Lifestyle, virus push e-money trend
Electronic money (e-money) has grown in terms of spending and top-up value, driven by consumers' financial behaviour in the digital age and social distancing amid the pandemic.
According to the Bank of Thailand, e-money spending value has continued to increase for the past five years.
In 2020, the value was 310 billion baht, rising from 276 billion in 2019, 203 billion in 2018, 126 billion in 2017 and 90.9 billion in 2016.
The value stemmed largely from non-bank companies, which contributed 276 billion baht in 2020 or 88.3%.
The top-up value of e-money in 2020 tallied 314 billion baht, increasing from 292 billion in 2019, 217 billion in 2018, 128 billion in 2017 and 91.5 billion in 2016.
Last year 88% of the total top-up value was from non-bank companies.
On a monthly basis, the spending value of e-money has risen the past six months. In August 2020, the total value was 25.8 billion baht.
The figures rose to 26.5 billion baht in September, 27.9 billion in October, 29.7 billion in November and 31.7 billion in December, before declining to 29.4 billion in January 2021.
There are 30 e-money service providers licensed by the central bank, of which 23 are non-bank companies.
Atis Ruchirawat, chairman of Credit Card Club, a unit under the Thai Bankers' Association, said e-payment via all tools, especially digital payment, surged during the pandemic.
Thai consumers became familiar with digital payment during the pandemic and many of them will not return to traditional payment, said Mr Atis.
During this transition, omnichannel, which covers both offline and online, is a solution for Thais, he said.
"Thailand is becoming a less-cash society and the country could show signs of being a cashless society either this year or next year," said Mr Atis.
Visa, the world's leader in digital payments, last month unveiled its survey about consumer payment attitude.
The survey found four out of five Thais (80%) have tried going cashless, on average succeeding at living for more than a week (eight days) without using cash.
The pandemic also prompted non-users to choose contactless payments over cash.
Mobile contactless was most used among first-timers at 26%, followed by contactless cards (23%) and QR code (21%).
According to the study, the top three benefits of a cashless society are restricting the spread of infection (61%), no more queues at banks (60%) and facilitating tracking of financial records (59%).
The study also showed the pandemic accelerated the pace at which Thailand is becoming a cashless society, with payment innovation playing an increasingly important role in people's daily lives.
Visa estimated Thailand could become a cashless society by 2026, several years ahead of a previous projection of 2030.