Find it a hassle to head to the ATM to withdraw cash? Find yourself heading out the door to the nearby mamak without bringing along your wallet?

While we recently mentioned about how Americans don’t have instant bank transfer, us Malaysians are accustomed to whipping out our phones to use our eWallets everywhere we go. However, while we’re overseas, it may be a hassle and a bit of a security concern to be carrying around wads of cash to spend during holidays.
Happily, it was recently announced by the Bank for International Settlements – basically the bank for central banks – that there will be a new ASEAN Payment Connectivity initiative to link payments for five countries namely Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. There is no news yet if the other ASEAN countries will join hands as well.

According to the report, the ‘initiative aims to increase the interoperability of standardised QR code payments’. Our Bank Negara Malaysia will soon be linked to Bank Indonesia, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Bank of Thailand to integrate the national payment systems.

This means travellers can use the apps from their own country instead of a foreign app to make payments via a QR code. About time, now we don’t have to wear bulky travel money belts while walking around in Bangkok!

Some initiatives are already underway and so far, here are the countries Malaysia is linked to:


QR payments are already interoperable between our two countries, linking Payments Network Malaysia Sdn Bhd (PayNet) to Thailand’s National ITMX. Public Bank Bhd was the first Malaysian bank to join in on the linkage, together with merchant acquirer provider Razer Merchant Services, along with Kasikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank from Thailand.


Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and Bank Indonesia (BI) launched phase 2 of their cross-border QR payment linkage in January this year. DuitNow QR and QR Code Indonesian Standard (QRIS) now allows travellers to make e-payments at participating merchants. 


In 2021, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced plans to commence a phased linkage of Malaysia’s DuitNow and Singapore’s PayNow real-time payment systems.

For now, through a collaboration with Alipay+, Touch' n Go e-wallets are already accepted at ComfortDelGro taxis, the operator of the largest taxi network in Singapore.

In the future, more banks and merchant acquirers are expected to participate.

Why is this beneficial to you?

Besides supporting post-pandemic economic recovery, this initiative will help to stretch your dollar, or rather ringgit further as it uses direct local-currency settlements between the countries rather than the USD as an intermediary currency.

If you use a Malaysia credit card overseas, you'll be subject to fees and the exchange is based on the USD as an intermediary. For example a payment in SGD would require the amount to be converted to USD first plus transaction fees. So a SGD1,000 transaction will be converted into USD at the date of transaction, then converted to MYR.

The exchange rate is determined by the card issuer, so MasterCard or Visa for example will have their online rates that you can refer to.

The most common way we buy things overseas is of course by exchanging money at a money changer. And we just found out that these money changers set their own exchange rates taking into consideration stock of the currency, rent, and other expenses (thanks, Cilisos).

Online exchange rates that are set by local banks are usually more favourable and transparent to the consumer, so this may mean that we can shop even more overseas with QR pay that follows online rates instead of being pegged to the USD.

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