Not so long ago, the fastest way to pay a friend back for your share of the dinner bill was through cold, hard cash. That changed in 2014 with the launch of Singapore's Fast And Secure Transfers system, aptly dubbed FAST. It marked the dawn of a new age of e-payments — one where consumers could instantly transfer funds to another person or business anytime, even if they had a different bank account.

In 2017, FAST's infrastructure set the stage for the next leap forward in payment convenience: PayNow. You no longer needed to know your friend's bank account number to make a transfer — you could simply use their mobile number or NRIC. PayNow was soon extended to businesses, allowing consumers to send payments securely with a few taps on their phone or a quick scan of a QR code.

Today, innovation in instant payments continues to accelerate. As PayNow crosses new frontiers, banks like UOB are collaborating with financial regulators and tech partners to make payments ever more seamless — between bank accounts and e-wallets, amongst diverse businesses, and even across borders.


PayNow, pay everywhere

PayNow's rise to ubiquity has been swift. Amidst the pandemic-fuelled drive to digitalise, consumers and businesses alike have surged to embrace e-payments for everyday needs.

By end-2020, registrations for PayNow had jumped by 1.6 million to reach 4.9 million registered users. Meanwhile, PayNow Corporate registrations for businesses doubled to 240,000, bringing the total of Singapore residents and businesses on PayNow to 80 per cent. In 2021, PayNow transactions to individuals and businesses reached a total value of S$46 billion.

As of last year, 5.5 million bank accounts have been registered with PayNow. As the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) works to expand PayNow's infrastructure, this number is only set to grow.

In November 2020, MAS opened direct access to FAST and PayNow for eligible non-bank financial institutions. This took PayNow's convenience up a notch: it allowed users to transfer money from bank accounts directly to e-wallets, rather than topping up through a debit or credit card.

You could also make transfers seamlessly between e-wallets. With popular e-wallets such as GrabPay on board, this enabled PayNow to make payment friction-free in areas such as transport, food delivery, and more.

Consumers can enjoy cashless shopping with a digital wallet

PayNow has reshaped the way consumers and businesses pay in diverse areas, from settling bills to sending angbaos. Photo: Pexels

Today, use cases for PayNow are still emerging and evolving. One impactful use case has been government payouts such as the GST voucher. Singaporeans can benefit from quicker cost-of-living support by linking their NRICs to their bank accounts.

The rise of PayNow has also spurred the growth of home-based businesses and other micro-entrepreneurs, who can collect payments with zero cost or setup required. Even the tradition of angbao giving has been enhanced. UOB customers, for instance, can send e-Hongbaos via PayNow through the UOB TMRW app, complete with festive backgrounds and attractive prizes.


Revolutionising cross-border payments

PayNow's game-changing potential is not limited within Singapore. A future of fast, convenient cross-border payments is becoming a reality, as MAS works with its counterparts in Asia to develop infrastructure for linked national payment systems.

A trailblazing linkage between Singapore's PayNow and Thailand's fast payment system PromptPay was launched in 2021. A Singaporean traveller sending money to a Thai friend, for instance, can transfer funds securely from participating Singapore banks such as UOB to a Thai bank account, using only the friend's mobile number.

Singapore has already made strides with two further linkages: an integration with India's Unified Payment Interface (UPI), as well as an ongoing linkage with Malaysia's DuitNow. Shoppers can now make retail payments by scanning DuitNow QR codes, with person-to-person fund transfers set to roll out by end-2023.

Key benefits of such cross-border linkages include:

  1. Convenience - Skip the tedious queuing at the money-changer before a weekend getaway. With retail payments via PayNow, you can pay with a few taps on your mobile.
  2. Speed - Whereas most cross-border remittance solutions require one to three working days to process transfers, linked fast payment systems can accomplish the job in less than five minutes.
  3. Cost savings - Remittance fees are priced affordably at three to five per cent of the transfer value, lower than the global average cost of 6.4 per cent.

Consumers can enjoy cashless shopping with a digital wallet

As instant cross-border payments become possible, PayNow is set to usher in a new era of travel convenience. Photo: Pexels


Effortless payment on the go

Keen on greater paying convenience for your next getaway? Through the all-in-one UOB TMRW app, UOB is making it easier to manage all your payment needs and transactions on the go.

Transferring funds via PayNow to friends or family in Thailand is a simple three-step process: you can login to UOB TMRW, select “Pay & Transfer” followed by “PromptPay mobile no. (Thailand)”, and enter your recipient's mobile number.

If you're shopping in Malaysia, look out for DuitNow QR codes with a Boost™, Touch 'n Go or other participating partner logos. Login to UOB TMRW and tap “Scan to pay”, then enter your purchase amount.

Such payment innovations are just the beginning. Mr Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS, has shared MAS' vision of creating a network of linked retail payment systems across ASEAN. “With the rise of the digital economy, we want to empower individuals and businesses in the region with simple, swift and secure cross-border payments through just a few clicks on their mobile phones.”

As PayNow makes seamless e-payments across Southeast Asia a reality, UOB is ready to innovate right alongside. UOB TMRW brings together one-tap payment solutions, AI-driven insights, and personalised rewards to simplify your everyday transactions.

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