Coming from a late party near Ayala Center Cebu last week, we dropped by Abaca Baking Company. It was past 9 p.m. and the cafe had started offering its bread and pastries at half price off. We picked our favorites at the café and headed to the counter to pay.
Instead of reaching for my wallet, however, I unlocked my phone. I then opened the GCash app and used it to scan a QR code – a type of barcode – near the cashier. The app recognized I was paying Abaca and asked me to enter the amount of my bill. After I entered the total, the transaction was completed, I got a digital receipt, and the cashier was quickly notified of the payment.
It was my third time to pay using QR code scanning at Abaca and multiple times at several shops in Ayala Center Cebu, the focus of the Cebu rollout of the cashless and digital payments system by Globe.
I tried it at Bo’s Coffee, Casa Verde, and Rose Pharmacy and found paying via QR code scanning quick and convenient. Transactions are faster since you no longer need to count bills or, worse, look for coins when the cashier can’t give the exact change.
Cash is the problem, said Globe president and CEO Ernest Cu when he launched the payment system in Cebu in November. He said a food chain had to prepare P2 million in coins for the holiday season in order not to run out of change.
Digital payment solves that cash problem, Cu said.
Response has been very positive in Cebu with “over 200 percent growth week-on-week in transactions,” said Lhen Pavia, Business Development Head for VisMin of Mynt, the financial technology arm of Globe.
Apart from Ayala, GCash Scan To Pay is also available in SM Cebu Department Store, Robinsons Galleria Cebu Globe Store, Rose Pharmacy IT Park, and the University of San Jose-Recoletos canteen.
Pavia said it will soon be available in other stores in SM and Robinsons malls, other branches of Rose Pharmacy and 360 Pharmacy as well as Bready by Patty and CQE Mobile Phone shops.
PayMaya, the digital payments system of the PLDT group, said in a press statement it was the first to offer QR Code payment via app in the Philippines. In Cebu, it accepts QR code payments in SM.
I’m a longtime PayMaya user. I use the service mostly for phone load purchases and online payments for such things as web hosting services. Buying phone credits via PayMaya is not only more convenient – you don’t need to look for a store – it’s also cheaper because the load packages are discounted.
PayMaya’s integration with Facebook Messenger makes using the service much more accessible. Now, I can just “chat” with the PayMaya Facebook account and buy phone load. I can also use it to send and receive money from my contacts. PayMaya offered a modern twist to the Christmas aguinaldo by allowing people to send money as gifts to their godchildren.
With its convenience, will digital payments take off in the Philippines just as it dominate in places like China?
Pavia said that what is crucial is building the ecosystem that will make that possible. She said, “adoption has been steadily growing,” with registrations up 80 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year. Load purchases using GCash are also 60 percent higher this year.
For 2018, Pavia said users can expect more merchants accepting GCash for everyday transactions, “whether it is buying food in stalls or restaurants, buying groceries, shopping for electronic gadgets or clothes.”
“GCash users can also expect exclusive promos throughout the year when they use GCash Scan to Pay,” she said.
In the meantime that cashless transactions aren’t ubiquitous, many of us find ourselves in the situation I was in on the day I bought Abaca bread via QR code scanning. As I approached the parking attendant, I was scrambling for coins to pay the fee. I was counting 1-peso coins left on the receptacle near the gear stick while scouring the pockets in my pants and bag for change. In my search for coins and bills to pay the parking fee, I was strongly tempted to ask the attendant, “do you have a QR Code I can scan?”