Advancing Myanmar’s Cashless Journey

Myanmar is witnessing a unique infrastructure modernization that seems to bypass all traditional routes, thanks to accelerating technology adoption among the country’s younger demographic and fast-growing middle class. In a matter of years, Myanmar suddenly went from low landline penetration to nationwide 4G connectivity, and from brick and mortar commerce to creating a budding e-commerce landscape.

Seeing Myanmar as one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, Visa has been investing in helping not only the financial industry but also retail partners to understand our consumers better. The latest Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Survey (the “Study”) tracks payment habits and attitudes among 5,102 consumers across seven Southeast Asian countries, including 515 respondents from Myanmar. We deem it useful to share key findings from the Study in hopes that the results will spark a dialogue on the benefits of digital payments and contribute to the acceleration of Myanmar’s journey towards a cashless nation.

Card payments are gaining a strong foothold Among respondents in Myanmar, 24 percent currently own credit or prepaid cards, and almost three in four of card users (71 percent) are actively paying with their cards at least once a week or more. Additionally, more than one in four people (29 percent) also said that they prefer using payment cards while traveling abroad, citing convenience as their main reason (72 percent), followed by safety and wider card acceptance (25 percent equally). While most people will not be traveling overseas soon, we expect to see a continuing increase in card usage since it remains a trusted and reliable form of payment for eCommerce transactions.

While Myanmar remains a deeply cash-based economy with almost all respondents (97 percent) admitted to relying on cash in daily life, 16 percent of Myanmar consumers are beginning to carry less amount of cash than two years ago. Around one in three (35 percent) said they carry less cash because money withdrawals are easily accessible. More interestingly, over half (59 percent) said it was due to increased use of payment cards. Looking forward, over three in five (62 percent) are expecting to increase their use of cashless payment methods in the next 12 months.

With greater digital payments adoption and wider card acceptance locations, Myanmar has a unique potential to bypass its reliance on cash or even ATM machines to become truly cashless through better digital payment infrastructure.

Contactless cards are the new standard in payment cards. Users can simply tap their card at a point of sale payment terminal for goods and services. The simple Tap-to-Pay enables better experience and security as the card will never leave the hand of the cardholder and no signature or PIN is required. Currently, over half of Myanmar consumers (52 percent) are familiar with this payment method – compared to just 21 percent during the previous survey. In addition, 72 percent of the Myanmar respondents are now interested in using contactless cards, a 24 percent increase from last year. It is also worth mentioning, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a 50 percent growth in contactless transaction in Myanmar as consumers and merchants are looking for a more hygienic way to pay and be paid. Based on what we see in other markets around the globe, Myanmar consumers will likely stick with this digital payment method instead of reverting back to cash even when the pandemic is over.

Moreover, around one in three (37 percent) are also familiar with mobile contactless – the concept of using virtual cards on smartphones to pay at retailers. Similar to the level of interest in contactless cards, 69 percent of Myanmar consumers are showing interest in mobile contactless. Given such optimism and consumer appetite for technology, we can accelerate Myanmar’s cashless transformation by building more awareness around the latest digital payments. Convenience is a key motivator for digital banking In our previous study, we found that Myanmar consumers remained underserved financially as 59 percent did not own a bank account. In the current survey, we shift our focus to a relatively new concept of digital banking – the promise of technology to provide greater banking access for the unbanked population. While only 27 percent among Myanmar consumers are aware of the concept, more than twice of that number (58 percent) are expressing their interest in digital banking.

The top drivers of interest are speed and convenience over traditional banking (40 percent), time and effort saved as they no longer need to wait in line at the bank branch (32 percent) and curiosity to try something new (28 percent). Another benefit enabled by digital banking is open banking – the possibility for customers to receive better services by sharing personal financial information. When it comes to trust, Myanmar consumers are more willing to share their financial information with banks and governments (80 percent and 79 percent respectively).

The top benefits of open banking that they expect in return are faster processing times when applying for financial products and more competitive product offers (81 percent equally) – both serving to highlight a strong demand among unbanked or underbanked consumers in Myanmar. More collaborations are needed now than before Since our entry into Myanmar, Visa has been fostering the right climate for collaborations among financial regulators and industry players, as well as educating the public about the cashless benefits and the importance of personal finance. Now more than ever, the collaborative effort is needed to guide our directions in the coming years as we are laying down the new infrastructure for future growth. Visa Myanmar is committed to providing products and services around how consumers actually pay and transact in daily life, and connect Myanmar businesses to more customers and the world through a trusted payment network.

For more information on the findings of Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes, please visit https://vi.sa/3gXDu85 and https://myanmar.visa.com/about-visa/newsroom.html. The Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Study was conducted by ENGINE insights on behalf of Visa in August 2019 across Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Myanmar. The total sample size is 5,102 including 515 working adults in Myanmar aged 18-65, with a minimum monthly income cut-off of MMK 150,000.

About Visa

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network – enabling individuals, businesses, and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of digital commerce on any device for everyone, everywhere. As the world moves
from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce. For more information, visit About Visa, visa.com/blog and @VisaNews.

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Source: Myanmar Times

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