Grab, the ride-hailing company out of Southeast Asia, and Mastercard, the payment company, announced on Wednesday (Oct. 24) a partnership to issue prepaid cards tailored to the Southeast Asian market.
In a press release, the companies said that the Southeast Asian region, which is home to more than 640 million people, has stayed largely cash-based. To overcome that, Grab, along with Mastercard, will issue virtual and physical prepaid cards directly from the Grab app. Customers can add cash to the card to spend at any merchant, online and offline, where Mastercard is accepted around the world.
The companies noted that by issuing Mastercard prepaid cards, Grab's mobile payments platform, GrabPay, will become the first eWallet from Southeast Asia that is accepted around the world.
“This partnership goes beyond Grab issuing prepaid cards, and is a game-changer for Southeast Asia. We are the first eWallet at scale from our region to be accepted worldwide," said Reuben Lai, senior managing director of Grab Financial, in the press release. "Not only does this solidify Grab’s position as Southeast Asia’s undisputed FinTech leader, but it also enables the region’s 400 million unbanked and underserved consumers to buy goods and services online. Something that was previously limited to the less than 10 percent of Southeast Asians with a credit card.”
According to Grab and Mastercard, with Grab's user base of more than 110 million downloads and Mastercard's networks, the companies think the prepaid card will be ubiquitous from its launch. They said consumers across the region will be able to apply for the prepaid card from the Grab app and receive a virtual card in their GrabPay wallet in the Grab app. Grab will offer a physical prepaid card enabled both by NFC and EMV chip technology.
“This partnership with Grab significantly advances our reach in Southeast Asia and aligns with our goal of expanding digital payments across all consumers and merchants. Without changing infrastructure, we can now offer merchants the opportunity to tap into Grab’s user base of emerging middle-class consumers, covering one in six mobile phones in Southeast Asia," said Rama Sridhar, executive vice president of digital and emerging partnerships and new payment flows at Mastercard. "We are thrilled to continue to offer consumers and merchants greater payments choice and the ability to transact securely and effortlessly.”
Grab and Mastercard noted that the new debit card is aimed at meeting the needs of consumers who are increasingly spending their disposable income on travel and eCommerce. Instead of using cash, this provides a safer and more convenient way for consumers in the region to pay for things. The companies expect to offer the card in the first half of 2019, starting in Singapore and the Philippines, representing some of the most banked (98 percent) and the least banked (34 percent) countries in Southeast Asia respectively.