While there have been initiatives in implementing digital payments in the country before the pandemic, the past months have witnessed further appreciation and rapid acceleration of contactless and cashless payments.
In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, online e-payment channels and online banking applications were increasingly used by consumers — from sending money to paying for goods and services. In turn, businesses ramped up the availability of their online channels for payments.
Proving this trend, a report by Statista and Rakuten Insights last June revealed that 31% of Filipino consumers stated they made purchases at least several times a month online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
UnionPay Philippines also observed the trend on their end, as Huiming Cai, General Manager of UnionPay International South East Asia, shared.
For instance, a campaign of one of its partner banks, BDO — which offered BDO UnionPay Gold and Diamond Credit Cardholders a 10% rebate on all online transactions — witnessed more than double year-on-year increase in online transaction volume last year. At the same period, UnionPay witnessed an over tenfold increase in PayPal transactions.
Recognizing that this shift to digital payments will continue in the “new normal”, UnionPay continues to establish itself as a reliable partner of businesses and institutions in enabling reliable contactless payments.
“Even before this pandemic, UnionPay has always been pushing for cashless transactions in the Philippines, in particular contactless payment such as online and card contactless payment for the locals. We have worked with both banks and non-banks to enable these services,” Mr. Cai said in an e-mail.
As a leading enabler of payments, UnionPay has expanded the acceptance of contactless transactions across the Philippines through its partner point-of-sale (POS) acquirers such as BDO Unibank Inc., Metropolitan Bank, and Trust Co., Global Payments Asia Pacific (Philippines) Inc., Philippine National Bank (PNB), and Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).
“At present, around 70% of POS terminals accepting UnionPay transactions are now contactless-enabled,” Mr. Cai added.
UnionPay has also partnered with several merchants with extensive nationwide coverage. Two leading retail establishments in the Philippines, The SM Store, and Robinsons Department Stores, have started to accept contactless payments for UnionPay cards. Prominent drugstores such as Mercury Drug and Watsons also accept this means of payment.
With EMVCo-based chip technology enabling UnionPay’s contactless payments, UnionPay Cardholders can be assured that their transactions using their card is safe and secure.
“These innovations in payment reduce the need for physical transactions like handling bank notes and face-to-face contact, which makes transacting these days even safer,” he said.
UnionPay is also expanding the acceptance of online payments as it collaborates with 2C2P Philippines which is an e-commerce payment enabler that offers innovative payment solutions tailored for the needs of merchants.
Aside from enabling the online acceptance of UnionPay cards in the Philippine market, 2C2P has recently partnered with Philippine Airlines for its mobile app. Through this app, Cardholders can search and book their flights as well as purchase their tickers using their UnionPay cards anywhere customers are.
Also, through its collaboration with 2C2P, UnionPay has enabled top apparel retailer Zara Philippines, further expanding Cardholders’ options whenever they shop online.
Another viable means of digital payments is through Quick Response (QR) Codes, and UnionPay also maximizes this means through partnerships with Asia United Bank (AUB) back in 2018 and, more recently, Fucent Gateway Corporation (FGC).
Through its partnership with FGC, UnionPay will have presence in key locations in the Philippines, including the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. The partnership also intends to expand QR Code acceptance at recreational spots, top hotels, and retail restaurant chains in tourist destinations.
“To date, UnionPay QR Code payments are accepted at over 10,400 major retail, attractions, hotels, and F&B merchants and more, becoming one of the leading international payment networks when it comes to QR Code deployment in the Philippines,” he said.
Through these partnerships, UnionPay has significantly enabled digital payments in the country, especially at a time when the push for cashless payments accelerated.
One partnership Mr. Cai recalls is with Cebuana Lhuillier Rural Bank, which issued its UnionPay-powered debit card that is intended to help unbanked and underserved consumers gain financial mobility.
“By enabling card application through any of Cebuana Lhuillier’s more than 2,500 branches located nationwide, Filipinos can easily open a bank account and apply for the card, at Cebuana Lhuillier branches, or online via the eCebuana app available on iOS and the Google Play Store,” Mr. Cai explained.
Transforming a largely cash-based economy into a cash-light one is a massive effort to undertake, and the current situation has just made this objective nearer to achieve.
There are challenges to tackle, nonetheless, among them building the confidence of merchants and consumers in cashless payments; and this is an area where UnionPay is willing to help address.
“UnionPay, with its deep and vast experience in building local payment switches and enabling cashless payments in 180 countries and regions, can play a role in addressing these gaps by providing the necessary tools and infrastructure to consumers and merchants,” he added.
He also sees an opportunity in the virtual card space as increased smartphone ownership is seen. Figures from Statista projects that from around 57.6% of the Philippine population in 2019, about 77.1% would be using a smartphone by 2025.
The digital payments enabler also remains open to collaborations for more merchants and businesses, helping them to gear up for a cashless society.
“UnionPay takes a win-win approach towards collaboration, working with over 2,400 partners worldwide to provide safe, seamless, and innovative payment services in 180 countries and regions,” Mr. Cai said.