The celebration of Lunar New Year in 2021 is different from the preceding years due to the restricted Movement Control Order (MCO) as the COVID-19 pandemic is growing, which causes gathering is limited to 15 people within the same family members, and only two people are allowed in a vehicle. Moreover, visiting family members was banned, and mass assembly to welcome the arrival of Lunar New Year has ceased. Lion dance has no way to be seen, neither is there any “God of Fortune” giving out angpows.

In Chinese culture, angpow (a red packet containing money) was usually given by elders and married couples. This culture has expanded and encompasses employer-employee relations. It started by the well-wisher greeting abundancy to the receiver, and as a return, an angpow was given to the former. The tradition of giving angpow is a form of blessing and wishing the recipient good luck throughout the year. Indeed, who is not lucky when receiving “free” money by just greeting another person?

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed what was practiced previously and advancing the adoption of new norms. Reunion gathering was replaced by virtual meetings connecting family members, relatives, and friends worldwide. Similarly, this is applicable for physical mass gathering, which was substituted by a playback of yesteryear recorded events. The adoption of e-angpow has been accelerated and prominent due to the limitation caused by the pandemic situation.

E-angpow was merely a promotional hype using the “DuitNow” facility, a service launched by PayNet that promoted seamless money transfer experiences with Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) as the largest shareholder push towards a cashless society. This assures the general public on the legality and legitimacy of the facility. PayNet is the same company that provides vital online banking platforms such as MEPS, JomPay and FPX. An avid online shopper paying bills online or a user of e-wallets with the possibility of personal data being passed through PayNet is almost inevitable. The ease of usage and minimal sensitive information requirement have speeded up accepting “DuitNow” facility.

In this era of technology, there are ample greatness in accelerating the adoption of e-angpow while preserving the Chinese culture of giving red packets, which includes

1) Fast, convenient, and under control: Money transmission can be done anytime and anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.

While social distancing is encouraged and social gatherings were prohibited during this Chinese New Year, reunion, greetings, and angpow giving have been halted indefinitely. However, with technological advancement, a “press of a button” can overcome all this deterrence. Zoom enables virtual gathering and bringing the family members together for a reunion; Food Panda enables food delivery without much hassle on preparation, and e-angpow permits money transmission almost immediately. What is not cool about technology?

2) Data invasion is minimal: Account numbers of the recipient are not required during money transmission, and only handphone numbers are needed. This improved the existing instant interbank transfer, which required an account number to perfect the transaction.

3) Economical and appealing: No fee charges for an amount below RM5,000.

E-angpow facilitates money transfer without additional charges. Furthermore, the sender may choose auspicious digits (money) to be transmitted to the recipient. For example, RM8.88 to signify prosperity which may not be possible if traditional angpow were to be offered.

4) Crime Prevention: Basically, e-angpows do not involve the transaction of physical money.

5) Unescapable: The flip side of e-angpow, there is no excuse for avoidance. If you forget to bring cash, you can always transfer money electronically. The statement “I forget to bring angpow” is no longer a valid getaway clause.

Besides the benefits above of e-angpow adoption by a consumer, banks also view that e-angpow is the way moving forward such as:

1) Reduced traffic to branches for exchange of new notes for traditional angpow. Bank staff can be mobilized to perform more value-added tasks (i.e., promoting the bank’s products according to customer’s needs, resolving customer’s problem, or even ensuring that the branch is in proper order).

2) Minimize human error in dispensing physical banknotes during exchange which can be resolved through e-angpow. Miscount of physical banknotes is more susceptible to happen than transfer funds, which is well tracked and recorded electronically.

3) Promote environmental sustainability by printing fewer banknotes while ensuring sufficient circulation in the market. Malaysia has started to issue polymer banknote in 2004. While these banknotes have a longer lifespan than the original paper-based banknotes, this polymer is not biodegradable, and recycling these banknotes through shredding and melting will also contribute to the greenhouse gas footprint. E-angpow is one of the right actions to support environmental sustainability.
In a nutshell, humans develop technology to perform existing tasks more efficiently while continuously providing a breakthrough on mind-blowing invention and innovation. E-angpow does not dilute the Chinese culture, and instead, on a positive note, it is preserving the tradition of angpow giving through the transformation of cash to digital money. This transformation is eco-friendly, and it is not surprising that soon it may wipe off the usage of polymer money altogether.


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