Thailand’s PromptPay Arrives, with Plans to Displace Cash

Thailand took a step toward a digital economy this past week with its release of PromptPay, which enables consumers to send and receive payments using mobile phone numbers or national identification numbers rather than bank account numbers.

PromptPay is part of the Thai government’s effort to develop a national electronic payments infrastructure, which is intended to reduce cash usage and to make the payments system more efficient and transparent, as well as to provide e-commerce opportunities for small to medium businesses.

To encourage the use of PromptPay, the fees for using it are lower than existing intra-bank funds transfers. However, according to a report in Bloomberg, Thai Bankers’ Association Chair Predee Daochai expects the net effect to be that banks in Thailand will save more than $2 billion over the next ten years by reducing cash-handling costs if Thai society transitions away from cash.

Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group and publisher of PaymentFacilitator.com, says that, because PromptPay works directly with a bank account, whether it will represent opportunity for payment facilitators operating in Thailand is an open question.

“But fintech companies take advantage of new technologies and disruptions with new ideas,” he said. “There could be a play within Thailand’s push toward electronic payments for payment facilitators who are creative.”

While the first phase of the PromptPay rollout enables P2P payments among individuals, businesses will be added in a later phase. The government also plans to be able to use the scheme to send funds such as social benefits and tax refunds to consumers at a later date.

Predee expects more than 30 million PromptPay registrations by the end of the year, the Bloomberg article said.

The release of Thailand’s PromptPay follows the introduction of a similar government-backed payments scheme in India. In December, the Indian government announced the release of its BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app.

Initially, users were able to use the app to send and receive money using their phone number or a “virtual payment address” set within the app. Users can also use a QR code to pay at participating merchants.

A recently added “Pay to Aadhaar Number” feature also allows users to send money using the recipient’s unique government-assigned identification number, known in India as Aadhar.

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