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Grab launches GrabPay card to tap Asean's US$300b digital economy

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The virtual GrabPay Card - which allows users to spend from the GrabPay wallet on a card - will be available in Singapore for application from today.

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Rama Sridhar (left), Mastercard's executive vice-president, Asia Pacific digital and emerging partnerships, and new payment flows; and Ooi Huey Tyng, regional managing director, GrabPay, pose with mockups of the GrabPay Card.

GRAB on Thursday launched GrabPay Card, as the ride-hailing firm pushes deeper into the payments space via an Asean wallet that would enable borderless payments for the rising middle-class here.

The virtual GrabPay Card - which allows users to spend from the GrabPay wallet on a card - will be available in Singapore for application from today. It will be launched in the Philippines in the first quarter of next year, along with two other markets in Asean later in 2020, said Ooi Huey Tyng, managing director, GrabPay, in an interview with The Business Times.

With the Mastercard partnership, GrabPay Card users will be able to access about 53 million merchants worldwide.

The latest move speaks to the urbanisation growth in Asean, as more consumers look to travel and shop online, said Ms Ooi. By skipping straight to a cash top-up model, Grab hopes to bring more financial inclusion.

"This brings South-east Asia one step forward, and gives (these consumers) a chance to participate in the digital economy," she told BT, while declining to disclose a target for the number of card users. 

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Even as Singapore is a heavily-banked market, Ms Ooi noted that despite the high usage of mobile devices here, consumers are still using cash, or have yet to move significantly from using their plastics, to mobile payments. 

The GrabPay card does not have a card number printed on it, making it Asia's first such numberless card. The Apple Card was launched earlier this year in the US as a numberless card as well. On top of having the usual security features embedded in existing card products, a card that has its number stripped from it offers an added layer of protection against fraud.

This helps to tackle the "fear factor" from those who have yet to move from cash-based payments, to cashless ones, said Rama Sridhar, Mastercard's executive vice-president, Asia Pacific digital and emerging partnerships, new payment flows, in the joint interview with Grab.

She pointed to South-east Asia as a “very critical” growth region for Mastercard - and one that also has a sizeable underbanked population. “We are bringing them formally from the cash world into the cashless world, (and) opening up the world of digital engagement to these (consumers) who perhaps were deprived of it.”

Users get free mobile phone protection coverage if they pay for their monthly mobile bills using the GrabPay Card, as well as complimentary e-commerce purchase protection for their online shopping. Because the card is tied to the GrayPay wallet, customers can set a budget for spending by capping the wallet top-up each month.

The card functions as a multi-currency card too, as GrabPay wallet's funds in Singapore dollars - or in the user's home currency - can be converted for spending on items priced in foreign currencies, with the conversion rate disclosed to users upfront prior to purchase. According to the GrabPay Card's current terms and conditions, the foreign-currency transaction fee is 2 per cent, and overseas ATM withdrawal incurs a $5 charge.

Over the last six months, GrabPay's total payment volume has more than doubled, while its number of monthly active users has risen by 65 per cent. To be sure, monthly active users refer to those who use GrabPay just once a month. Grab is moving to track more of its daily active users, the pool of which has also grown "significantly", said Ms Ooi, though she declined to reveal the exact figures. 

The digital payments market in South-east Asia is set to push the region's Internet economy to a US$300 billion market by 2025, the annual e-Conomy report by Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Company released in October showed.

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