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Pandemic prompts e-hongbao gifts across Asia

One impact of the pandemic in Asia is that it is going to make for a radically different Chinese New Year.


Across Chinese communities in Asia, it is routine for people to give money in a red envelope, known as hongbao, at this time of year.

In mainland China, groups such as Ant and Tencent have long offered digitized versions of the hongbao traditions so that people can pass these gifts through their phones. WeChat Pay launched them in 2014. Thanks to the pandemic, the e-hongbao is now taking off across Asia, too.

In January, Singapore’s UOB allowed customers to send red packets digitally through its UOB Mighty mobile banking app. This is sold as both a health and an environmental benefit.

“The contactless nature of e-hongbaos enables our customers to continue the tradition of gifting their loved ones with red packets safely as they celebrate the Year of the Ox virtually amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” says Jacquelyn Tan, UOB's head of group personal financial services.

“We have also reduced the number of red packets printed by about 30% as part of our ongoing efforts to decrease paper consumption.”


As an incentive, UOB is rewarding customers for making this unromantic but responsible shift, with prodigious use of the number eight, which is lucky to the Chinese.

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