MasterCard reported a growth of 40% in gross dollar volume, or GDV, for its prepaid card business across Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa (APMEA) for 2013 (y-o-y). This strong growth was fuelled in part by significant partnerships announced over the last couple of years in the region, such as:
The OneSmart dual-faced loyalty and prepaid card with Air New Zealand, a world first.
The next generation Qantas Frequent Flyer MasterCard prepaid card, an Australian first, featuring a combination of loyalty and prepaid card.
The first ever prepaid card in Japan for online transactions, the Rakuten Virtual Prepaid MasterCard card.
An innovative MasterCard mobile companion prepaid card for underserved consumers in India in collaboration with Beam Money.
The roll out of MasterCard-branded National Identity Smart Cards with the Nigerian government, which comes with prepaid capability embedded in the card and is the largest roll-out of a formal electronic payment solution in the country.
A key 3-year exclusive agreement with Majid Al Futtaim Finance LLC to expand MasterCard’s unique prepaid solutions across the Middle East and North Africa region (Egypt, Qatar, Lebanon and Oman).
The momentum for prepaid growth is expected to continue given the potential for driving further financial inclusion in emerging markets as well as the increasing cross border and e-commerce transactions.
Emerging Markets: Hotbed of Innovation
According to Jason Tymms, MasterCard’s Head of Prepaid, Asia/Pacific, Middle East & Africa, “The needs in emerging markets differ greatly from developed markets and this is proving to be a catalyst for innovation. We find ourselves innovating to meet the most basic of needs which is access to financial services, especially for citizens who sit at the bottom of the financial pyramid.”
In May last year, MasterCard, in partnership with the Nigerian government, announced the roll out of 13 million National Identity Cards with MasterCard’s prepaid payment technology, the largest formal electronic payment solution in Nigeria and the broadest financial inclusion initiative of its kind in Africa. When using the card as a prepaid payment tool, cardholders can deposit funds on the card, receive social benefits, pay for goods and services, withdraw cash and engage in other financial transactions that are facilitated by electronic payments.
In India, MasterCard is launching a mobile companion prepaid card allowing Beam Money consumers to move beyond basic utility payments by connecting their existing mobile wallets to the world of MasterCard acceptance and electronic payments, thus enabling them to carry out e-commerce transactions, make fund transfers, book movie or travel tickets.
In 2012, MasterCard also worked with the State Government of Chhattisgarh and the Central Bank of India to launch a student prepaid card for the distribution of scholarships. This resulted in the speedy disbursement of scholarships as well as safety and convenience for students who received payments through bank ATMs nationwide.
But according to Tymms, innovation is not just happening in emerging markets. “In developed markets such as New Zealand, MasterCard is innovating to meet different needs. For example, MasterCard worked with Air New Zealand to launch the OneSmart dual-faced loyalty and prepaid card, a first in the world,” Tymms said. One side of the card is an Air New Zealand Airpoints loyalty card, equipped with ePass technology that enables cardholders to speed through domestic check-in. Meanwhile, on the other side is a prepaid MasterCard that enables cardholders to load up on foreign currencies as well as lock in the exchange rates.
Similarly in Australia, MasterCard together with Qantas launched the new Qantas Frequent Flyer membership card with a new inbuilt feature, Qantas Cash, a prepaid facility which allows cardholders to store foreign currency, access cash worldwide via ATM withdrawals, and earn points on spending in Australia and overseas.
But it is not just consumers that are adopting the use of travel prepaid cards. In India, SMEs in the IT services industry especially, are providing travel prepaid cards to their employees who need to travel for international projects. Functioning as a means for paying for their expenses during the term of the overseas stint, prepaid cards also means easier tracking and reconciliation for the SMEs.
The Rise of the China Traveler, and Cross Border Potential
“We are seeing the biggest potential for prepaid growth come out of China given it had the highest number of outbound tourists and amount of overseas spending in the world last year. Coupled with the Chinese’ higher purchasing power, this presents an obvious need for electronic payments acceptance when abroad and multi-currency travel prepaid cards such as the MasterCard Cash Passport fit the bill as it takes away the hassle and risk of carrying a lot of cash while also enabling cardholders to lock in exchange rate at the time of loading to avoid fluctuations,” Tymms added.
Officially the world's biggest spenders, Chinese’ spending on overseas travel increased 28 percent in the first nine months of 2013. In 2012, China became the largest outbound tourism market with 83 million overseas trips, and last year, this number grew even further to 97 million. It is expected that this year, the number will top the 100 million mark, in what will be a historic first – an amazing feat, considering that this number was just 10 million in 2000.
These kinds of numbers represent the enormous opportunity MasterCard is seeing in the areas of cross border transaction and China aside, across emerging markets in Southeast Asia, India and Japan.
E-commerce is also proving to be a key driver for prepaid growth. According to MasterCard’s Online Shopping Survey, besides China (97.8%) which continues to have a strong potential for making online purchases in the next six months, Southeast Asian markets such as Vietnam (91.4%) and Thailand (84.2%) are also showing great potential in terms of respondents intending to make an online purchase in the next six months.