Grab Launches Numberless Cards for Payments

The GrabPay card comes without any numbers on the physical card - a feature that supposedly offers users "exceptional security"

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Singapore’s super app unicorn Grab, in partnership with Mastercard on Thursday launched a numberless card that can be used as part of its e-wallet app, GrabPay, bolstering its resolve to become a major player in the Southeast Asian fintech space.


The GrabPay card comes without any numbers on the physical card - a feature that supposedly offers users “exceptional security”, according to the company, along with a host of additional rewards and offers.

The digital GrabPay card has already been made available to users in Singapore. It will be launched in the Philippines by March 2020, and the rest of Southeast Asia by the first half.

“This partnership with Mastercard moves us toward an open payments ecosystem, allowing users to earn and redeem reward points across millions of merchants and represents an important step for GrabPay in becoming a truly Asean wallet,” said Huey Tyng Ooi, managing director of GrabPay.

The card will be accepted by nearly 53 million merchants worldwide that accept Mastercard cards. It is also backed by the GrabPay wallet app, where users will be able to see their monthly expenses, lock their physical cards if stolen, pay for all Grab services, among other things.

“This partnership significantly expands Mastercard’s reach in Southeast Asia while helping Grab to rapidly scale up its global offering,” said Rama Sridhar,  Mastercard’s executive vice president for digital & emerging partnerships and new payment flows in Asia Pacific.


Solving a Problem

Like most fintechs looking to solve Asia’s underbanked population problem, Grab has said that its cards will be available to users that do not have formal bank accounts.

As per a recent study, of the 400 million adults that live in Southeast Asia, only 104 million are fully “banked”, and have full access to financial services, which leaves 198 million people that do not have even rudimentary access to financial institutions.

Very basic problems like infrastructure costs, absence of public registers and reliable credit information, along with stringent financial regulations, make it difficult for institutional banks and insurers to penetrate the region in a meaningful way.

Homegrown fintech companies have tried to plug that gap, and using Asia’s rapid tech innovation, boomed into a multi-billion dollar industry in the region, serving tech savvy millennials, and undocumented Asians alike.

Digital payments are expected to cross $1 trillion by 2025 in Asia, and account for nearly one in two dollars spent in the region. The market for e-wallets is expected to grow even faster, from $22 billion in 2019, to $114 billion, a more than fivefold jump, by 2025, the Google joint study said.