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I Wasn't Really On Board The E-Wallet Hype, But AirAsia's BigPay Made Me A Believer

Launched earlier this year, BigPay was lauded by Tony Fernandes with “one day this product will be worth more than AirAsia”.

As someone who was quite against e-wallets when they first came out, I wondered in BigPay would be the one to change my mind.

My main complaints against e-wallets in general are outlined below:

  1. A hassle to set up. You’ll have to jump through a lot of hoops, take photos of your IC, do the registration, get verified and so on and so forth.
  2. Not widely accepted. Yes, their stickers have been popping up in a lot of places, but more often than not, either the vendor doesn’t know how to use it, or the machine is not working, or a slow internet connection means they can’t use it properly, the list goes on. Plus, sometimes they accept one e-wallet brand, but not the other. How many do I have to keep downloading?
  3. What’s the point? I already have cards, and cash. Why would I want yet another app on my already full phone?

With all these prejudices, I proceeded to download the BigPay app.

Setting It Up

*Do note that the rather tacky images are because BigPay does not allow screenshots on my version of Android. A nifty security feature, but a bugger for the article.

The identity verification I griped about earlier is present (and yes, a very necessary security feature, but I don’t have to like it). For BigPay, besides filling in your details (name, age, address, I.D. number), you will also be required to snap a photo of your I.C. or passport, and a selfie.

Once that’s done, you have to wait for your identity to be verified.

I ignored the app for a day, and booted it up the next day to find that yes, my identity had been verified and I could start my journey towards account activation by loading up RM20 and then getting a card.

“A card?” you ask. “I thought this was an e-wallet.”

Yes, BigPay is one of those e-wallets in Malaysia that comes with a card, and that process slows the set up even more.

After doing the reloading, I settled in for another waiting period. To my surprise, the card did arrive within the 3 to 5 day timeline mentioned in the app.

Actual card not in photo because, you know, security. And yes, my referral code is YZWAUFMSX7 if you want to share some love (where both you and I will get RM10 when you activate your account).

Card in hand, I could finally activate the account and use the e-wallet.

Out In The Real World

So unlike quite a few of the other e-wallets where you usually have to look out for the QR code and the “X Accepted Here” stickers, for BigPay, I’ve used it wherever credit cards are accepted.

There are times when I’m about to pay and realise there isn’t enough balance in the card. But topping up is really fast (I do this for GrabPay too), so that has never really been an issue.

Topping up a minimum of RM50 also comes with AirAsia BIG points, if that’s something you’re working to collect. You also get BIG points for spending above RM20 for each transaction on the card or online.

My only gripe for the card would be I’d like for it to have a PayWave equivalent. Typing a pin in for a RM10 purchase does feel a little bit redundant (it’s a fine balance between security and convenience, and I err on the side of lazy).

Also, after every transaction on the card, you do get a notification on your phone via the app.

BigPay also has a feature where you can pay the “real exchange rate”. If you’re travelling, you can use the card like a normal credit/debit card, pay in the local currency, and you get charged in MYR.

When I booted the app up in a foreign country, upon detecting my location, it sent me a notification with a welcome message and the exchange rate.

The website touts a “best exchange rate” which is hard to confirm. I’ve used it for GBP and USD, and the rate is fairly competitive. The advantage of using it over a regular credit card would be that there are no added fees, besides what is shown there.

This feature can also be used if you happen to be shopping online in an overseas store, and don’t want to pay those added fees again (there might be a fee in the future, but for now this is “waived until further notice”).

Verdict

My first gripe still holds true; I still do find setting up these apps a hassle (then along came RazerPay, where setup is just entering a local phone number, which opens up another can of worms when it comes to security concerns).

Usage was easy as long as the terminals are open.

So will I continue using this card? The answer is actually a yes, but not exactly for any of the reasons I’d expected when I first downloaded it.

What I actually like the most about the e-wallet is a small “Analytics” section that shows you your monthly summary of expenses. I’ve always wanted to know the breakdown of what I spend my credit cards on, but I’m too lazy to do it manually. Now, my credit cards are mainly used to top up my BigPay account, and I use that as my main card so I can track my expenses and get a simple breakdown on what I’ve spent on.

I’ve been working on this article for a while, so I have eventually opened up to other e-wallet apps in the meantime, also in part thanks to the overall positive experience with BigPay.

Right now, because of its card and that Analytics section, BigPay does see high usage from me, though I do look out for the other e-wallets’ logos at cash registers for special discounts (and that fun and extra rewards you get from Boost app’s shake feature).

Other app usages that I did not get to test out:

  1. Making AirAsia flight bookings without the credit card fee
  2. Transferring money for free

However, my colleague has been using his BigPay card for AirAsia flight bookings, and can confirm that it works as promised.

At the end of the day, BigPay’s e-wallet isn’t really like a standard e-wallet. I’m relying a lot more on the physical card than the other “digital” aspects. I would love to ditch cards (and cash) entirely, but right now, it’s the infrastructure and vendors (along with cashiers who don’t even know how to run the terminals) that are slowing down any enthusiasm to just use e-wallet apps here.

But in Malaysia, BigPay’s other advantages—even waiving AirAsia’s credit card booking charges alone—might just be enough to push adoption up.

  • You can check out BigPay for yourself here

VP Verdict is a series where we personally try and test out products, services, fads, and apps. Want to suggest something else for us to try? Leave a comment here or send the suggestion into our Facebook page. 

 

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