What Coin Could Mean for Vietnam?

What is Coin?

Coin has been one of the hottest topics of this week across different technological forums and websites. It’s said to be the one and simplest way of paying in the future.

Coin Card - [Google Image]

Coin Card – [Google Image]

Coin Card is a card that would combine all your credit, debit, and gift cards into just one simple plastic card. It works just like any other credit/debit card: swipe and go. The video below will demonstrate how this card does just that!

Coin is like your physical Google Wallet, Square, Paypal, or Passbook in physical form. There are still a lot of security questions I would like to ask the Coin company other than those that are stated in their FAQs on their website. But all that aside, what would this technology mean for Vietnam?

Vietnam – the “All-Cash” country!

One of the things a foreigner would immediately realize when s/he is in Vietnam is that plastic cards are almost non-existent. Cash is a preferred way to do business transaction in this South East Asian country. Don’t get me wrong. Credit/Debit cards are still in use in big, fancy places such as hotels or restaurants. Yet, if one has a need to wander the streets of Vietnam, cash is all there is for payment.

Even though employers are required to pay their employees through bank account, yet, the situation does not help to reduce physical cash on the market. Every time of that month when salary is paid, lines of people are outside ATM machines to withdraw physical cash.

Thus, implementing a technology such as Coin card seems almost impossible. But one could think about all the problems that would be solved with having too much physical cash on the market. It’s true that there is still a much needed infrastructure to implement a plastic culture in this country. Moreover, businesses are not fond of cards due to the bank fee, and possible tax-related reasons.

Although cards are not widely used in this country, but the people are still carrying around different types of cards: membership cards, discount cards, gift cards, etc. If Coin made it possible to embed all these reward points and membership cards, then people would start to adopt into this plastic culture. A physical Passbook. Why not?

In my last post, I have mentioned the growing number smartphones and 3G usage in Vietnam. The feature in Coin that would notify owner about the possibility losing his/her Coin card (probably the whole wallet) is tremendously useful. Consider this feature similar to iPhone’s Find My Phone where user could lock/delete all information on the card. That means in worst case scenario such as robbery, there is not much to loose.

However, one has to understand that I am not asking for all physical cash to be out of the market. This would not be possible due to other social issues. Vietnam still has a great population of the poor, who do not have the ability to sign up for cards to begin with. Furthermore, food stalls are a part of this street food culture, and it would be impractical to use a credit card to pay for your Pho at these street food stalls.

Yet, I think implementing a system that allows credit/debit cards to be used widely would be more benefiting that harming the culture. Even though there are still a lot needed to be done for this to be possible in this culture, but it could solve many more social and economic problems such as inflation from having too much physical cash on the market, or just simply solving aesthetic problem such as making the wallet/purse less bulky. Travelers and foreigners (e.g. expats) would be having an easier time when shopping or trying restaurants. 

It will be slow to see this come true, but I have faith in you, Vietnam. I do!

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