icons and menus.
Though Alibaba’s mobile wallet app lacks the sticky social component of WeChat, it does offer a wider range of more developed financial products. Its money market fund Yu’e Bao has accumulated about 325 million Chinese users since launching in 2013. Tencent is beta testing its own version called Lingqiantong, which lets users earn interest from their WeChat Pay balance.
Alipay mini program developers will be able to tap into Sesame Credit, Ant Financial’s credit rating system. Already, there are a multitude of credit-based services inside Alipay, such as deposit-free bike rentals and a virtual credit card. Through Alipay’s mini programs, more services could waive deposits – especially in the hospitality industry – or offer new credit-based products.
Tencent is also testing its own credit system, which takes into account social connections, consumption behavior, security, wealth, and compliance, according to Chinese media reports.


Sneak peek to WeChat Pay Malaysia: How to enable, top-up, withdraw balance?

Sneak peek to WeChat Pay Malaysia: How to enable, top-up, withdraw balance? - ecinsider.my

Did you know that Malaysia is the first overseas launch for WeChat Pay? Find out more on how to activate WeChat Pay and use it to make payments

The talk of the town is that WeChat Pay is finally launching in Malaysia this month. Without any official announcement, the local wallet in MYR has been quietly made available to Malaysia.

It seems like this has been rolled out to some local WeChat users (not all according to our check), could it be in beta mode? You can try it out yourself by following steps below.
WeChat Pay in Malaysia

Introduction to WeChat Pay

Before that, let's start with a quick introduction to WeChat Pay, especially for those who aren't familiar with China and WeChat.

If you have ever been to China in recent years, you get to experience the cashless society with WeChat Pay and Alipay being the duopoly there.

However, it is not easily available to foreigners, as you need a local China bank account to top-up your WeChat Pay balance.

A quick trick is to get your friend with Renminbi balance to transfer some funds to you and voila! You can then use it to pay everywhere you want, ranging from hawker stalls, kiosks, mom and pop stores, retail outlets to many more.

Just watch the video below on our own WeChat Pay experience in China earlier this year.

Malaysia is the first overseas launch for WeChat Pay

You might be wondering why Malaysia? First of all, did you know that Malaysia has the second largest overseas Chinese population in the world after Thailand?

If we are to consider Chinese population which is closer to China in terms of language and culture, Malaysia easily has the most in the world out of China.

Tencent (the parent company of WeChat) has also claimed that there are 20 million WeChat users in Malaysia,according to S.Y. Lau, Senior Vice President of Tencent.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Tencent to launch WeChat Pay first in Malaysia.

By looking at the timing of its imminent launch here, we wouldn't be surprised if they replicate the WeChat red packet a.k.a. hongbao (微信红包) formula here for Hari Raya - green packet perhaps? It was one of the key stimulators of cashless society in China back then.

Without further delay, let's find out how it works here!

How to enable WeChat Pay in Malaysia?

Just follow the step-by-step guide below, especially if you already have RMB balance in your WeChat wallet. Bear in mind that, this is not made available to every WeChat users yet according to our findings.
WeChat wallet in RMB balance
If you have RMB balance (China Region )

WeChat Pay: other regions enabled
You will be prompted with "other regions enabled"

WeChat Pay: switch wallet region
Select "Switch Wallet Region"

WeChat Pay: select wallet region
Select Malaysia as your new region

WeChat Pay Malaysia is activated!
WeChat Pay Malaysia (with RM) is activated!

How to top up WeChat balance in Malaysia?

From our test and findings, it seems that we can only top up with a debit card now, other top-up methods are not available yet at the time of writing.
WeChat Pay Malaysia balance
You need to top up WeChat balance first

WeChat Pay: top up balance using debit card
You can only top up using a debit card now

WeChat Pay: set 6 digits authentication PIN
Set 6-digits payment PIN (it's like your password)

WeChat Pay: Debit card authorization
RM0.01 will be charged to your debit card

WeChat Pay: debit card added / linked
Your debit card is now added / linked

WeChat Pay: top up balance
The top-up limit is RM1,500 for unverified users

WeChat Pay: top up successful
RM10 top up successfully via Maybank Debit Card

What is WeChat Quick Pay?

If you haven't realized, China is a "QR code country" in which we haven't seen similar adaption here yet. Quick Pay is one of the QR code features of WeChat, to enable merchants to scan your QR code on transactions.

From our experience in China, it is usually the larger merchants or retailers who scan your QR code with a scanner that linked to their POS system. It is the other way round for smaller merchants - you scan their QR code instead.
WeChat Pay: enable Quick Pay
Enable Quick Pay on WeChat Pay

This QR is dynamic (refresh every minute for security purpose)

How to withdraw your WeChat Pay balance in Malaysia?

Unlike the controversy of our very own Touch 'n Go, it is a pleasant surprise to find out that we can withdraw WeChat Pay balance here without much fuss, ironically even before its official launch!

We tested balance withdrawal to a Maybank account and it works, you can withdraw your WeChat balance to 29 banks at the time of writing.
WeChat Pay: withdraw balance to Maybank
We tested RM1 withdrawal and it works!

WeChat Pay: withdraw instructions
Withdrawal limits of WeChat Pay in Malaysia

Which merchants accept WeChat Pay in Malaysia now?

We are not expecting many merchant partners before the official rollout, but you can top up your mobile prepaid via WeChat Pay at the moment.

Surprisingly, you can also buy bus tickets via WeChat Pay and select the seats within the app too, this is something cool!
WeChat Pay: pay for mobile prepaid top-up
You can use WeChat Pay to top up mobile prepaid

WeChat Pay: pay for bus ticket
You can buy bus tickets too!

WeChat Pay: select seats within the app
You can select bus seats within the app, wow!

What about you? Have you tested it out? Do share with us your experience and feedback in the comment box below.

Don't forget to watch our WeChat Pay experience in China, we used it to pay food stall, fashion merchant, vending machine, and retail store. Are we expecting the same will happen here in Malaysia? Time will tell