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A guide to alternative payment methods in Asia Pacific

James Hayward
Content Marketing Lead

Payments innovation is booming across Asia Pacific, a region fully embracing digital commerce, becoming the world's largest digital economy.

Today, the payment landscape in this dynamic region is diverse and fragmented, with hundreds of alternative payment methods, ranging from global giants like Alipay+ and Apple Pay to local favorites like PromptPy in Vietnam.

Let's tour the region to discover more about the popular payment methods in Asia Pacific and how to leverage them to enhance the customer experience and boost sales.

What are alternative payment methods?

Alternative payment methods encompass any payment method that isn't a traditional credit or debit card transaction or cash payment.

Examples of alternative payment methods include:

  • Account-to-account (A2A) payments like PayNow and PromptPay.
  • Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services such as Atome.
  • Cash-based electronic payments, like Alfomart.
  • Digital wallets like Alipay+, OVO, GrabPay, and WeChatPay.
  • Domestic card schemes, notably UnionPay.
  • Mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

The evolution of payment methods in APAC

Asia Pacific is a region of incredible diversity, where emerging economies coexist with global economic leaders. Here, you'll find highly urbanized populations alongside remote communities and a multitude of languages, currencies, and cultures.

In a nutshell, Asia Pacific is anything but homogeneous.

However, one striking aspect that has become uniform across the region in recent years is its thriving digital economy. Fueled by multiple factors, including the growth of the middle class, increased mobile internet access, government initiatives, and the impact of the pandemic, among others, APAC has evolved into a breeding ground for innovation in online commerce and payments.

As a result, the way consumers pay in APAC has undergone a significant transformation. Where cash once ruled, digital payments now reign supreme.

What are the most popular alternative payment methods in Asia-Pacific?

The fragmented nature of APAC's payment landscape necessitates that merchants conduct thorough research on individual markets. This enables them to pinpoint the most suitable payment options for their checkout process.

Let's explore individual markets in APAC to learn more.

Payment methods in China

The rapid adoption of digital wallets and QR codes over the last decade has enabled these payment methods to dominate the Chinese payment market. In 2023, China had the highest transaction value in the world.

The most popular digital payment platforms in China are Alipay and WeChat Pay, with around nine in ten Chinese online payment users saying they used them in the last 12 months.

China's domestic card scheme, UnionPay, is also very popular, accounting for over 90% of card payments in China.

Payment methods in Hong Kong

Card penetration is high in Hong Kong. According to a report published by JP Morgan in 2021, cards were the most used ecommerce payment method in Hong Kong, with a 39% market share. This figure is closely followed by digital wallets, boasting a 38% market share.

Payment methods in India

The widespread use of smartphones and internet access is fueling a significant rise in digital payments across India.

Some of the most popular payment methods in India include mobile wallets, QR codes, cards from providers like VISA, Mastercard, and RuPay, and real-time payments. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options are also gaining traction. Indian consumers are embracing the convenience of the country's Unified Payments Interface.

Payment methods in Japan

Although Japan has traditionally been a cash-centric economy, the card payment market is experiencing significant growth.

A 2021 report found that credit cards have taken the lead in terms of online payment market share, accounting for a substantial 79.8%. Local cash-based method Konbini (which means convenience store' in Japanese) and pay-on-delivery follow closely with 38.8% and 26.2% of the online payment market, respectively. In contrast, digital wallets have a less prominent presence, holding less than 2% of the market share.

Payment methods in Malaysia

Account-to-account transfers were the most commonly used ecommerce payment method in 2022 across Malaysia, representing 37% of all ecommerce payments. Digital wallets accounted for 24% of all ecommerce payments, with well-known names such as Touch' n Go and GrabPay dominating the market.  

Payment methods in Singapore

Digital payments are becoming increasingly widespread in Singapore as the Government promotes financial inclusion.

In a 2023 survey, 40.1% of consumers preferred to use payment cards for online shopping. Alternative payment methods are gaining traction and collectively account for 38.6% of all ecommerce transactions. Mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay, and BNPL services are fuelling this rise.

Want to get an insider view of what consumers in Singapore care about? Check out our exclusive research.

Payment methods in Thailand

According to a 2022 report, 62% of consumers used cash on delivery for their online shopping. In contrast, only 8% of consumers used BNPL services.

In 2017, PromptPay was introduced by the Bank of Thailand. Now, it's a leading alternative payment method in Thailand, facilitating fast and secure instant transfers.

Digital wallets have also become widely popular, with mobile wallets TrueMoney and RabbitLINE Pay dominating the market with 52.6% and 24.7% respectively.

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Interested in learning about alternative payment methods in other regions?

Why offer Alternative payment methods in APAC?

Today's fiercely competitive ecommerce market requires online merchants to localize their payment options and offer alternative payment methods.

This is especially true in APAC, where cart abandonment rates chart at 82%, according to Hotjar. This makes this region a particularly challenging market for merchants to get right.

From a strategic standpoint, embracing alternative payment methods such as digital wallets, mobile payments, and even cryptocurrencies can offer merchants a vital competitive edge. Let's explore some critical reasons for providing these alternative payment options:

Meeting customers' expectations

As the region's purchasing power grows, and with Gen Z's digital proficiency rising, customer expectations are reaching new heights. Streamlining the checkout process and offering the right payment methods tailored to specific markets are essential to reduce payment friction and boost conversion rates.

User experience

Conducting thorough market research and adapting payment options to the unique needs and preferences of the countries and regions within Asia-Pacific is vitally important. A delightful user experience enhances customer satisfaction and fosters trust, loyalty, and an expanded customer base.

Enhanced security

Alternative payment methods come with additional security features that benefit customers and online businesses, helping to mitigate fraud and reduce chargebacks.

Learn more about why multiple payment methods are a game-changer for your business.

How Primer helps businesses unlock new payment methods in APAC

Offering a diverse range of payment methods allows shoppers to choose their preferred way to pay. However, integrating and managing multiple payment methods comes with its challenges.

At Primer, we remove these challenges by allowing merchants to enable and offer new payment methods in just a few clicks. With Primer's Universal Checkout, you can effortlessly tailor your checkout experience to align with local consumer payment preferences. This opens doors to new markets and positively impacts your bottom line.

Final thoughts

APAC's payment landscape continues evolving, with consumers embracing alternative payment methods for convenience, speed, and security. Merchants who choose the right tools can take advantage of the opportunities the region presents.

Discover how Primer enables new payment methods in under one week, allowing your business to scale fast.  

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Head of Payments