Thailand’s messy landscape of fintech

Rabbit card, MRT Metro card Bangkok, Thailand

Contrary to what the word “messy” generally mean, a chaos in the fintech scene can also be positive. An ongoing chaos means there is an ongoing healthy competition, and the drive for innovation is on. A stable fintech scene can either mean, someone has occupied it and turned into an impenetrable monopoly or things are actually good with user-friendly competition yet seamless integration with a consumer focused regulatory authority in place.

In Thailand’s case, it seems like the former, i.e: the ongoing messy scene of fintech seems to be a healthy competition and the endeavour for innovation is thriving here. Here is how it looks like as of October 2023

1. The big annoying mess number 1, there are a few different urban train lines, and they do not talk to each other. The BTS card won’t work on MRT or any other transport. MRT Blue Line cards won’t work on Red Line.

2. Local bank’s Visa debit cards won’t work on MRT. Contactless Visa credit cards work directly. But MasterCard is a mystery, some MasterCard works, some don’t.

3. The BTS Rabbit card works at various shops in the malls at touristy areas, but nowhere else. They have their own yet another complicated payment platform called Rabbit Line Pay 🙄

4. Everyone happily accepts QR code payments tied with local bank accounts, but the most common grocery shop chain 7-11 won’t; as they want to push their own payment platform called TrueMoney! They will also not accept debit cards.

5. Most shops won’t accept any card for a transaction below ฿200.

It’s a head on battle of ten different fintech companies leaving a big pile of mess for everyday people. This is where I feel the regulatory intervention should come in, and push everyone to compete yet make it seamless for everyone.

Dhaka on the other hand is not seamless either, we don’t feel the difficulty as there is no real competition, it’s a monopoly there.

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