Ride-hailing major Grab has announced a partnership with Mastercard to issue prepaid cards to cater to Southeast Asia’s unbanked and cash-loving users.
According to a joint statement, Grab will issue virtual and physical prepaid cards directly from its mobile app, which could be used for purchases at any online or offline merchant accepting Mastercard globally. Users will be able to top up the prepaid card by paying cash to any of the 8 million partners Grab claims to have in the region, including drivers, agents and merchants on its GrabPay platform.
The service will be available in the first half of 2019, beginning with Singapore and the Philippines. Various currencies will be accepted on the card.
Southeast Asia is currently one of the world’s most unbanked regions with three out of every four people still unbanked. Cash is also still the preferred mode of payment for transactions in most markets.
According to the statement, the service targets transactions in areas with poor connectivity and transit payments such as metro fares or road tolls.
“We are the first e-wallet at scale from our region to be accepted worldwide. 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 per cent of Southeast Asians with a credit card,” said Grab Financial senior managing director Reuben Lai.
The partnership also grants Mastercard access to Grab’s network of over 110 million mobile phones across Southeast Asia.
“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, EVP – Digital & Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows, Mastercard.
Grab has been aggressively pursuing partnerships to deepen and widen its areas of expertise.
Earlier this month, Grab partnered with coupons deal platform Fave to drive its payments and food delivery business in Malaysia and Singapore. In May, it joined hands with Maybank, one of Malaysia’s biggest banks, to drive the adoption of GrabPay.
GrabPay also recently received an e-money licence from the Philippines’ central bank to operate in the country – a win at a time where regulatory scrutiny around fintech is rising.
Expect more partnerships in the coming months.
Grab president Ming Maa had recently said that SoftBank – an investor in Grab – aims to create a unicorn farm by bringing unicorns backed by the Vision Fund to Southeast Asia, hinting there will an “explosion of partnerships” in the next 12 to 24 months.