As a frequent traveler, Caecilia Chu was appalled by how much banks would charge her for using her credit card overseas. It didn’t take long for her to figure out that it was possible to lower or even eliminate some of those fees. Along with Arthur Mak, Chu founded You Technologies Group in Hong Kong in 2016. They developed a secure and scalable bank-grade platform to execute currency exchange trades in the spot market, then decided to create a product for consumers.
That service came in the form of YouTrip, the result of a collaboration between You Technologies Group, Singapore’s EZ-Link, and Mastercard. It offers a multi-currency mobile wallet and a contactless Mastercard prepaid card. YouTrip launched in Singapore last August and was downloaded 10,000 times within a week. By the end of 2018, that number passed 50,000.
Chu recently sat down with KrASIA to talk about YouTrip’s origins and services. The following interview excerpt was edited for clarity and brevity.
What is YouTrips’s unique selling point?
Typically, bank-issued credit cards and debit cards carry an overseas transaction fee that falls between 2.5% and 3.5%. Dynamic currency conversions, which are currency exchanges done at the point of sale, entail additional fees of up to 5%. Money exchange services have a markup too.
YouTrip, however, does not charge any fees for cross-border transactions. And all registered users receive a Mastercard from EZ-Link, free of charge.
On the app itself, users can use exchange rates that are updated to match the spot market in real time for ten currencies—SGD, USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, HKD, AUD, NZD, CHF, and SEK.
They can also transact in 140 other currencies with no additional fees by using the Mastercard prepaid card. Unlike the YouTrip app, it uses an indicative wholesale exchange rate. In other words, this is not real-time and could take up to a week after a purchase to be finalised.
How is YouTrip able to offer wholesale exchange rates to its customers?
Foreign exchange providers, especially banks, charge a markup to protect themselves from currency fluctuations, in addition to making hidden profits.
YouTrip’s platform and technical infrastructure makes real-time currency exchanges with our FX provider. That means we are able to cover our position at all times, and it is not necessary for us to charge more than the wholesale exchange rates, which are similar to the rates you see after searching on Google.
What is YouTrip’s revenue model?
We earn commission from merchants abroad whenever our users make overseas transactions with their Mastercard. Partnerships are integral to our business model. Mastercard’s wide global network is a crucial source of our revenue.
You Technologies Group was founded in Hong Kong. Why did you choose to launch YouTrip in Singapore?
We see ourselves as a global firm, but have chosen Singapore as a starting point for the following reasons.
First, I have to say that meeting Nicholas Lee, the chief executive officer of EZ-Link, about a year and a half ago was a pivotal point for our business. YouTrip’s partnership with EZ-Link, a Singaporean payment operator, gave us a foothold in the country, so launching our services in Singapore was a natural step forward.
Secondly, we find that Singapore’s consumers really love to try new things, especially when it comes to digital innovations, making this an optimal country to begin our journey.
Is YouTrip looking to expand overseas? If so, where?
We are looking to expand in the Southeast Asia region in the foreseeable future and hope to be able to make this announcement as soon as possible.
Do you foresee more players coming into the card-based fintech space? How will YouTrip differentiate itself from the other players?
Yes, that’s for sure. As with every product that sees some initial traction, competition is bound to follow suit. In fact, we even foresee players from other verticals coming into the fintech payment space. Take Grab as an example. They are seemingly making their way into fintech.
YouTrip is different because we have a localised solution that is tailored specifically to Singaporean travelers. Our local partner EZ-Link has many years of experience in handling payments for Singaporeans. We look forward to more of these meaningful partnerships so we can better serve Singaporeans, and you should expect to see new features and campaigns made for our local users in the future.
Editor: Brady Ng and Nadine Freischlad