A payment fintech launched in 2021 is transforming the landscape of the Philippine digital economy by enabling more than 400 small businesses to accept and process Bitcoin payments. Pouch.ph is tapping into the country’s vast pool of tiny merchants—from mom-and-pop stores to boutique hotels.
Pouch.ph utilizes Lightning Network built atop Bitcoin to make digital payments quicker, cheaper, and more user-friendly. This payment protocol allows customers to pay by scanning a merchant's QR code with any Bitcoin wallet. Pouch.ph then converts that Bitcoin to Pesos and sends the money directly to the merchant's bank or mobile money account, making the process easy and efficient for both parties.
“One of the most significant challenges for the growth of small businesses is the availability of payment methods, with credit cards charging fees up to three percent. With the growing number of internet and smartphone users in the Philippines, Bitcoin as a payment method will allow those who do not have credit cards or even local fiat currency to make online or in-store purchases. We’re helping businesses open up a vast market that was previously untapped,” said Pouch.ph CEO Ethan Rose.
More than 250 local businesses in the popular tourist destination of Boracay, including convenience stores, cafes, hotels, and restaurants, have already enrolled with Pouch.ph and have been integrating Bitcoin payments into their daily operations.
For Erielyn Gaston, owner of Kasbar restaurant, accepting Bitcoin as payment allowed her to attract a wider customer base and increase sales. “[Pouch.ph] has been very helpful as another mode of payment other than credit cards and e-wallets which is the usual mode of payment here [in Boracay],” she said in a panel discussion during the Bitcoin Island conference.
“It's very convenient to have a payment service that's fast and easily available so that for us, in regards to increasing the revenue, it allows people to stay longer because the other alternative that is there is one of these ATMs that are not from the banks the tourists [use]. If you ever add up the fees they charge for credit card users minus the exchange rate difference, you end up paying 10% to 11% if you withdraw from these ATMs,” TIB Market manager Marcel Selfer said.
Building on this success, the fintech firm is actively expanding its reach beyond “Boracay Bitcoin Island” and has onboarded merchants in Cebu City, Dumaguete, Iloilo, and Bacolod City.
In Metro Manila, some establishments have also started accepting Bitcoin as a valid form of payment through Pouch.ph such as the night bar URBN QC in Quezon City, Draper Startup House in Makati City, and niche retailer KosneyLand located inside a mall in Mandaluyong City.
Aside from receiving payments, some partner merchants use Pouch.ph for payroll. With Batch Pay feature, business owners can instantly send money in batches to employees, suppliers, and other recipients, including transfers to all major banks and e-wallets. They can transfer payroll directly to a Pouch Netbank Account with no fees, or to a nominated bank account for a minimal fee. This innovative solution aims to simplify and streamline payment processes for businesses across the country.
Pouch.ph is also preparing to extend its Batch Pay services for over-the-counter remittances through LBC, M Lhuillier, and Palawan Pawnshop.
Locals and tourists can find merchants that accept Bitcoin payments using BTCMap.org.