Thailand and Hong Kong Launch Cross-Border QR Payments

Posted by Written by Ayman Falak Medina Reading Time: 3 minutes

On December 4, 2023, Thailand’s central bank and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority launched a new cross-border QR payment link enabling travelers from Thailand and Hong Kong to make retail payments through their mobile payment applications.

Through the link, customers of Hong Kong’s Faster Payment System (FPS) and Thailand’s PromptPay can use their respective QR codes for merchants in either jurisdiction. Thai travelers in Hong Kong can use their PromptPay application at more than 50,000 FPS merchants in Hong Kong while travelers from Hong Kong can use their FPS application at more than one million PromptPay merchants in Thailand. Merchants will receive the funds instantly.

Further, Hong Kong travelers can make a maximum payment of HK$10,000 (US$1,279) per day while Thai travelers can spend a maximum of of 500,000 baht (US$14,149) daily.

QR payments can help boost tourism numbers in Thailand

For Thailand, this seamless payment transaction system will help boost their efforts to attract more travelers from Hong Kong and mainland China.

The Thai government also introduced a visa waiver program for Chinese tourists between September 25 and February 29, 2024. Through this five-month stimulus scheme, tourists can stay up to 30 days with the government aiming to attract some five million Chinese tourists by the end of the year. Without the visa exemption scheme, the government expected to see 3.4 million Chinese visitors for the year, or 31 percent of the total in 2019.

Tourism has been a key driver of Thailand’s economic recovery in 2023 although the numbers are still below pre-covid levels. The country received an estimated 24.5 million foreign tourists in the first 11 months of this year which is in line with the government’s target of 25 million visitors – In comparison Thailand saw 40 million international arrivals in 2019, accounting for 18-20 percent of GDP.

QR payments can strengthen Thailand’s MSMEs

QR codes can encourage Thailand’s micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to adopt cashless payment options, particularly since most MSMEs are in the informal sector and are either unbanked or underbanked. An estimated half of Thailand’s population remains unbanked or has no access to financial products and 18 percent are underbanked.

This mirrors the situation in the region where 50 percent (approx. 300 million people) of Southeast Asia’s population are unbanked and a further 24 percent are estimated to be underbanked. Financial inclusion varies among Southeast Asian countries. Singapore is one of the most financially inclusive countries in the world whereas some 70 percent of Vietnam’s population is unbanked. For the Philippines, it is 65 percent, and for Indonesia, it is 50 percent.

ASEAN aims to create seamless cross-border payments between member states under the ASEAN Payments Policy Framework (APPF), by harmonizing and modernizing payment infrastructures. This will enable ASEAN to ensure that regulatory frameworks can safeguard the service users’ interest, while also promoting innovation and investments in information and technology (ICT) in the region.

Despite the lack of uniform regulations and economic disparities between ASEAN states, market forces driven by consumer and business demands will propel the bloc toward realizing a multi-country real-time network.

The bloc is trying to emulate the European Union’s (EU) Single European Payments Area (SEPA)-style payments network. The system was introduced for credit transfers in 2008 before being fully implemented in the Euro area by 2014. The pace of SEPA’s development was assisted by the fact that participating countries were already members of the EU and used the same currency — the Euro.

Many MSMEs in Southeast Asia have business models that are not compatible with the characteristics of the financial products offered by banks and other financial institutions. That includes aspects such as payment terms for loan schemes, forms of collateral, and credit quality, among others.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is one financing model that has the potential to serve the region’s underbanked and unbanked population.

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