Healthy increases in Visa plastic card numbers as well as spending and payment transactions last year indicate Thailand is shifting more towards card payments from cash.
From December 2011 to December 2012, Visa International (Thailand) reported new cards issued in Thailand rose by 14% year-on-year, bringing the total of Visa card users in the country to 44 million.
At the end of 2012, there were 73-74 million debit and credit cards of all brands in Thailand.
Spending and payment transactions by Visa cards also grew by 21% and 19%, respectively, during the period. Besides, total financial transactions via Visa cards covering payment and cash withdrawal grew 14%.
But the value of cash-advance transactions _ a form of personal loans _ through Visa credit cards in Thailand has been stable.
Of the total 44 million Visa cards, 9 million are credit cards, and the balance debit ones. Of Visa's total card spending worth 690 billion baht during the period, credit cards accounted for 92% while debit cards made up the rest.
The changing behaviour of Thai people was supported by several parties, from the Bank of Thailand, banks and payment system service providers, more advanced services through mobile phones and e-commerce, and marketing campaigns, said Somboon Krobteeranon, country's manager for Myanmar and Thailand.
"Despite the upward trend of domestic card payments, around 18 million people or 27% of the country's total population at 66 million still don't have bank deposit accounts. Since a lot of people have yet to access to card payment system, it needs to be further developed if the country is to be transformed into card-based from cash society, in line with the central bank's policy," he said.
He expected Visa plastic card payments will grow by 21% this year, the same rate as last year, based on the country's gross domestic product growth rate of at least 5%.
However, the payment growth rate this year would also depend on the banking industry's overall card business.
Spending growth would not add to consumers' debt burden, given the stringent risk management of both policy maker and banks.
"Under the card market development and strong risk management basis, we don't think that the rising card base and spending would affect the country's household debts. On the other hand, it would help to develop the country's payment system," Mr Somboon added.
The Bank of Thailand recently announced plans to facilitate electronic payment systems to encourage more use of debit cards to pay for goods and services.
About the author
- Writer: Somruedi Banchongduang
Position: Business Reporter