Real-time payment ties cash as preferred payment method in SEA markets

Three in five consumers from four markets name it as their favoured way of paying.

Real-time payment is now as popular as cash as a payment method in Southeast Asia, according to a study by payments company, ACI Worldwide, and research and analytics firm, YouGov.

Three in five or 61% of consumers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore said that real-time payment is their favoured way to pay in 2021, equal to the number of people that cited cash. Real-time payment and cash emerged higher than other payment categories, including top-up digital wallets (56%) and credit cards (30%).

This shift towards real-time payments has been dramatically accelerated by changing payment necessities and preferences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the study “Real-Time Payments Goes Mainstream.” Almost a third of 30% of SEA consumers have reportedly reduced the use of traditional payment methods such as cash, credit cards, and debit cards since the onset of the pandemic.

As a result, over half (53%) are now using real-time payment more frequently than they were, prior to the pandemic, the study added.

Modernization challenges

The advent of real-time payment, however, presents a challenge for financial institutions and especially merchants to modernize their payment systems.

“This fundamental shift in consumer demand and payment expectations sets forth a challenge for Southeast  Asia’s banks, financial institutions, and merchants,” said Leslie Choo, managing director - Asia, ACI Worldwide. “These organizations can ill-afford to put their modernization projects on hold, despite the challenges caused by COVID-19.”

Choo adds that they can drive growth by joining the region’s emerging real-time payments ecosystem, which will improve their ability to innovate and transform while reducing the cost of infrastructure and operations.

Consumers have also set new expectations on what benefits this mode of paying will give them.

For future international travel, consumers have elevated expectations for the transparency, safety, and convenience of their payment when compared to their travel experiences pre-COVID-19. More than half (54%) of consumers in Southeast Asia who have travelled internationally in the past expect their usage of real-time payments to increase when they next travel.

A quarter (26%) expect their usage of traditional payment methods such as cash to reduce when they next travel.

More than seven in 10 users, or 75% say payment safety and fraud prevention are more important now, whilst more than two thirds (67%) say the transparency of interchange rates is now of greater importance.

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