Will electronic payments in Thailand ever pay off?

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Will we ever see electronic payments in Thailand or is the Land of Smiles too busy with paperwork to realise how beneficial this technology could be?

Whilst I am in the UK I have been very impressed with just how well the UK has adopted smartphones as a new payment platform.

Using my Note 4 I downloaded the Costa Coffee app to receive special offers in the store that I was currently in and, if I had a UK bank account I could have used that and my phone to pay for cinema tickets without the need for reaching for my wallet – all from the luxury of my smartphone.

But, sadly, Thailand seems to be lagging behind somewhat.  Sure, the BTS can be used for payments via a supported Android phone but, apart from that, nothing really seems to be going electronic, it’s almost as if Thailand loves all the paperwork and is scared to go digital.

But even in places like the UK not all is ready to welcome online payments, especially using your smartphone which has led to some strong opposition from those in the banking sector towards the roll out of Apple Pay which is due to be rolled out in the UK in the first quarter of this year.

To be fair though, you can see why.

Apple particularly, despite what they may claim, aren’t the best when it comes to device security.  Just look at what happened to iCloud and the whole ‘Fappening’ incident.  This all came about due to Apple security policies being lax and, quite frankly, too easy to circumvent using off the shelf software.  Matters were made worse by Apple first denying all responsibility for the incident in terms of iCloud being at fault only to then backtrack and resolve the issue.

But if your smartphone really does become a replacement for your debit or credit card then it also makes you phone ten times the risk for thieves.  Apple products have always been in high demand and with the phone also being a complete gateway to your financial world they will only become more and more valuable.

iOS has always had several security issues that seem in common with every release of iOS and this will definitely affect the adoption rate of Apple Pay.  The flaw that I am referring to the most is the easy way to bypass the iPhone lock code or thumb sensor, all of which have been discovered and shown in action by security experts and which has also been released to the public via YouTube videos and such.

Sure, Apple have since updated iOS to patch these flaws but all it takes is someone to discover the flaw and then, via the internet, it spreads far quicker than Apple can patch it.  When you combine this with the oncoming Apple Pay I am sure you will agree that Apple really needs to test and step up their iOS security because all they need is to release, say iOS 8.1.3 or 8.2 (most likely) with support for Apple Pay only for the lock code to be easily bypassed and it could lead to a huge amount of fraud with Apple being the main culprit.

Electronic payments in Thailand? Keep dreaming

Thailand, most likely, unless I am mistaken, will never ever see Apple Pay.  The iOS Passbook feature (where you can store gift cards, boarding passes and such in your phone for quick use) was never used hardly in Thailand and it seems that the banks will most likely not be jumping on the Apple Pay bandwagon like the rest of the world which is a shame.

But Thailand still has not implemented the universal chip and pin system either for their debit cards either and this was something that the government said they would do many years ago but they never got round to and, because we read so much about card skimming and fraud in Thailand, it should be a major priority for all banks in Thailand to be more secure in 2015.  Because the majority of the Thai banking sector is running on obsolete technology such as Windows XP it makes it easier for hackers to exploit it and gain access and commit fraud but the government are not willing to spend the money to improve and increase the infrastructure yet those who are the target of fraud hardly ever get their money back either.

It just isn’t fair.

Thailand needs to improve its IT infrastructure for banking and the private sector and start using less vulnerable software.  It is only fair to assume that a lot of the software that powers the Thai banking industry is not only outdated but pirated also and piracy is another thing one Thai government says to fix whilst another just ignores it completely.

Android is also trying its hand at online payment too, as you would expect, but more companies need to be made aware of just how beneficial both online and electronic payments in Thailand can be.

How great would it be to have one ticket system for the BTS and the MRT easily accessible from your smartphone and linked to your Thai bank account for easy top-ups?  That would certainly help beat the queues of people who wait each day to purchase BTS tickets or MRT tokens.

Or what about 7-11?  Sure, they offer an electronic card system for payment but what if you could use the camera on your smartphone to scan an item on a shelf in 7-11, like a QR code, and then add it to a cart, using a 7-11 app on your smartphone and pay for it using your linked Thai bank account?  Again, another way to beat the queues, something that Thailand is synonymous with, except for traffic.

Thailand fully connected or still shuffling paperwork?

Why not also have a dedicated smartphone app for passing through tolls?  Just top up with money from your Thai bank account, get the toll booth to have wifi, connect to it on your device and then the software and the booth work in tandem when you pull up to figure out the fee and automatically deduct it so you literally just pass straight though.

Again, these ideas are just pipedreams and are not fully fleshed out but it gives a brief glimpse as to how smartphone and online payments, if utilised properly, could be exceedingly beneficial to Thailand in helping it compete with neighbours such as Singapore or South Korea, both of whom are far more connected online than Thailand right now.

But whether or not Thailand improves its electronic connectivity remains to be seen.

Thais love Apple products so it may just be Apple Pay that shows just how far behind Thailand is, connectivity, in all of its main services, after all, the iPhone 6S (you know it will be here this year) may just tout Apple Pay as one of its main features and it would be great if Thailand looked forward this time instead of remaining at the back, but sadly, don’t hold your breath – electronic payments in Thailand almost seem a lifetime away.

Ian
Ian, in what little spare time he has, is always interested in all things tech. Ever since the Commodore Amiga up until the latest smartphones and consoles. If it’s great tech then he is passionate about it and loves writing about it to anyone who is interested in reading it. Ian currently divides his time between the UK and Thailand.
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3 Comments

  1. Thais won’t do it until they can find a way to rubber stamp every transaction on your smartphone.

  2. john mcculloch on

    the downside of this tech is the tax man will know all your transactions. Bye bye the cash economy.

  3. you might also well ask when USA is going to join the 21st century with chip and pin cards.