When was the last time you were late for something because you had to wait in that boring queue for, say, paying your electricity bill? I hope the answer isn’t anytime recent. With all the strides made in the world of digital payment, it’d be foolish not to use it to one’s advantage. Why bother your purse with hard cash, debit/credit cards when you could have them at your fingertips, at all times, on a smartphone you most probably already own. Making and receiving payments has gotten so childishly simple that I wonder if it’s making us lazier than ever? But that’s an absurd way to look at this glorious feat of technology – it’s made all our lives simpler, fair and square. And today I’ll be discussing the top digital wallets (online payment gateways) in Nepal.
Disclaimer: I won’t be including apps like CellPay and ConnectIPS in this list since they’re technically not a digital wallet but rather function as an online debit card.
What are Digital Wallets?
Before going in any further, let’s briefly discuss what a “digital wallet” is. Also known as a “mobile wallet” or an “e-wallet”, it is an online service or system that stores one’s payment information, which can then be used at times of making an electronic transaction. You can make such transactions via the internet, SMS, or a mobile app, after following simple steps for registration. Among the options available, I’m sure the unanimous vote for the most convenient method goes to the mobile app. And while international online payment platforms like Google Pay, Samsung Pay, Facebook Pay, etc. are non-existent in Nepal (also whatever happened to AliPay officially operating in the country?), their absence has been more than sufficiently supplemented by multiple digital wallets or other similar recourses from local fintech companies. Let me go through some of them:
There should have been zero doubt about eSewa topping this list of best digital wallets in Nepal. With over a million downloads on the Google Play Store and an equally impressive number of downloads on Apple’s App Store (there’s a web version as well don’t worry), eSewa is the frontrunner in the Nepalese digital wallet race. As the first online payment gateway of the country, it has been operational since 2009 and is licensed by Nepal Rastra Bank as well. The platform’s ubiquitous popularity is merely the result of its age, but rather the multitude of services it offers.
Where do I begin? eSewa has so many, oh-so-many services under its grasp. This product of F1Soft arguably is the magnum opus of Nepalese fintech. With new services added almost every day, this app can fulfill almost all of your domestic payment needs accompanied by cashback and discounts in a few of them. Besides the cashback, you also earn reward point(s) upon each successful transaction which can be redeemed for various gifts from eSewa. Starting with the basics, you can make utility payments like recharging your phone, paying for electricity, drinking water, etc. Apart from that, paying for your internet/TV/newspaper subscriptions, insurance premiums, and even your schools or colleges can be done from the palm of your hand via eSewa.
And with its redesigned UI/UX, the eSewa app is more beautiful and easier to use than ever. Everything is just, there. So organized and so easy on the eyes too. Wait, let’s get back to payment services on the platform. You can also book movie tickets from all the major multiplexes like QFX Cinemas, FCUBE Cinemas, One Cinemas, BSR Movies, Central Multiplex, Gopi Krishna Movies, etc. Additionally, eSewa can be a great help for your traveling needs as well, be it airways or roadways.
Flights & E-commerce
Talking about airways, you can easily book domestic flights from all the prime airlines in Nepal like Nepal Airlines, Yeti Airlines, Buddha Air, Simrik Airlines and more. In the case of international flights however, you can’t directly book tickets using eSewa. But what you can do is make payments for them when buying them from other platforms like Sasto Tickets, Meroflight.com, Nepal Airlines, and Megabyte Travels. Moreover, this digital wallet has also partnered up with a bunch of top e-commerce sites in Nepal which includes brands like Sastodeal, redDoko, OlizStore, Muncha, Smart Doko, and much more, though Daraz doesn’t appear on this list. And with hundreds of stores, restaurants, and other assorted merchants accepting Fonepay’s “scan to pay” feature, eSewa users need can basically wave goodbye to the days of carrying a bulk of cash whenever going out.
Transferring funds from and to your eSewa account are super easy as well, with dozens of banks and finances under the ecosystem. Though loading balance to your eSewa account is free of charge, users did have to pay a certain amount as service charge for each bank transfer made. But rejoice, since you can now set one free account for bank withdrawals which will not be subject to any surplus tariffs. Yay! Furthermore, using eSewa, users can enjoy City Express Remittance service and transfer money to any of its branches, while the web version of eSewa has Western Union remittance as well.
What’s more impressive is the fact that you can use eSewa even when you’re not connected to the internet. This feature is not exclusive to eSewa though. Of course, the services are limited under the SMS Mode, but you can still perform basic transactions like mobile top-up, sending money to other eSewa users, and more. And for enhanced security, eSewa has also incorporated biometric verification via the user’s fingerprint apart from MPIN and password.
And in the consistently growing catalog of digital wallets in Nepal, Khalti is another one to look out for. Launched in January 2017, Khalti has managed to garner a heap of an audience in a short amount of time. Developed by Sparrow Pay Pvt. Ltd., Khalti has over half a million downloads on the Google Play Store and a vast number of users on the iOS platform as well. Though the company only recently acquired the Payment Service Provider (PSP) license from Nepal Rastra Bank in the second quarter of 2019, people have been pouring into the platform for their payment solutions from the day of its launch. Also, the name “Khalti” just sounds perfect for a Nepalese digital wallet, don’t you think?
Let’s start with the Khalti app’s UI. It’s efficiently unique, to say the least. All the popular services and one you’d require most frequently are placed on the home screen, which includes top-up, electricity bills, newspaper subscriptions and more. Similarly, Khalti’s recent association with new events or merchants can be discovered with a downward slide. The web version of Khalti has also been designed similar to that of its mobile app counterpart, which further adds to the simplicity of usage.
Another thing I like about Khalti is the number of cashback it offers. While eSewa doesn’t provide any sort of cashback upon services like movie tickets, TV subscriptions, and internet subscriptions, Khalti users can save up to 1, 2 and 3 percent on those services respectively. This alone makes Khalti all the more attractive and profitable than eSewa. Besides the cashback, you also get what’s called “Khalti Points” upon each successful transaction which can be exchanged for Khalti balance, movie tickets, and whatnots.
Even after making payments worth over Rs. 20000 on eSewa, I’ve only managed to gather reward points in the ballpark of 300 while I immediately got around Rs. 100 cashback and 550 Khalti points on a single payment for SIMTV. Had I known of this; I’d have made my earlier SIMTV payments from Khalti instead of eSewa. So, yeah, I’ll take instant cashback to have to wait for amassing reward points any day of the week.
Furthermore, there are three types of “currency” under Khalti. The first being the Khalti balance which you would load from a bank or request from a friend/family. And the second is the bonus balance you get while the last one is the aforementioned Khalti points.
Getting back to the services offered, booking and paying for movie tickets using Khalti is easy and available across all the big multiplexes of the country, with a 1% cashback if you make it on Big Movies. And simplifying your travels is the option to book flight and hotel tickets using Khalti. Talking about travel, one can also make appointments and pay for “Pathao” and “Tootle” rides, the latter of which is also eligible for a 5% cashback. Great!
Now let’s talk security. There’s this neat feature (though some may call it an unwarranted nuisance) where the user must enter the first 4 characters of his/her Khalti account password every time upon entering the app. I think it’s handy and I have turned it on because, well, this is a sensitive application. You won’t find the biometric security option like in eSewa but I’m sure the Khalti team is working to bring that feature onto their platform as soon as possible.
Next on the list, we have the IME Pay. As the name implies, it is a subsidiary product of IME Remittance, which is one of the leading remittance companies in Nepal. And though it is a fairly new player in the Nepalese fintech market, IME Pay has managed to woo in a huge userbase thanks to its aggressive marketing campaigns. From sponsoring one of the biggest reality TV shows in the country (Nepal Lok Star) to just blasting the cities’ advertisement boards with its promotion, IME Pay hastily managed to climb up the ladder.
As I’ve mentioned before, this is a product from IME Remittance and therefore has incorporated its functionalities. I’d go as far as to say that IME Pay is a mobile remittance platform first and a digital wallet second. With this, IME Pay stands out as the optimal choice for those who constantly find themselves using its parent company’s services.
There are other notable features besides remittance as well. However, I must say they’re not as extensive as in the ones above. But that shouldn’t be a problem to users who’ll do just fine from the ones available and don’t indulge in a vast selection of online transactions. Starting off, you can make the basic utility payments for mobile/landline top-ups, electricity bills, tv subscriptions, internet subscriptions, EMI, etc. And akin to the competition, you’ll also be getting a certain percentage of cash back on some of them.
Booking Domestic Flight
In addition to this, you can also book tickets for movies, events, flights, and the Chandragiri Cable Car. What I found interesting is that IME Pay offers the highest amount of cashback on flight booking. For instance, a one-way ticket from Kathmandu to Pokhara from Buddha Airlines costs NPR 1800 on all three: eSewa, Khalti, and IME Pay. But while the first two only offer Rs. 80 cashback, IME Pay gives you Rs. 20 more. PrabhuPay is miserable in this case with the least amount of cashback offered.
And such disparity is actualized in practically all other flight bookings as well. Cashbacks aside, you also get rewards points for each transaction which can be redeemed for an assorted selection of prizes. So you know where to go for your flight booking needs.
What’s also interesting here, is that you can pay for your vehicle’s fuel in select petrol pumps using IME Pay, upon which you’ll be getting Rs. 2 cashback per liter. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work. Apart from this, there’s not a whole lot to do in IME Pay. The number of banks or other financial institutions from which you can load the balance is very few and so are the services.
Now let’s get to the app, shall we? Available both in the Play Store and App Store, the IME Pay app’s design is pretty simple and straightforward, which I believe should be the point of such productivity apps. It also has fingerprint support for added security. However, I feel the design is a little uneven throughout the app and hence the experience could be off-putting to some, including me. It’s a small issue but I’ll address it regardless.
The app is essentially divided into 5 sections including the “Scan QR Code” area. And while the 4 of them share a similar visual experience, the “Profile” section on the far right implements a noticeably different design decision. The font is erratically and unnecessarily different and large. Which is just… careless? Also, the app either crashes completely or doesn’t behave well when using it in the “Split Screen” mode. So if anyone from the development team is reading this, please have a look at it.
Making its way to the 4th spot in this list is PrabhuPay. And like IME Pay, this one’s a product of pre-established financial conglomerate as well. A digital wallet from Prabhu Group, which is one of the most well-established corporations in Nepal! Man, that’s got to ruffle the feathers of the competing services. In a little over a year of its release, PrabhuPay has managed to get over a hundred thousand downloads on the Google Play Store and an equally admirable userbase on the iOS platform as well.
Having to tussle against other successful alternatives is no joke. Therefore, PrabhuPay has been critical in its marketing campaigns, starting with the hyperbolic scheme for its user to be eligible for accidental insurance worth up to Rs. 1 million. That alone must have resulted in its tremendous success this early on. Besides this, PrabhuPay was also the official voting and payment partner for season 2 of “The Voice of Nepal”, further adding to its popularity.
Time to talk about its services. Like every other digital wallet in this list, you can make utility payments using PrabhuPay and will get a certain amount of cashback upon successful transactions on some of them as well. These include mobile top-ups, electricity bills, insurance premiums, internet, TV, newspaper subscriptions, etc. And how IME Pay had its “IME remittance” at the helm, PrabhuPay boasts support for its subsidiary “Prabhu Money Transfer”, as well as “Prabhu Insurance” services with a hefty 3% cashback on the insurance.
Using PrabhuPay, you can also book tickets for your domestic flights, movies, bus, and other events. More interestingly, its hospital appointment booking and bill payment come in handy, though it is limited to 3 hospitals only at the moment (Civil Service Hospital, Biratnagar Aspataal, Siddhi Memorial Hospital). Such crucial functionality should be embedded by more and more digital platforms in the country and I bow my head to PrabhuPay for integrating it.
Moving on, since it’s a seemingly new digital wallet in Nepal, it lags behind in terms of the number of services available on the platform. But don’t scratch your head too much because PrabhuPay is plenty productive at its current state as well. Similar to the competing services, it also rewards your transactions in terms of “Bonus Points” and “Topup Points”. Here, the bonus point is earned upon making successful payments while the topup point is accumulated for loading balance via its range of terminals. Both these points can be redeemed for PrabhuPay’s “Offers”.
Finally, let’s get into its app. Sharing a kinda-sorta familiar design to that of eSewa, PrabhuPay is easy to get used to as well. All the basic services are placed upfront including loading/sending money, remittance, and utility payments.
Additionally, a user’s transaction history and ticket purchase history are chronologically arranged on their separate tabs. Apart from PIN, PrabhuPay also supports fingerprint verification for any and all transactions to be made. Overall, for what it’s worth, I must say the app is well designed and simple to use.
And last but obviously not the least on the list is QPay Nepal. Developed with an alliance between UnionPay International (a subsidiary of China UnionPay) and Nepal’s own SCT, QPay Nepal is a force to be reckoned with! While the other digital wallets on this list focus on providing a wider selection of services, QPay has focused on something else – a nationwide acceptance. With UnionPay at its side, QPay Nepal looks to become the digital wallet when it comes to making payments in stores around the country.
The platform is really emphasizing on establishing a three-tier hierarchy (customer – merchant – service provider) rather than a two-tier one (customer – service provider). And this does come with its own minuses. First, it kind of goes against the fundamental of a digital wallet itself. The customer app is restricted in what it can do while the number of services available on the merchant version of the app is much more, thus making a user dependent on a QPay merchant for a broader range of payments to be made. You can see how that’s a problem.
Now let’s look at the other side of the coin; why it stands out among the rest. Well, the UnionPay alliance has got to come up handy somewhere, right? QPay users can make payments to all the SCT or UnionPay accepting merchants across the country, which rounds out to about 20 thousand. Now you be the judge whether the pros outweigh the cons or not.
From this point forward, whenever I’ll be mentioning QPay, please understand that I’m referring to the customer version of the service and not the merchant.
As I’ve said before, QPay is very limited in what it can do. It only has the most basic of the utility payments. This includes mobile top-ups, internet/TV subscriptions, flight booking, electricity bills, water bills and that’s about it. There is also a sizeable percentage of cashback on most of them. Getting into funding, while every other digital wallet on this list has the option to load funds via card as well, QPay also accepts funds from UnionPay cards. Aside from this, you can also choose from the regular e-banking, mobile banking, ConnectIPS, or merchant top-up option. Like Khalti, as of now, this one doesn’t have fingerprint verification support as well.
Now I found a little something weird about QPay. So, hold on to your hats, folks. The thing that bugged me is that the app doesn’t work as advertised and doesn’t quite look like the way it’s advertised either. The company advertises the “Nearby Taxi” feature to be “live” but the option just didn’t show up on my app and neither did a few other features which are highlighted on the app’s page on the Play Store.
I had received a toast message warning me to turn on GPS for a glitch-less performance which I did so that means the app is working just fine. Additionally, my “KYC Status” reads accepted which means it’s not a thing about restricting features to non-verified users. So… what the hell? Is QPay straight-up lying about its services (which I want to believe is it’s not), or is the app just broken to the point of disappointing incompetence?
So that was it, our list of the best digital wallets in Nepal. Every one of them has its own perks and maybe a little pitfall as well, while ultimately every single one aims to make our lives easier and simpler. I don’t mean to say I support monopoly or even am referring to it when I say, with the number of such services growing in number in a relatively small country like Nepal, do you think maybe there are just “too many remotes for one TV”?
Digital Wallets – Rating (1-10)
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