Phuong Thuy was dumbfounded when a shopkeeper handed over her bread but said they only accept cash and not online payments.
Since she did not have any cash on hand, and had to call a friend and tell her to bring some money.
This was the first time in six months that the 27-year-old office worker in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District had to use cash. She has been making bank transfers for shopping for groceries to dining out.
“I don’t even carry my wallet when I go out. All I need is a phone with 4G,” Thuy explained.
She says even at weddings, funerals and gas stations it is now possible to transfer money online, which eliminates the need to carry cash.
Thanh Duong, 22, a university student in Hanoi, too switched completely to digital two years ago.
Every month his parents deposit money into his bank account to cover tuition, housing and daily expenses.
“Because everything can be paid electronically, I have forgotten ATMs even exist,” he jokes.
Dr Tran Manh Dung, a former head of the Banking Academy’s training department, says, “Online payment has crept into every corner and aspect of life, not only in cities but also in rural areas.”
He says the pandemic has influenced people’s payment habits.
A person makes a payment using a QR code at a store in Hanoi’s Dong Da District. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Trang
A study on consumer payment attitudes published by global digital payment company VISA in June this year underscores what Dung says.
It found 65 percent of Vietnamese consumers saying they carry less cash in their wallets and 32 saying they would stop using physical money after the pandemic.
Nearly 76 percent of people now use mobile wallets and even more (82 percent) use cards.
State Bank of Vietnam statistics for the first four months of this year show that cashless payment transactions increased by 69.7 percent in volume and 27.5 percent in value.
They included transactions using the Internet, mobile phones and QR codes.
The total number of activated e-wallets increased by 10.37 percent from the end of last year.
The National Payment Corporation of Vietnam (NAPAS) says it currently processes 2.8 million cashless transactions worth nearly VND21 trillion (US$898.7 million) per day.
“I am confident that I will be fine with living a cashless lifestyle.
Duong says: “Every time I take a bus to my hometown in Nghe An Province, I always book in advance and pay online. When booking bus or movie tickets or buying food, some e-wallets even give me a 10-20 percent, sometimes even 50 percent, discount.”
He says many of his friends also follow a cashless lifestyle.
Thuy says, “Many sellers at a market near my house have also begun to accept online transfers since they fear being robbed or find it is easier not having to count money and give back change to customers.”
She has developed the habit of checking before buying something, and if the seller only accepts cash she looks for another place to buy.
Not just young people, but even middle-aged people unfamiliar with technology are open to switching to cashless mode.
Nguyen Hoa, 60, who sells chicken at Hanoi’s Hoang Mai market, says many customers ask to make online instead of cash payment.
She says: “I was initially concerned about being cheated. But my children encouraged me to open a bank account, print the account number on a piece of paper and hang it up at the store to make it easier for customers to pay.”
She used to sell 10-15 chickens a day on average, but since she began accepting online payments, particularly during the pandemic, the number has doubled, even tripled.
Some other traders in the market are also following her lead as customers increasingly prefer not to use cash.
“Since money is transferred instantly, it makes me feel secure, as I am no longer afraid of missing or overpaying for a transaction or getting fake bills as I used to previously,” Hoa added.
Manh Cuong, 60, of the southern Dong Nai Province, began experimenting with cashless payment methods in 2020 to limit physical contact as Covid-19 was raging.
He asked his daughter to help with the installation of an online transaction application.
“It was a little difficult for me to navigate through the app on the first few days because there were so many functions, but after a few transactions I discovered it was simple to use and very convenient.
“From home I can buy whatever I want and transfer money from my savings account to my e-wallet without having to physically go to the bank.”
Furthermore, he could send lucky money online to his grandchildren who were living far away from home amid the outbreak.
A store with a QR code for payment at a traditional market in Da Nang in late 2021. Photo courtesy of Viettel
“But people, particularly new adopters, should exercise caution.”
He says the potential risks include money transfer fraud, sending OTP (One-Time Password) codes and sending money to the wrong account number.
In Vietnam, frauds related to electronic transactions are on the rise. Banks recently issued alerts about new methods criminals are employing to steal OTP codes and obtain data, connect to people’s e-wallets and make withdrawals.
Thanh Ha, 30, of Hanoi was the victim of a scam.
In June she needed to transfer money quickly, but the bank’s transaction app was down and she could not log in.
A person called from an unknown number at noon that day, claiming to be a bank employee and instructing her on how to fix the problem.
Without hesitation, she followed the instructions to log in using the link sent to her phone number, hoping to transfer money as soon as possible.
She received a notification a few minutes later saying VND100 million had been transferred from her account, but she could not reach the number from which the person had called her.
She says with a sigh: “If I notify the bank, they will direct me to report it to the police. But my chances of getting the money back are almost nil. I know I’ve been duped.”
Experts advise customers not to reveal their card number or CVV number and expiration date on the back of credit cards in order to limit risks.
Thuy says she will continue to use cashless methods since it is too convenient.
“Any payment method has risks and flaws; even cash can be stolen or dropped by accident. However, I prefer digital payment because it is simple and [modern].”
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