Earlier this week, cryptocurrency investment app Abra announced a new partnership with Philippines-based payment network ECPay. The deal will allow ECPay customers to easily purchase bitcoin (and dozens of other crypto tokens) from 6,000 retail outlets in the Philippines, including all 2,287 of the country’s 7-Eleven locations. The move could open up a significant new market for cryptocurrency investments in the country.
While known primarily as a convenience store giant in the U.S., 7-Eleven has a slightly different market niche in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, 7-Eleven stores also serve as bill-payment centers for the majority of the country’s 101 million citizens. According to the World Bank, around 65% of adult Filipinos have no bank accounts, making in-person utility and other bill payments at retail locations a typical — if burdensome — part of everyday life. As a result, most Filipinos are likely familiar with ECPay’s CLIQQ payment kiosks, which can be found at retail locations all over the country.
The Abra app will allow customers to purchase a minimum of ₱500 (around $9.50) to ₱100,000 (about $1,900) in cryptocurrency per day, taking a 2% transaction fee. In addition to BTC, investors can purchase most popular crypto tokens, including ETH, LTC, and XRP. The purchased tokens are typically available in the Abra app’s wallet within two days.
The Philippines could prove to be an interesting testing ground for wide-scale cryptocurrency adoption. In 2017, only 9.9% of Filipinos paid their bills online using a bank account. Given the availability of relatively inexpensive smartphones, and the high number of Filipinos working abroad who regularly send money home using often-expensive remittance services, Abra’s experiment could present a compelling use case for cryptocurrency-based wallet services over traditional bank accounts.
Then again, the high-risk nature of cryptocurrency investment could prove to be a major disincentive for many Filipinos, as roughly half of the population earns less than the equivalent of $1,000 per month.