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We went on our family trip again this January. While enjoying that, I tried to discover how Vietnam is becoming cashless. Is cash still king in Vietnam?

VNPAY provides e-payment solutions

This time, we experienced southern Vietnam together. And it was amazing as always. We walked through Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong river delta lowlands. We sailed there the river canals on a small boat to see its famous floating markets where people sell and buy things right on the river.

Mekong river delta

Then we went on a bus whose driver kept constantly blowing the horn. And used a speed boat service from Rach Gia. That is a great way to overcome some 100 km distance to get to the largest Vietnamese island – Phu Quoc. It is lying just a stone’s throw away from the Cambodian coast. And yes, you get me correctly – we planned to try the local beaches.

Ho Chi Minh City

In Vietnam, Everyone Has A Smartphone

A special experience was then a several-day stay in Ho Chi Minh City (or formerly Saigon). HCMC has a population of a medium-sized European country. Which is even tripled during the Tet holidays (the Vietnamese lunar new year).

HCMC has a population of a medium-sized European country

In Vietnam, literally, everyone uses a smartphone and is online. This, I believe, is an ideal condition to become cashless and digital. And to completely change the habit of using cash. But people seem to rely heavily on cash for daily transactions.

In Vietnam, everyone uses a smartphone

Cashless isn’t there yet even though it looks like non-cash – specifically mobile – payments are already popular in big cities. In HCMC downtown, you can see colorful stickers and placards of multiple e-wallets on the storefront.

Mobile payments are becoming popular

Almost all banks in Vietnam provide mobile payment services already. There are also quite a few fintechs competing with them – such as

  • MoMo – The most popular e-wallet service accepted in major supermarkets, shopping malls, and retailers. This is the only Vietnamese fintech listed in the world’s top 100 fintech companies. They plan to deploy a series of new digital services including vouchers and prepaid cards.
  • Moca – Another leading payments service provider who is partnering with Grab, a leading ride-hailing service in Vietnam. Grab, having already one of the most frequently used consumer apps there, is spinning out its GrabPay by Moca mobile wallet.
  • VNPAY – Vietnam’s e-payment solutions provider who is quickly catching up.
Grab is spinning out its GrabPay

And then, there are mobile network operators and also technology firms such as Samsung, Google, and Apple. Large retailers and hotels accept cashless payments. Also, various businesses, convenience stores, and supermarkets in the places exposed to international visitors are cashless. 

Large retailers accept cashless payments

But Cash Is Still King In Vietnam

From HCMC, we continued to explore the southeastern coast. We noticed tankers cueing off the Vung Tau refinery. Then we stopped at Mui Ne area. It is about 50 kilometers of beaches packed with resorts full of Russian tourists, restaurants, bars, shops, and cafes. Plus unique white sand dunes and one small fishing town. Strong sea breezes make it popular here for kitesurfing and windsurfing. At the end of our trip, we visited Da Lat, a city located some 1500 m above sea level. It is a piece of Europe full of villas and boulevards in the middle of the Vietnamese mountains. And probably the most popular tourist destination in Vietnam. 

Vietnam will become a great market for mobile payments

To make the long story short. You can see jackfruits, mangos, coconuts, dragon fruits, and durians just at every corner. Of course lizards – they are literally everywhere. And then, zillions of scooters and small motorcycles. This is the most popular form of transport here. Like in a biker’s paradise. Everyone rides a bike in Vietnam.

Cash is still king in Vietnam

I am sure Vietnam, a 100 million country, is going to become a great market for fintechs, e-wallets and mobile payments in general. But many Vietnamese merchants keep operating cash-only businesses. Same with street vendors and taxis, even bus service companies. In rural areas, buying goods and services without cash was just impossible. Vietnamese people keep strongly believe in cash.

Cash is still king in Vietnam

My answer to that above question is: Yes, cash is still king in Vietnam.

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