The PrePaid Phone Economy in Asia

In the emerging economies of Asia, the prepaid phone system is pretty sophisticated. It has to be; people here don’t have credit cards, many don’t have bank accounts or ATM Cards, and the logistics of trying to manage post-paid accounts would be interesting, to say the least. So the local telcos have become very creative when it comes to the features and tools available for their customers to maintain their pre-paid phone credit.

When you think of prepaid phone cards, you are probably used to cards with scratch off sections which reveal a code which is keyed into your phone to redeem the credit (or top-up with credit cards online). These prepaid cards are available here, but I have met people here who have had a prepaid mobile for five years and never used a pre-paid card. So how do they get credit? They go to a local store, hand over 5, 10, or 20 pesos (10, 20 or 50 cents) and the store owner instantly transfers credit from their phone to the customer’s phone.


The system is called Pass-a-Load and anyone can do it – not just store owners. If you have credit on your phone, you can transfer credit to anyone else on the same network, without paying any commission. Simply send a TEXT message with the phone number and amount of credit to transfer, and it’s done. There is an affiliate program for store owners to receive a very small commission.


If you are out of credit, and don’t have money to buy credit use Request-a-Load. This is an interesting feature where you can enter a mobile number and for a cost of 1 peso (2 cents) the person will be sent a message saying, “Requesting load (phone credit) from you!” If you reply YES to the message, 5 pesos (10 cents) of credit is transferred from your phone to theirs.

Even more recent is the ability to borrow phone credit right from your phone company!

All-Net SOS

In the Philippines, one of the mobile carriers (Smart) will let you BORROW credit from them – they give you two options, both which allow you to go into the red with your prepaid credits, when you re-load, the loan is paid back. Now we are only talking about 10 cents here but still, if you have no money, and no one is going to send you credit with Request-a-Load, this gets you back on the air.
The first is On-Net, which gives you 3 texts and 1 peso of airtime. When you reload your plan, P4.00 (8 cents)  will be deducted as payment for your previous loan.
The second option is called All-Net. This service gives you four texts to all networks with P1.00 airport. Thus, P5.00 (10 cents) will be deducted.

Of course, there are guidelines for borrowing:
You can’t avail both SOS packages simultaneously. You have to pay for your loan first.
After a loan is made, any subsequent loan must wait at least 48 hours..
If you don’t reload within 30 days, your number will be service-blocked forever!

 Text Mo, Libre Ko?

As I was about to post this, a message arrives on my phone. Text Mo, Libre Ko? This is a new offering from another Philippine telco called Globe.
This is “Reverse Charging” for TEXT messages. When you send me a text message, it will cost you nothing, and you don’t need to have any credit on your phone. The receiver of the message pays! They will have 1 Peso deducted from their account for every message they receive from a selected phone number. When the “Reverse Charge” text message is sent, the receiver can choose to REJECT all messages, ACCEPT them and pay for them or ACCEPT only 1 message.

Leave a Comment