Southeast Asians Increasingly Comfortable with Forgoing Cash

Long before a border-hopping virus stirred uncertainty around touching cash at all, the residents of SEA were phasing fiat out of society. In other words, while the rest of the now world adjusts to life without cash, it’s just another day of Southeast Asian living.

The region’s mobile-first economy is a hotbed for alternatives to cash transactions. Since most everyone here has a smartphone — using it for just about everything — making digital purchases is commonplace.

The C-19 virus is accelerating the use of technologies, which, if left to their natural progression, might take years to develop. By willingly adopting contactless options, including cards, QR codes, and digital wallets, Southeast Asia is making giant strides in mobile payments.

But before we dive into Vietnam’s dominance across an assortment of metrics, let’s glance at how big Asia’s cashless trend has become.

Emergent Growth

From 2016–2017, global non-cash transaction volumes grew to U.S. $539B. The rise — equating to 12% YoY — was the highest in 20 years. And the bulk of that surge came from what Capgemini’s 2019 World Payment Report refers to as ‘Emerging Asia.’

Image credit: Capgemini

This year, 2020, is when Capgemini expects Asia’s emerging markets to first surpass North America as the global leader of cashless transactions. The prediction isn’t overly bold. But, it is why, in part, we chose Vietnam for our project’s headquarters.

And by 2022, the report foresees the value of Emerging Asia’s non-cash transactions rising to nearly $U.S. $353B. That massive figure is more than half of 2019’s worldwide transactional volume.

Although the report focuses on the entire payment industry, emerging markets are the standouts. Here’s a pertinent quip from the research team:

“Emerging markets will soon dictate and shape the global payments landscape in terms of innovations, transaction capacity handling, and industry trends.”

Since SEA’s population is primarily young and tech-savvy, these findings come as no surprise to us. Moreover, citizens of SEA’s emerging markets are our target demographic.

Now, Capgemini isn’t the only firm to analyze Southeast Asia’s financial markets. Global payments tech company — Visa — recently conducted surveys looking into SEA’s attitudes about non-cash payments.

Not only that, but the firm also examined the convergence of technologies quickly removing physical bills and coins from circulation. And within the realm of futuristic, cashless technologies coming online, Vietnam is the clear frontrunner.

The 4k Survey

Flashback to August 2018. Visa surveyed 4,000 Southeast Asians to gain insight into digital consumer behavior. The ultimate goal is identifying ways of boosting electronic payment adoption rates.

Click here to read the SEA version of Visa’s 2019 Consumer Payment Attitude booklet.

Residents of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam shared thoughts on going cashless for an entire day. And with 64% saying, “yes,” Visa, like RedFOX, knows where the trend is going—and preparing accordingly.

We’ won’t go into the entire report here, but one particular section is very relevant to our project. Why? Because the discussion revolves around what’s to come — disruptive tech that challenges the status quo. Essentially, our cup of tea!

Vietnam Shouts “Đúng” to Tech

On pages 18–24, the ‘Future of Commerce’ survey addresses five different technological categories. And in most, Vietnamese participants are champions — often surpassing average figures for all of SEA.

Let’s look at how the other countries measure up…


Tech you wear is a logical evolutionary step for cashless societies. While a smartphone conveniently stays put in your pocket or handbag, a smartwatch is always at the ready.

SEA’s average interest rate for making cash-free — and hands-free — purchases with wearable tech is 67%. But in Vietnam, we see an enormous 81%.

Image credit: Visa

Can we foresee our upcoming mobile crypto wallet performing transactions on wearable devices? Why yes, yes we can!

Interestingly, twice as many respondents would rather have a microchip implanted in their skin than wear glasses to conduct cashless buys.


Once again, Vietnam far outshines SEA’s average — by 33% in this instance. Fingerprint, facial, retinal, and vocal scans deliver convenience with an extra helping of security.

And Vietnamese citizens are more than interested in biometric benefits.

Image credit: Visa

Although Vietnam once again leads the pack with an 81% rate of interest, it’s important to note 2nd place: the Philippines.

In addition to bespoke versions for Myanmar and Vietnam, we’re in the process of building the Philippines a cashback and rewards ecommerce portal.

Plus, in addition to exploring livestreaming within our trio of apps, we’re in partnership with an AI organization to integrate self-learning chatbots.

Speaking of those…

AI Chatbots

Our chatbot — Alice — has human-like conversations with our apps’ users. Even better, the bot learns from every interaction and tunes into everyone’s individuality.

Put another way, your communication with Alice differs from anyone else’s.

Image credit: Visa

Vietnam’s residents are very comfortable with letting robots pay bills, book travel arrangements, and coincidentally, assist with digital purchases.


The Philippines is SEA’s leader in acceptance toward self-checkout options. A whopping 90% of those surveyed indicating a likeliness to explore the tech.

But Vietnam still comes in 2nd place. And since PH is among the countries in which we’re launching custom apps, we’ll happily concede tech acceptance to the island nation.

Image credit: Visa

Self-checkout at brick-and-mortar stores offers the most opportunity for social distancing. And the convenience factor is unbeatable. Because let’s face it, sometimes you just want to be left alone while shopping for groceries.


One of the most futuristic shopping concepts is frictionless checkout. Imagine going into a store, putting whatever you want in your bags or backpack, then simply walking out the door. No lines, no checkout process.

Image credit: Visa

Once again, Vietnam displays the most interest in this new tech. Followed by, thankfully, the Philippines. See what we mean about Vietnam’s dominance? The country “won” 4 of 5 categories!

Now, the frictionless concept only functions with the right combination of IoT devices and tracking software. On that note, it’ll be a while before we see widespread rollout. But again, the current pandemic is likely to quicken adoption.

Remember, each of the above categories represents the future. And not just for electronic commerce, but all commerce. We’re excited to see external validation of Vietnam’s responsiveness to explorative tech!


Use of mobile wallets — a natural fit for cashless societies — is on the uptick. Scanning a QR code, tapping a card, or touching nothing at all, is clean, quick, and ultra-convenient.

Products in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space naturally lend themselves to serving the unbanked and underbanked. There are more mobile SIM cards than people in SEA.

And mobile payment solutions are welcome additions to the area’s bustling digital economy. Considering SEA’s affinity for technology, our upcoming products are in harmony with the market’s needs, wants, and tolerance.

After all, if Emerging Asia’s non-cash transactional volume is to double over the next two years, we can’t help but nudge the revolution along with products fostering digital inclusion.

Hit subscribe to get an inside look at how we’re accelerating blockchain adoption in Southeast Asia and beyond!