In March 2023, Japan initiated talks with Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines to integrate its QR code payment system with these five Southeast Asian nations.

This would enable citizens from each territory to use their domestic mobile payment apps to make payments across all six markets. Such a move would be particularly beneficial for individuals traveling between these countries.

In 2018, Singapore became the first country in the world to unify its QR code payment system. Before this move, at one point there were over 30 different mobile wallets operating in the market—each with its own QR code system.

This situation was inconvenient for both merchants (which needed to display all the different mobile wallet brands they accepted at the point of sale) and consumers (who needed to check if their preferred wallet was accepted at every store). The Singapore Quick Response Code system integrated all QR code payment methods available in the city-state, thus enhancing convenience for retailers and shoppers alike.

The strong popularity of QR code payment systems across Asia-Pacific made integrations between countries the logical next step. In 2022, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines teamed up to integrate their respective domestic QR code standards. This had immediate benefits for travellers between these countries, who could use their preferred mobile payment app within all five territories.

GlobalData’s Payment Instrument Analytics

This trend is likely to continue given high mobile wallet penetration in the region, with the majority of markets having adopted QR code mobile payments rather than NFC. Based on GlobalData’s Payment Instrument Analytics, mobile wallet payment volume in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines recorded a CAGR of 69% from 2018 to 2023. GlobalData forecasts suggest that mobile wallet payment volume in these territories will reach 125.7 billion transactions by 2028 at a CAGR of 21.6% over 2023–28.

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Going forward, we expect more markets to follow Japan’s lead, with the likes of Hong Kong (China SAR), Vietnam, and China joining in. The end point is a future where citizens from the majority of Asia-Pacific nations can seamlessly use their QR code payment solutions while traveling in the region. However, full regional integration may be difficult to achieve. NFC-based mobile payment apps are favoured in both Australia and New Zealand, while take-up of mobile wallets in these countries lags behind the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Arnie Cho is a senior payments analyst at GlobalData