MasterCard and Sacombank are equipping the Ben Thanh market in Vietnam with mobile point of sale capabilities, introducing digital payments to what had been a cash only market for more than a century.

"Cash is expensive to run for the economy and risky to handle for the merchant," says Arn Vogels, country manager for Indochina for MasterCard. "Mobile point of sale can help merchants in the market boost sales through broadened acceptance. Electronic payments can also help increase transparency, efficiency and safety as it reduces or eliminates the risk and other issues that are typically associated with cash management."

The Ben Thanh Market, which has its roots in the early 1600s when street vendors would gather near the Saigon River to sell their goods, is in central Ho Chi Minh City, and is widely used by local residents and tourists who purchase local products, textiles, food and souvenirs.

MasterCard and Sacombank have deployed about 300 mobile point of sale terminals at the market in Ho Chi Minh City and at insurance companies, which the two companies also consider a strong business for mobile payments acceptance.

"We will continue to roll out to other marketplaces all over the country to expand the acceptance of card payments," Vogels says.   

Smartphones and tablets that run on iOS and Android can be used as point of sale terminals, and the bank plans to extend access to other operating systems, desktop computers and laptops, Vogels says.

There are no additional transaction fees beyond normal point of sale charges for card payments, or upgrade/installation mobile POS fees for merchants.

"MPOS is a quick, easy and safe payment solution which is inexpensive to deploy," Vogels says. "Consumers will also have more reasons to switch to electronic payments instead of having to carry cash around."

The deployment is part of Vietnam's national goal of deploying 250,000 mobile point of sale terminals in the next two years as the country attempts to reduce its reliance on cash. About 90% of payments in Vietnam are still made with cash, Vogels says, with acceptance being the primary hurdle.

"Mobile phones, including smartphones, as well as tablets, are very popular in Vietnam, especially in key cities such as Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City," Vogels says, adding mobile phone penetration in Vietnam is about equal to the population.

Mobile payments and acceptance are a common way to introduce financial services and reduce reliance on cash in emerging markets. MasterCard has built a risk scoring system  and has partnered with Western Union  to offer financial services in emerging markets. Visa is also active, and has entered into partnerships with Planet Payment to bolster its efforts.

Sacombank hopes to follow the same strategy. The bank, which also offers mobile banking, operates a network consisting of 426 branches and transaction offices in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The bank initially is focused on developing the payments landscape in Vietnam with the introduction of mobile point of sale before rolling out to other countries in the future.


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