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Worlds apart: How different generations prefer to pay in Southeast Asia

By Nurin Fatini Abdul Ghani

EVERYONE in this world, regardless of which generation they come from, revolves around buying and selling products or services. Even if you are the party that supplies, you still have to purchase raw materials first in order to serve your customers. With technology advancements, Southeast Asia is known for having a wide range of payment options and preferences. According to a Forrester’s report, mobile-based purchases in Southeast Asia are expected to increase radically due to the rise of smartphone penetration and a growing population.

Unsurprisingly, Asian consumers are considered fast adopters when it comes to online payments compared to other regions. However, not everyone in Southeast Asia follows the trend of cashless payment. In fact, different generations seem to prefer different payment methods. Not everyone was born in the same phase, place, culture, environment, and year.

Older generations in Southeast Asia may not be familiar with the new technology. By contrast, the younger generation seem to embrace everything that promises instant gratification at their fingertips. Here, we’ve broken down how different generations like to different payment methods for goods and services in SEA.

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Senior citizens

Pic: ptnphoto/Shutterstock

The older generations in SEA prefer a traditional payment method. Simply, they pay with what they have in hand. This makes them the biggest users of cash or paper-based checks. Senior citizens have been brought up thinking that cash is a sign of higher status. However, checks and cash comes with its own set of problems. People handling them might misplace the cash, have to pay higher processing fees, and spend more time retrieving or depositing dollars.

Middle-aged adults

Middle-aged consumers, also known as Generation X, are much more likely to own a plastic card. They are extremely comfortable with using a credit card to pay for their expenses and satisfy their buying habits. Unfortunately, this also means they are far more likely to have credit card debt compared to other groups due to higher fees.

Generation Y

fintech cashless payment terminal

Generation Y(people born in the 1980s and 1990s) are the most willing adopters of mixed payment methods. They are old enough to know that they can use cash, checks, and credit cards, but also enjoy paying via digital methods such as online banking, e-wallets or invisible payment. The growth of online payment methods thanks to this generation has also led to the rise of online stores and e-commerce, which is a particularly big market in Asia Pacific – a region that has been tipped to become the largest in the world, according to a report by Mastercard.


Millennials have grown up right in the middle of rapid changes in technology. So, it is common for millennials to pay for goods and services using electronic payment methods. Additionally, the popularity of prepaid debit cards continues to increase due to parents being reassured that they are able to limit their children’s spending habits. Millennials also find it is easier to track their payments online.

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Which payment methods should businesses offer?

Having versatile payment options is the best way to go for any modern business seeking to reach as many customers as possible, and gives businesses a competitive advantage. Giving customers options outside of just cash-on-delivery or online payments is not only convenient for the customer, but also creates a relationship in which the customer feels as though the business they are patronizing is considerate of their different needs.