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MasterCard shows strong regional growth

MasterCard reported 40-per-cent growth in gross dollar volume for its prepaid-card business across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region for 2013 compared with a year earlier. This strong growth was fuelled in part by significant collaborations announced over the past couple of years in the region.

In Thailand, partnerships with companies such as AIS mPay are moving the country towards a cashless society, the credit-card firm says. The OneSmart dual-faced loyalty and prepaid card with Air New Zealand is a world first, while the next-generation Qantas Frequent Flyer MasterCard prepaid card, an Australian first, also features a combination loyalty/prepaid card.

The first-ever prepaid card in Japan for online transactions is the Rakuten Virtual Prepaid MasterCard card.

In India, there is an innovative MasterCard mobile companion prepaid card in collaboration with Beam Money.

MasterCard expects the momentum for prepaid-card growth to continue given the potential for driving further financial inclusion in emerging markets as well as the increasing cross-border and e-commerce transactions.

Jason Tymms, MasterCard's head of prepaid business for APMEA, said the needs in emerging markets differed greatly from developed markets, and this was proving to be a catalyst for innovation.

"We find ourselves innovating to meet the basic needs, which is access to financial services, especially for citizens who sit at the bottom of the financial pyramid," he said.

"We are seeing the biggest potential for prepaid [card] growth come out of China given [that] it had the highest number of outbound tourists and amount of overseas spending in the world last year.

"Coupled with China's higher purchasing power, this presents an obvious need for electronic-payments acceptance when abroad, and multi-currency travel prepaid cards such as the MasterCard Cash Passport fit the bill, as it takes away the hassle and risk of carrying a lot of cash while also enabling cardholders to lock in exchange rates at the time of loading to avoid fluctuations."

Officially the world's biggest spenders, Chinese outlay on overseas travel rose 28 per cent in the first nine months of 2013. In 2012, China became the largest outbound tourism market, with 83 million overseas trips, and last year this number grew even further to 97 million. It is expected that this year, the number will top the 100-million mark, in what will be a historic first.

These numbers represent the enormous opportunity MasterCard is seeing in the areas of cross-border transactions, not only in China but across emerging markets in Southeast Asia, as well as India and Japan.

E-commerce is also proving to be a key driver for prepaid-card growth. According to a MasterCard survey, besides China (97.8 per cent), markets such as Vietnam (91.4 per cent) and Thailand (84.2 per cent) are also showing great potential in terms of respondents intending to make an online purchase in the next six months.

The ubiquity of Internet-enabled mobile phones has many shoppers in China (59.4 per cent), Thailand (51.2 per cent), South Korea (47.6 per cent), India (47.1 per cent) and Indonesia (46.7 per cent) shopping via their smartphones.


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