(SPOT.ph) Gone are the days of sari-sari stores returning your loose change in the form of candies—nowadays, Ate just asks if she can GCash you the change instead. Everyone’s got GCash, even manong tricycle driver and the nail technician you want to tip. The Philippines is GCash nation, so it comes as no surprise that the ubiquitous e-wallet has transformed over the years to service changing Filipino needs, which includes digital payments abroad as foreign countries reopen their borders for the first time in years.
International payments done via credit and debit cards are nothing new, but GCash is the first Philippine online wallet to offer cross-border payments. This means using a Pinoy app using pesos to pay for goods and services in a foreign country using converted local currency.
We spent several days in Singapore to test-run Gcash services to give you a rundown of how it works and what to expect.
Here’s what we think of using GCash in Singapore
Use and availability
Cross-border GCash payments are powered by Alipay+, which is an option for QR payments in-app, so no need to download a separate app or fund another e-wallet. It’s currently available in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. All GCash users have to do is log in to their app, tap "pay via QR", and select "pay with Alipay+’" Have the merchant scan the QR code and you’re good to go.
Currency conversions are done in-app, which changes every day depending on the exchange rate.
To know if a merchant accepts GCash, just look for the Alipay+ logo or GCash logo. Do keep in mind that Alipay is different from Alipay+ and you need the latter to use your GCash. When in doubt, ask the staff.
Case in point: We had stuff to store in lockers at Universal Studios and we were fully ready to pay using cash or card, but we saw the Alipay logo and tried our luck. GCash came through and we went out of there without having to dig around our bag for cash. Talk about quick and easy!
We’ll cut to the chase: It’s quick and easy. You open the app, click pay with QR, select the Alipay+ option, and have the merchant scan it. In about five to ten seconds, confirmation arrives on the merchant end in the form of a receipt, while you receive a text.
A summary of the transaction is listed on your digital receipt, which includes where you spent your money, how much you paid in Peso, along with the conversion rate for the day. Other details such as reference number, transaction time, and any discounts are also included in your GCash receipt.
Transactions can take anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, which we’d consider pretty fast and painless. Confirmation texts land on your phone real-time, but the app’s transaction history is not up to speed. If you’re looking to keep a log of everything you’ve spent, look at your phone’s message inbox.
The most convenient thing about GCash and Alipay+ is that you can load your e-wallet up straight from your bank account, skip the manual conversions with physical cash, and get the latest conversion rates in real-time. Instead of lining up at airport currency exchange kiosks and convert your local currency with steep additional fees, you can load up your GCash.
Though accessible in several establishments, transactions are dependent on your phone’s data connection and the shop’s terminal.
It’s only been two months since Alipay+ access launched on GCash, so expect some limitations and delays. While it is a convenient way to pay, QR generation may take up to 20 seconds—keep this in mind when you're in the middle of long queues. It works on wi-fi, but it’s best to have data as back-up.
We will say though, using GCash to pay for rides at Comfort Delgro cabs was snappy. We were connected to a pocket wi-fi when we scanned the driver's QR code and the transaction was done in about 10 seconds (including thanking our driver and wishing him a safe trip for the rest of the day.)
GCash is currently available in tourist-dense areas and establishments such as Universal Studios, Duty-Free shops at the airport, and for Comfort Delgro taxis. You can use Gcash at the following shops:
Resorts World Sentosa
- Malaysia Food Street
- In-attraction food and beverage
- Feng Shui Inn
- Ticketing payments at Universal Studios S.E.A. are not available yet.
Along Orchard Road
- Select stores in Plaza Singapura
- Select stores in Lucky Plaza
- Select stores in Takashimaya
- Select stores in ION Orchard
- Select stores in Paragon Mall
- Select stores in Wisma Atria
- Select stores in Orchard Plaza
- Select stores in Isetan
In Changi Airport, departure Terminal 1
- Shilla Duty Free
- Bengawan Solo
- Bee Cheng Hiang
Some shop terminals support GCash, but there are times it may be offline or slow. More merchants are expected to support Alipay+ in the coming months.
We used the app to purchase pasalubong from Gardens by the Bay's souvenir shop and we got an unexpected discount for simply using GCash abroad. Filipino favorites like Bee Cheng Hiang at Changi Airport also accept GCash payments, and if you're into cookies and pandan cake just like we are, you'll be happy to know Bengawan Solo also supports GCash transactions.
GCash payments in Singapore have been a breeze. It’s not as widely available as in the Philippines yet, but it still gets the job done painlessly! Expect more stores to suppport Alipay+ and GCash soon.
The conversion fees might not seem like much when you’re at the airport hoping to acquire local currency, but the conversion losses can add up. With GCash payments, conversion occurs real-time and follows the latest rates. It not only displays how much you spent in the local currency, but in peso as well, if you’re looking to track spending in a currency you understand better.
Promos are also a nice surprise. Our first transaction was about P120 cheaper as GCash and Alipay+ offer discounts for users. There are other fun promos in the app, so be sure to check it out.