Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab has partnered with Mastercard to introduce prepaid cards to extend the use of its digital wallet in Southeast Asia.

The ride-hailing firm, forayed into payments space last year, said that cards will work like a credit card, instead of linking to a bank they would run on Grab app’s e-wallet.

The partnership will leverage Grab’s 110 million users, based on downloads, and Mastercard’s network of three million merchant outlets.

Grab will issue physical as well as virtual prepaid cards through its app. Customers can top-up their cards for in-store or online use through agents, drivers and merchants on the GrabPay platform.

Grab intends to use the new prepaid cards to expand its offerings and reach out to more than 400 million unbanked people in Southeast Asia.

Grab Financial senior managing director Reuben Lai said: “This partnership goes beyond Grab issuing prepaid cards and is a game-changer for Southeast Asia. We are the first e-wallet at scale from our region to be accepted worldwide.

“Not only does this solidify Grab’s position as Southeast Asia’s undisputed fintech leader, but it also enables the region’s 400 million unbanked and underserved consumers to buy goods and services online.”

Customers applying for the Grab prepaid cards will receive a virtual card in their GrabPay wallet. A physical card, featuring both NFC and EMV chip technology, will also be issued.

Mastercard executive vice-president of Digital & Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows Rama Sridhar said: “This partnership with Grab significantly advances our reach in Southeast Asia and aligns with our goal of expanding digital payments across all consumers and merchants.

“Without changing infrastructure, we can now offer merchants the opportunity to tap into Grab’s user base of emerging middle class consumers, covering 1 in 6 mobile phones in Southeast Asia.”

The partners are planning to commercially launch the Grab prepaid cards in the first half of next year. Initial roll outs are scheduled for Singapore and the Philippines.