QR code payments hit all-time high in 2021

Bhutan QR code has further helped during this pandemic

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic-related setbacks over the past two years, digital payments continued to grow across the country, according to the Department of Payment and Settlement Systems report 2021.

Quick Response (QR) code payments saw a total of 13.33mn transactions of value Nu 12.63bn as of the fourth quarter (October–December) 2021, equivalent to 40.37% of the mobile banking transactions in terms of volume and 11.98% in terms of value.

However, the transactions have increased by 25.21% by volume and 26.42% by value when compared to the previous quarter.

The report notes that the increase is because of the launch of Bhutan QR by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) in July 2021 which enables interoperable use of common codes issued by member banks. Since then, QR scan code has been gaining popularity in shops, restaurants, cafes, and even taxis as they are contactless, touchless, and easy to use.

In addition, the Bhutan QR code has further helped during this pandemic as its limits in person transactions and makes it less likely for the virus to spread to others through cash exchanges.

According to the report, as of the fourth quarter, the banks have onboarded 5,019 new QR code merchants; taking the total QR issued till now to 40,029, which is an increase of 12.71% compared to the previous quarter.

The Bhutan QR code registration has increased in Punakha and Tsirang compared to the previous quarter. There is a drop in all other Dzongkhags during this quarter. The highest issuance is still in Thimphu, owing to the maximum merchant base.

Further, the Bank of Bhutan Limited launched a digital wallet called goBoB and other banks have onboarded 10 merchants for Bngul, 58,235 merchants for eteeru, and 71,945 gobob users as of the fourth quarter.

A total of 1.06mn transactions worth Nu 368.18mn were transacted through the wallets during the fourth quarter of 2021. Wallet transactions have significantly increased by 58.04% and 51.30% by volume and value respectively as compared to the previous quarter.

A significant increase was seen in the telecommunication services, adds money from banks and scans and pays to banks, the report states.

Meanwhile, a nationwide electronic fund transfer system known as Global Interchange for Financial Transaction (GIFT) has been renamed as Bhutan Interbank Real-time Fund Transfer System (BIRT).

The report highlights that during the fourth quarter, there were 68,415 transactions amounting to Nu 35.87bn.

The total BIRT transactions have increased by 7.92% by volume and 68.55% by value as compared to the previous quarter. There were maximum transactions received in the BULK settlement both in terms of volume and value.

BIRT RTGS allows real-time fund transfer above Nu 1mn. A total of 1,443 transactions worth Nu 15.83bn were transacted, which is an increase in the volume by 3.22% and 21.10% by value as compared to the previous quarter.

In addition, the BIRT BITS permits the users to transfer funds below Nu 1mn in batch settlement (10 transactions in a batch) every 30 minutes. There are 3,154 transactions worth Nu 601.55mn transacted in the fourth quarter last year. There is a decrease of 2.23% by volume and 3.01% by value as compared to the previous quarter.

Likewise, BIRT BULK allows single debit and multiple credits for the users. There are 63,818 BULK transactions amounting to Nu 19.44bn. It is an increase both in terms of volume and value by 9.16% and 157.09% respectively as compared to the previous quarter.

Domestic payment gateway is a merchant service provided by the RMA for the direct payment processing for e-commerce, government services, and corporate utilities.

With the domestic payment gateway, around 831,883 transactions amounting to Nu 264.71mn were transacted. In terms of quarter to quarter growth, there is an increase of 11.59% by volume, but a decrease of 49.56% by value.

The highest domestic payment gateway transaction in the fourth quarter was recorded in the entertainment category, followed by the e-corporate utility services category and government services -G2C Payment aggregator.

Meanwhile, the card payments, referring to cash withdrawals and transactions from ATM and PoS terminals in the country using domestic ATM cards, have drastically dropped in the last quarter.

A total of 0.82mn transactions worth Nu 3.44bn were transacted. Unlike other payment instrument, there is a decreasing trend for card payments every quarter. There is a decrease in both in terms of volume and value by 12.89% and 7.63% respectively as compared to the previous quarter.

The report states that there is a decline in ATM transactions in all the Dzongkhags except Chhukha, Samtse, and Tashiyangtse as compared to the previous quarter. The maximum domestic withdrawal is still in Thimphu, followed by Paro and Chhukha.

The domestic PoS transactions have recorded only 291 transactions of value Nu 1.66mn during the fourth quarter. It decreased by 22.40% in terms of volume and 0.62% by value as compared to the previous quarter.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu