SINGAPORE, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Singapore-based Grab has partnered payments processor Mastercard Inc to issue prepaid cards tailored to Southeast Asian consumers, extending the use of Grab's digital wallet and helping its unbanked users transact online.
The companies hope to leverage Grab's 110 million users based on download numbers, and Mastercard's network of 3 million merchant outlets.
"This partnership with Grab significantly advances our reach in Southeast Asia and aligns with our goal of expanding digital payments across all consumers and merchants," Mastercard said in the companies' joint statement on Thursday.
Grab will issue virtual and physical prepaid cards through its app. Customers can top up their cards using cash through agents, drivers and merchants on the GrabPay platform, and will be able to use them at online and offline merchants that accept Mastercard.
Six-year-old Grab, which made its start as a taxi-booking app, is transforming itself into a consumer technology group, offering services such as food and parcel deliveries, micro-loans and mobile payments in one of the world's fastest-growing internet markets - home to some 640 million people.
The region with its large unbanked population has emerged has a financial services battleground for local companies such as Grab, Sea Ltd and Indonesia's Go-Jek, as well as foreign firms including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd.
Cash remains the most common payment method in Southeast Asia, making the region challenging for e-commerce firms.
"For the first time, these unbanked and under-banked users will be able to use virtual and physical cards to buy things online," Reuben Lai, senior managing director, Grab Financial, told Reuters.
Grab and Mastercard said they hope to offer their card in the first half of 2019, starting in Singapore and the Philippines.
Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Christopher Cushing