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Singtel boosts Dash mobile wallet app with international payments backed by Visa, Apple Pay

APPLE Pay users can now make near-field communication (NFC) payments worldwide with Singtel’s mobile wallet app, Dash, which has just been accepted on Apple Pay.

The tie-up came alongside the international expansion - announced on Monday - of Singtel’s Dash Visa account option, which was first launched in July 2017.

Dash users can get a virtual Visa card number for online transactions and are also able to use their phones to make NFC payments at global payments processor Visa’s payWave terminals.

They could previously do so only with local merchants, but can now do so globally as well.

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Kunal Chatterjee, Visa’s country manager for Singapore and Brunei said in a media statement: “Mobile contactless payments have been growing steadily and, today, over 70 per cent of all Visa transactions are contactless payments, made either through a physical card or mobile device.

“Dash’s Visa virtual account gives all customers, including those without physical credit cards, a safe and secure way to make online or offline payments with our global merchant partners.”

Pointing to the recent re-organisation of Singtel’s mobile payments operations, Arthur Lang, chief executive of Singtel’s international business, told The Business Times over the phone: “The game of payments needs to be played on both the domestic and international level.”

Until late this year, the e-payments business had been split between the ambit of his international group and Singtel’s Singapore consumer arm, he said.

Singtel’s latest partnerships with Apple Pay and Visa come hot on the heels of other regional investments in the mobile payments industry.

Mr Chatterjee’s predecessor, Ooi Huey Tyng, jumped ship in January for ride-hailing firm Grab, where she is managing director for GrabPay in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.

October saw Grab unveil prepaid cards backed by Visa rival Mastercard, weeks after Singtel’s cross-border link between Dash and Thailand’s AIS and Kasikornbank went live.

Singtel’s Mr Lang said that he understands his firm’s partnership with Visa to be “very similar” to the Grab-Mastercard arrangement.

Other e-wallet players in this corner of the world include Indonesian ride-hailing firm Gojek’s Go-Pay, media and e-commerce giant Sea Group’s AirPay, and bank DBS’s DBS PayLah!, to say nothing of video game company Razer’s ambitions for a regionwide RazerPay.

Singtel’s recently launched mobile payment alliance, dubbed VIA, was the first step in its plan to connect the mobile wallets of all its regional associates. It has already partnered Indonesia’s Telkomsel and the Philippines’ Globe, among others, for remittance services.

Morgan Stanley estimated in July that South-east Asian telcos could see value of as much as US$2.9 billion from electronic wallets in 2022, with close to US$300 million of that going to Singtel.

But the research outfit also believes, based on app download figures since 2014, that Dash has a relatively small share of the Singapore payments market - just 6 per cent, compared with 17 per cent for PayLah! and 64 per cent for Grab.

A joint report from Google and Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings recently noted that fewer than half of the region’s Internet users have adopted digital payment services, and pointed a finger at “fragmented landscape of digital payment solutions, which are not compatible with each other and still lack widespread merchant acceptance online and offline”.

Mr Lang, from Singtel, told BT that he sees “hyper-intense competition in the payments space - but it’s not clear yet who’s the winner”. He said that he has not ruled out further expansion into the segment, including possibly offering credit facilities.

“We’re going to move faster, better and broader,” he said. “We’ve established a very firm foundation in all our products and services, and we’re going to scale up as quickly as we can.”

Singtel has over half a million registered users for Dash in Singapore.

Amendment note: An earlier version of this article stated that Apple Pay users can make near-field communications (NFC) payments through Dash. Singtel has since clarified that Dash users can upload their virtual Visa card numbers to Apple Pay to make NFC phone payments.