Asian tourists have new payment options in Japan as Singtel arrives

VIA alliance brings Thai and Singapore-based digital services to Tokyo airports.

Singtel has partnered with Japan's Netstars, whose StarPay terminals are in more than 100,000 stores, restaurants and other locations. ©Nikkei

This article first appeared on Nikkei Asian Review. It’s republished here as part of 36Kr’s ongoing partnership with Nikkei. 36Kr is KrASIA’s parent company.

TOKYO — Singapore Telecommunications extended its VIA mobile payment alliance to Japan on Thursday, allowing the growing number of Southeast Asians visiting the country to use their native e-wallets.

Stores at Narita and Haneda airports that use Japanese company Netstars’ StarPay terminals will now accept the alliance’s Thai and Singapore payment platforms, with the list of compatible services to grow later on.

This is a “big step” that further bridges the digital economies of Japan and Southeast Asia, said Soon Sze Meng, vice president of Singtel’s international group, at a news conference at Haneda.

VIA will eventually expand to the rest of Tokyo as well as other parts of Japan, including Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, according to a news release.

StarPay terminals have been installed in roughly 100,000 stores, restaurants and other establishments, which will also be able to accept VIA member services if they so choose.

The terminals offer a range of mobile payment options including WeChat Pay from China’s Tencent Holdings, SoftBank Group’s PayPay and chat app operator Line’s Line Pay.

Helped by tourists, mobile payments are making inroads into a Japanese economy still heavily reliant on cash. Recent setbacks include a hacking attack on the new payment service offered by Seven-Eleven Japan parent Seven & i Holdings.

Singtel holds stakes in a number of Asian telecom companies, including Indonesia’s Telkomsel, India’s Bharti Airtel and Globe Telecom of the Philippines.