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Paperless Transactions in APAC: Current State & Future Insights

Boaz Gam

Boaz Gam


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  1. Why Are Paperless Transactions Booming in the Asia Pacific Region?
  2. Dominant Cashless Payment Options in APAC Countries
  3. The Future of Payments in APAC: Is Cashless Economy the Next Step?

How Did APAC Become the Leader in Paperless Transactions?

While cash and paper checks remain prominent in some countries in the Asia Pacific, the convenience of digital wallets and other novel payment methods is increasing the popularity of alternative transactions. In fact, in 2023, APAC recorded the highest paperless payment value globally, amounting to over $29 billion and representing 52% of the worldwide share.

This trend is particularly evident in emerging markets like Thailand, Indonesia, China, and India, but more and more countries within the region are expected to follow suit soon. Let’s explore the hows and whys of APAC stepping to the forefront of paperless transaction growth and tap into the region’s potential development trajectory in this sphere!

Why Are Paperless Transactions Booming in the Asia Pacific Region?

As you know, during COVID-19 times, most countries were forced to steer clear of paper-based transactions. However, aside from major global influences, the APAC region has several significant internal factors driving the shift to paperless payments, including:

Rapid Technological Adoption

The Asia Pacific region has continuously demonstrated swift adoption of new technologies throughout the years, particularly in the financial service sphere. As a result, innovations like blockchain, contactless transactions, and advanced security protocols have made the local digital payment scene flourish.

Growing Smartphone User Base

The APAC boasts over 1.73 billion mobile users, which, if put in the global context, is 5.2 more people than the entire population of the US. What’s more, this number is expected to grow significantly in the upcoming year, reaching 2.1 billion users already by 2030.

This increase in smartphone adoption is a game-changer for paperless transactions in the Asia Pacific due to the fact that mobile devices provide easy access to digital wallets and mobile banking apps, making it possible for users to make payments on the go.

Supportive Regulatory Environment

Another major factor promoting the shift away from paper-based transactions is the fact that the region’s governments have recognized the potential of digital payments to enhance financial inclusion and economic growth. As a result, many of them have created supportive regulatory frameworks that encourage users to switch from cash to electronic transactions.

Besides, many local authorities are also working on standardizing digital payment systems across the region to promote seamless cross-border transactions. One prominent example s is the PayNow - PromptPay scheme launched in collaboration between Thailand and Singapore in 2021.

What’s more, these initiatives have also created fertile ground for both fintech startups and established companies alike to thrive and develop new solutions that cater to the tech-savvy population, further driving the adoption of paperless payments.

Dominant Cashless Payment Options in APAC Countries

How Did APAC Become the Leader in Paperless Transactions?

Now that you know why the Asia Pacific region is gradually abandoning paper-based transactions, you may be wondering which alternatives are taking center stage instead. Some of the main cashless payment options dominating the current APAC market include:

Bank Cards

Bank cards are widely used around the world, with the APAC region being no exception to the rule. For instance, in China, debit cards are the most popular method for personal payments, supported by a state-backed inclusive finance program that encourages bank account openings in rural areas. Besides, in Japan, the local “Cashless Vision” initiative has also promoted the use of debit cards.

India, on the other hand, recently recorded the highest growth in credit card payment transactions. This increase is mainly driven by the adoption of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which offers users faster and more convenient transactions.

Mobile Proximity Payments

Contactless payments that involve tapping a smartphone or scanning a QR code at a point-of-sale terminal, are gaining traction in several APAC countries.

For instance, Singapore and Hong Kong have experienced notable growth in this area, with CAGRs of 31% and 19% respectively between 2018 and 2023. This shift is also prominent in South Korea, where mobile proximity payments have grown by 29% within the same timeframe.

Digital Wallets

Digital wallets are becoming increasingly popular in the APAC region, mostly driven by the widespread use of smartphones. In China, nearly 70% of consumers use WeChat Pay daily, while in India, PhonePe is the leading app.

What’s more, Indonesia has also seen rapid growth in cashless payment transactions facilitated by the adoption of digital wallets, demonstrating an impressive CAGR of 67% in 2018-2022.

The Future of Payments in APAC: Is Cashless Economy the Next Step?

While it is still impossible to accurately predict when Asia Pacific will get to a completely paperless payment system, the good news is that it has already achieved great success in fostering economic growth, transparency, and financial inclusion both domestically and internationally.

Overall, the future of fintech in APAC appears extremely promising, as it is set to showcase an annual growth rate of 19.8% for digital payments. Thus, by leveraging its key strengths and tackling existing challenges, this diverse region can become one of the global leaders in promoting the cashless economy concept.

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