Paying with QR codes has become the norm in most Southeast Asian countries. However, there is little or no interoperability in the QR code industry. That may change as several payment systems are bound to be linked up reasonably soon.
Interoperable QR Codes Are Coming
It may seem strange to think of QR code payment systems as being non-interoperable. On the surface, most QR codes look identical to the next, even if scanning them offers varying results. When using the codes for payments, there needs to be a solid payment infrastructure to streamline the process. Southeast Asian banks have such systems, but proprietary ideas aren’t built to communicate with one another.
That situation will potentially change for the better. Central banks across Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore want to make their payment systems interoperable. By linking these QR code payment systems, people traveling between these countries can seamlessly pay for goods and services. It is a big step forward and can boost intra-country travel.
Furthermore, the payments will maintain local-currency settlement. That may seem straightforward, although it is a pretty big deal. Using local-currency settlement between these five countries means none of them have to rely on the US dollar as an intermediary. It is another blow to the greenback’s dominance, although a necessary change to improve overall payment options through QR codes.
For now, two countries have connected their systems: Indonesia and Thailand. It is a step forward to achieve interoperable payments through mobile devices. Moreover, the service in Indonesia also supports cross-border e-commerce transactions, which is rather significant. Ultimately, the networks will become even more interlinked and enable real-time bank transfers and potentially CBDCs.