Top 8 Cashless, Digital & E-Payment Systems for Consumers & Merchants in the Philippines

Last Updated on – Aug 5, 2020 @ 3:24 pm

“Sir, wala po ba kayong smaller bill?

I pulled out my wallet to count the 20-peso bills I had. Alas, I’m a hundred pesos short.

“Sorry miss, yan lang talaga e.”

She bites her lower lip and gives out a faint sigh. Glancing at a small corner room, she calls out her manager who rushes to the counter to punch in a code to open the cash terminal.

As I was watching them count the bills, I can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed for inconveniencing them. “But it’s all the money I have, I thought. What can I do?

While handing over my change she quipped, “Sorry to keep you waiting sir, please come back again.”

I smiled and thanked her, struggling to clutch my cheeseburger, fries and drink in one hand (it was take-out) while the other clasped a bunch of 100-peso bills and coins.

It happens to all of us. Worse, it seems to happen when we’re pressed for time.

Whether it’s on a taxi, fast food joint, supermarket, or even your friendly neighborhood suking tindahan, the classic issue of “walang barya” always pops up in the most inopportune moments.

And it’s frustrating.

I can’t remember the number of times I was late for school because of it. And as if to remind us that it’s our responsibility to always have loose change ready, the jeepney’s sticker says, “Barya lang po sa umaga.”

I can’t help but think of those scenes in movies where they tap a card on a screen and the whole transaction is complete. Voila—everything done in mere seconds.

Smooth. No hassles. Smaller bill not required.

Except I remember—-that wasn’t from a movie. It was from a TV ad! The technology is already here but most of us are just not aware or hesitant to try it out.

Whatever the reason for this reluctance might be, it’s high time we take a closer look at what cashless technology is all about and what it can do for us. I promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

This report from the Wall Street Journal in 2018 shows that in China, more than a billion people use digital payment methods to pay for almost everything—street food included.

Which begs us to ask the question, “If the technology is here, why are we not using it?”

3 Reasons that hindered cashless technology in the Philippines

There are three main reasons that hinder the adoption of cashless technology in our country:

Unbanked Filipinos

This report by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas published in 2017 revealed that a whopping 86 percent of Filipino households don’t keep money in banks.

You read that right—86 percent.

That means that out of 10 households, only 2 have deposit accounts. And while this is worsened by the fact that only 37 percent of the 1,634 cities and municipalities across the entire country do not have a banking office, you’ll be surprised to know that 81.3 percent of households here in Metro Manila don’t own bank accounts.

Clearly, it’s not simply a topographical issue.

Access to the Internet  

Internet in the Philippines can be described in two words: Expensive and slow.

According to this study conducted by Akamai in their 2017 Global State of the Internet Report, the average connection speed in the Philippines is 5.5 Mbps—making us the country with the slowest internet speed in Asia Pacific.

And it’s not only slow, it’s expensive. On a monthly average, we pay a lot more compared to folks living in Hong Kong and Singapore, yet the speeds they have are more than triple of what we have here.

This not only hinders adoption of e-commerce from customers like you and me, but also from Small and Medium Enterprises who typically need to shell out more to avail of a more expensive “enterprise plan” suitable for their business.

EMV Technology Latecomer

If you ever noticed those sim-card looking chips in your ATM or credit cards, that’s called an EMV.

Named after its founders: EuroPay, MasterCard, and Visa, EMV technology offers enhanced security and wider international usability for your cards and allows secure payments through mobile.

When I think about it, perhaps a big reason why Filipinos are hesitant to embrace these technologies is our general lack of trust over digital systems.

This is exacerbated by news showing reports of theft in ATM terminals and phishing websites. I wonder if EMV was adopted earlier, would there have been reduced instances of theft leading to better adoption from our countrymen?

After all, other countries started using EMV tech almost a decade ago.

The Benefits of Going Cashless

While the above reasons may seem daunting, Filipinos are bullish in their outlook and willingness to delve into the world of digital payments.

The 2016 Consumer Payment Attitudes Survey conducted by Visa revealed that 6 out of 10 Filipino consumers are open to contactless payment methods.

Clearly, the demand is here.

The rise of E-commerce sites like Lazada, Zalora, Shopee, and pioneers like MetroDeal and CashCashPinoy proved that Filipinos reluctance towards e-commerce is slowly dwindling and it’s only a matter of time till we realize the full potential of it when we switch to digital and cashless payments.

So what are the benefits, you ask?

Convenience

Forget long lines when paying bills. Expect smoother and faster transactions that complete in seconds.

Need to send or receive money?

No need to visit the nearest bank or remittance outlet. Think of all the hours everyone can save. Precious hours that can be spent on more important stuff. It’s costly to you, me, and our economy.

Safety

Back in college, my wallet was always attached to a steel chain with the other end hooked to one of the belt loops. It was dual purpose: I thought it looked cool and kept my wallet safe at the same time.

Fashion judgements aside though, it gave me a sense of security that it won’t get lost or get pickpocketed easily. Fast forward to today though, we can completely bypass the risks brought about by bringing cash and utilize cashless payment methods for our purchases.

Access to more products

I always envied folks in the US during their Black Friday sale. Hundreds of products offered at less than half the price, sometimes even way less.

What prevents us from getting a piece of the action?

Credit Cards.

Most of these popular online stores require that you use credit cards or PayPal as method of payments. And it’s not only international purchases that require them.

Locally, hundreds of great products and services can be availed only through the use of cards. In 2016, only 9 percent of transactions were made through debit and credit cards in the Philippines, which clearly shows we’re way behind.

The good news is, through the use of digital and cashless technology, we can avail of these services and merchandise without the need to secure a credit card.

Lessen the “friction” during financial transactions

Merchants know that by making the payment process simple and easy, more people will buy their products. And this benefits both parties: customers can also avoid long queues and complex steps just to make payments.

It’s a win-win situation. And just like my experience earlier, no more “smaller bill, please” requests from cashiers. Finally!

Build Good Credit standing to access more financial options

Attempting to avail more diverse and advance financial features and services from banks and other agencies is typically an arduous process.

If we can successfully implement a credit rating system similar to those of other countries through adoption and development of cashless systems, we might be able to experience increased adoption of these other financial vehicles that can vastly improve a person’s financial health.

Easy Auditing

Digital payment systems store data like transaction history within the app itself or through your account information online.

This makes tracking your spending and auditing your finances a whole lot easier. As a result, we can be more mindful and conscious of our spending which can lead to better financial management.

Types of Digital and E-Payment Systems

Now that you are aware of its benefits, it’s time to give you some background knowledge on the types of these cashless systems.

Digital & Mobile Wallets

The advent of mobile apps ushered a new age for e-commerce. Through apps installed in our smartphones, we can make payments with just a few finger taps.

Tech-savvy readers have probably heard about Google Pay and Apple Pay, with other popular players in Asia lead by AliPay and WeChat Pay.

Related: 8 Best Mobile Wallets in the Philippines

Contactless Credit Cards and Debit Cards

Swiping a credit card? That’s so 90’s. With a simple tap-to-scan, you can pay for your purchase in mere seconds.

RFID

At its core, it’s a technology used to automatically identify and track tags to objects. It allows data to be stored to various objects.

As a payment mechanism, it allows users to wave the RFID-embedded device over the Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminal to make the payment.

The Top Digital and E-Payment Systems in the Philippines

Ready to go cashless? By sheer convenience alone I’m personally willing to try it out. And so should you. And to help you get started, we’ve prepared a list of the current cream of the cashless services crop for your easy reference to what’s the best out there right now.

1. AUB PayMate: WeChat Pay and AliPay

China is a trailblazer when it comes to the use of digital and mobile payment systems.

It’s two biggest players, WeChat Pay and AliPay cater to almost a billion registered users.

The Department of Tourism estimates that 1.5 million tourists from mainland China will be visiting the Philippines in 2018. A good number of these tourists are likely to have either WeChat Pay or AliPay (or both).

To make it easier for our local business owners to accept payments from the Chinese during their visit, Asian United Bank (AUB) launched AUB Paymate, a merchant-focused mobile app that allows fast, safe, and convenient payment transactions between our merchants and Chinese visitors.

How it Works:

There are 3 ways a merchant using AUB Paymate can accept payments:

  1. Cashier scans customer’s QR Code
  2. Customer scans merchants transactional code
  3. Customer scans from the printed/fixed QR code display

Pros:

  • Seamless payment transactions between Filipino merchants and Chinese tourists, eliminates the need to have their money changed to Peso
  • Allows easy access to real-time daily payment transactions and statuses

Cons:

  • Service is currently only focused in serving Chinese tourists who use WeChat Pay or AliPay

How to apply for Merchants

Merchants using AUB PayMate:

  • Robinsons Department Store
  • Robinsons Supermarket
  • Robinsons Handyman and Appliances
  • Toys “R” Us
  • Daiso Japan

Verdict: 4/5 for Merchants

2. Coins.PH

Coins.PH is a mobile wallet app that uses Blockchain technology to let you pay bills, buy, sell, send, and receive BitCoins (and Ethereum), make payment requests, and withdraw cash via ATM.

How it Works

What makes Coins.PH unique is its support for regular Peso, BitCoin, and Ethereum Wallets.

Once you have an account open, you can either use the service via the website or through their mobile app.

There are several ways to load up your wallet: Bank transfer, 7-11 Kiosks, Globe GCash, M.Lhuiller E-Pay, SM Bills Payment Center, and others.

Once loaded, you can use it to purchase goods and services just like a regular credit/debit card. You can convert your money from Peso to Bitcoin/Ether or vice versa.

Pros:

  • Digital wallet that combines support for both Peso and Bitcoin currency
  • Great option for people who own Bitcoins
  • As of this writing, they offer a 10% rebate when purchasing prepaid load

Cons:

  • Higher fees outside of Metro Manila

How to apply for Merchants:

Merchants using Coins.ph:

  • Traveloka
  • Almost every bill payments in the country (from utilities, banks, insurance, cable & internet, telecom, up to government services).
  • Beep Card (a reloadable stored value smart card that you can use in LRT, MRT, P2P bus lines, NLEX & Cavitex, FamilyMart, Circle K, Robinsons MovieWorld, and Wendy’s).

Verdict: 4/5 for Consumers

Also Read: Top 14 Altcoins to HODL in 2018

3. Globe GCash

One of the pioneers in the local Digital Payment industry, Globe GCash is essentially a digital wallet that is offered both in card form (GCash Mastercard or Amex) and via the GCash smartphone app.

How it works

The GCash card can be used both online and offline like your typical credit card. The smartphone app on the other hand, allows you to pay for services and receive money using QR codes (scan to pay).

One unique feature is that it can link with Facebook Messenger and use the service with the help of chatbots.

Users can register using their Globe app or apply and get KYC’d (Know Your Customer) by visiting Globe outlets for the virtual Amex or Visa card.

Another unique feature is its strong integration with PayPal, allowing you to link your GCash account to it and easily transfer fund for withdrawals and purchases using your GCash.

Pros:

  • Ability to link PayPal and Facebook Messenger
  • GCash American Express Virtual Pay

Cons:

  • Need to be a Globe Subscriber
  • You have to visit a Globe outlet to apply for the card variant
  • GCash charges Php20 for every Php1,000 and any amount in excess that you cash out

How to apply for Merchants

  • Check out the steps here.

Merchants using GCash:

  • SM Malls
  • Ayala Malls
  • Ministop
  • PureGold
  • Robinsons Department Stores

Verdict: 3/5 for Merchants and Consumers

4. PayMaya

PayMaya (created by Smart & PLDT) is essentially a virtual prepaid card for your online purchases, booking flights, and more.

Depending on your mobile network, you either get a virtual Visa or Mastercard. If you obtain a physical card, you can use it at establishments here and abroad, wherever Visa is accepted.

How it Works

The process is quite easy. After downloading their app, register your personal info and create an account. An SMS will be sent to you for verification.

After entering this into the box provided, you can then view your card and use it. If you want their EMV card, you can purchase it for P150.00 and they will deliver it to your address.

You can load your PayMaya wallet via Robinson Department stores, SM Centers, Smart Stores, 7-Eleven, RCBC Online Banking and others.

Pros

  • Supports both Visa and Mastercard
  • Available to any type of telco subscriber
  • No need to visit a Smart outlet to apply for the physical card
  • Integration with Messenger

Cons

  • There is a charge of at least 0.5% to load up from Smart Money to PayMaya
  • PayMaya charges P15 for every P1000 load-up on any PayMaya load up center

How to apply for Merchants

Merchants using PayMaya:

  • Zalora
  • Steam
  • MetroDeal, Ensogo, and DealGrocer
  • FoodPanda
  • Netflix and Iflix

Verdict: 3/5 for Merchants and Consumers

5. Dragon Pay

Established in 2010, Dragon Pay is the brainchild of CEO Robertson Chiang, who wanted to solve the problem of low-adoption rate of e-commerce in the country.

He wanted to create an alternative mode of payment that will allow unbanked customers to pay for products and services without the need for a credit card or savings account.

Today, it offers strong merchant features like Mass Payout and Recurring Payments.

How it Works

Dragon Pay should not to be confused as a digital wallet. It’s an online payment platform that allows online-based shops (or ecommerce) to accept payments via non-traditional methods outside of cash or credit cards.

Let’s say you wanted to purchase an item in Metro Deal. In the checkout page, you choose Dragon Pay as the payment method. Dragon Pay will then provide you with several options on how you wish to pay for the item.

You can choose Over-the-Counter payments, online banking, bayad center, and much more.

Once selected, an email will be sent to you containing deposit instructions for making your payment. You then proceed to the payment outlet (for example, Bayad Center) and hand over your payment.

Pros:

  • Payment platform that makes online purchases possible for people without credit cards or other online means through DragonPay-supported merchants
  • Strong merchant features
  • Partnered with government offices as the back-end of their online payment services (NBI, POEA, IPO, PSE, etc)

Cons:

  • Not a true mobile wallet solution

How to apply for Merchants

Merchants using DragonPay:

  • Banana Peel
  • Traveloka

Verdict: 2/5 for Merchants and Consumers

6. 7-Connect

7-CONNECT is 7-Eleven’s platform for e-commerce businesses that enables cash payment convenience for your customers. Customers will be able to pay for online purchases at any 7-Eleven store.

How it Works

Similar to Dragon Pay, it is a payment gateway that allows you to purchase and pay for products online through partner merchants and pay for it at any 7-11 stores around the Philippines.

Pros:

  • Easy payments of online purchases through 7-Eleven stores

Cons:

  • Not a true digital mobile wallet solution

How to apply for Merchants

Merchants using 7-Connect:

  • Air Asia
  • Ensogo

Verdict: 3/5 for Consumers

7. GrabPay Credits

Grab Pay Credits is the ridesharing company’s way of offering its customers a cash-free method of paying for their rides. As the name suggests though, it is strictly limited for this purpose, at least for the time being.

Grab has also started to show its interests in competing in the financial space by offering personal/micro-loans and insurance. This could open up so many possibilities for their own digital payment platform in the future (perhaps, enabling credits to be used on food, shopping, and other financial services).   

Also Read: Online Cash Loans: How to Get Personal & Business Loans in the Philippines

How it Works

There are several ways you can load up on GrabPay Credits. You can hand over cash to your GrabPay Driver and they’ll take care of loading the credits into your account.

Or you can use your credit or debit card to top it up. GrabPay credits can also be purchased via select payment centers.

Pros:

  • Convenient and cash-free way of paying for your Grab rides
  • Earn DOUBLE GrabRewards points when you use GrabPay Credits (versus using cash)

Cons:

  • Service is limited to Grab ride and delivery services (for now).

Verdict: 2/5 for Consumers

8. PayPal Debit

The world-renowned online payment system remains one of the popular ways to send and receive money and make purchases online.

How it Works

As a buyer, you simply need to set up your PayPal account. You can fund it by linking it to your bank account or adding cash into it. You can then proceed in making online purchases by selecting PayPal as payment method.

Pros:

  • Worldwide merchant support
  • Process of receiving money as merchant is easy
  • Usage is highly tied for online purchases – but with their new debit card (that supports both Visa and Mastercard), you can pretty much use and access your funds through POS and ATMs.

Cons:

  • May still require that you link your bank account for funding it

How to apply for Merchants

Verdict: 3/5 for Consumers

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About Amiel Pineda

Amiel is the lead business & finance columnist of Grit PH. He escaped from the shackles of BPO life and now pursues his dream of writing full time. He shares his best tips and insights for aspiring homebased workers and freelancers on his site: Homebased Pinoy

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Juan Carlos says

    Hi, I’m not sure how you got your info’s making AUB Paymate as top 1, when based on Google Playstore, they just have around 1,000+ downloads. On the otherhand, Coins have 1M+ downloads, while GCash have as much as 5M+ downloads already, and Paymaya have also 1M+ downloads. Either you forgot to account the number of downloads from Google and Apple, or you are just a fan of AUB Paymate.

    • jasonacidre says

      We’re scheduled to update this list very soon (as we mostly do with the rest of our content) – and based on our initial brainstorm session, Gcash and Coins are indeed vying for the top spot 🙂

      • cyril says

        Hi, I suggest that you have a look at a business analytic such as (and not limited to) Sensor Tower for worldwide updates on how the apps are perceived by the users. Download count is merely a cumulative counts and does not account for uninstalled apps (plus beware of bots). G-Cash has a very negative feedback by users due to very poor customer service. Paymaya and G-cash offer corporate accounts that waive most initial expenses and make it easy for users. Note G-Cash is NOT dedicated to Globe. Please review your analytics!

    • Richard Magawi says

      This is a ranking for e-payment systems. You can’t solely base the rankings just on the number of app downloads. If you’ve actually tried all these systems both as a merchant as as a consumer, then you’d probably agree with the rankings of this article. Common feedback is that merchants have an easier time with AUB Paymate’s system than GCash. You also have to consider how these systems have benefited the merchants financially. Make sure you know what the article actually tackles before you make irrelevant comments.

  2. Mervin Meruenas says

    Paypal Debit ( as in the physical card) is not available in the Philippines. Unless they have launched it recently.

  3. Urs says

    thank you Amiel
    I am currently setting up for a client a new business and still seeking payment gateway with low fees.
    It’s really hard to find something fair. And especially my client has low margin, so it’s like wasting 30% profit just into payment fees…
    Here in Europe we can create bank accounts with low or mostly no monthly fees at all, and most transactions are free, even between european countries.
    So I hope it’s getting better soon, that locals have more money left in pocket and online business grows…
    best regards from snowy switzerland

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