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Politics

Japan's Aeon taking prepaid cards across Asia

Retailer sees e-money as accessible alternative to credit

TOKYO -- Aeon will launch a prepaid e-money service in Malaysia as soon as this year, with plans to expand it to broader Southeast Asia to reach consumers without access to credit cards. 

The company could begin issuing the prepaid Aeon Member Plus smart card though unit Aeon Credit Services Malaysia within the year, becoming the first major Japanese retailer to take e-money operations abroad. A smartphone app using QR codes to make payments will also be introduced. The company hopes to have 4 million card members within three years.

Unlike the smartphone-based digital payment systems currently gaining traction in Asia, e-money payments require neither a credit card nor a bank account. Users can add value to their Aeon cards at Aeon group stores or ATMs.

At present, only around 20-30% of Malaysians, primarily the wealthy, have credit cards. Aeon's prepaid cards are seen catching on among middle- and lower-class consumers who do not qualify for credit, and, thanks to a partnership with Visa, will be accepted across the world by merchants in that brand's network. Users will also earn reward points on their purchases -- likely 0.5% of the purchase price at most locations, and double that at Aeon stores in Malaysia -- that can be spent like any other stored money.

Aeon will consider taking its e-money scheme to other Asian nations as well and unifying existing reward-point systems across various markets. The group operates roughly 4,000 convenience stores, supermarkets and other locations in 12 Asian markets outside Japan, including China and Cambodia.

(Nikkei)

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