Having raised a total of S$56 million (US$40 million) since its
founding in 2017 – the last round of S$35 million happened last year,
YouTrip, which wants to be a borderless banking platform serving the
needs of businesses and travellers in South-east Asia, is coming out
strong from the pandemic, launching YouBiz, targeted at SMEs, with
Mastercard, and coming soon, travel insurance.
“From the start, we wanted to build a borderless banking product for
travellers in the region, one that would allow them to do foreign
currency conversions at real-time competitive rates, and make it
convenient for them to pay when they travel,” said Caecilia Chu,
co-founder and chief executive.
She’s not wavered from that mission, despite the pandemic wiping out
70% of business during the darkest days. In fact, the past two years
have probably made the company more resilient and determined to pursue
its goal of becoming the leading financial product for travellers in
"The pandemic has brought out our determination to be an all-weather company," says YouTrip's Caecilia Chu.
The beginning of YouTrip
In 2017 when Chu and her co-founder and CPO Arthur Mak, came from
Hong Kong to explore the idea of launching a fintech startup in
Singapore and South-east Asia, they realised that "the market was very
fragmented – it’s not one big country with one major currency. Everybody
has to use different currencies and travellers would carry wallets full
of different notes and coins.”
Studying the problem, they asked, “what if we built a borderless banking product?”
“We felt that if we could help customers solve the foreign currency
conversion fees and give them the convenience of making payments, we
thought they’d love us.”
Hence their first product was YouTrip, a multi-currency travel wallet
(linked to Mastercard) and money changer in one app. Today, one in five
Singapore millennials carry the YouTrip card and it is the number four
consumer debit card issuer in Singapore, said Chu.
With travel reopening, the company, which has a staff strength of
around 130, is seeing business volumes double in the past three months.
“Between March and May, we are doing four times what we did in 2021,”
“Travellers feel safer with our card, especially when travelling to
less familiar places. It allows you to control what you store in it – it
does not link directly to your bank account. It allows you to exchange
currencies real-time and it works anywhere, across 60 million merchants
and ATMs that take Mastercard,” said Chu. The card also offers
peer-to-peer transfer allowing friends to split bills on the spot.
Asked how it is able to offer competitive exchange rates, she said,
“We built our payment infrastructure in Southeast Asia for Southeast
Asia. For Asian currencies, our rates are systematically better and we
give the rates away to the consumer. We don’t make money on currency
Where it makes money on is from transactions and the merchant fee – it gets a cut from its credit card partners.
Cashback directly into travellers' wallets
Last year, it launched YouTrip Perks, a cashback programme. “We saw
that the top transacting agents on our platform were travel brands –
Agoda, Booking.com as well as Lazada and Shopee,” said Chu.
It offers up to 12% cashback when consumers buy from those brands on
YouTrip. That cashback automatically goes into the consumer’s wallet.
“This has really driven a lot of transactions,” said Chu.
During the pandemic, when travel stopped, YouTrip expanded its Perks
programme to cover products and services that consumers, staying home,
were spending time on – such as education, gaming, self-improvement and
general e-commerce – a move that helped the company tide through the
That pivot helped it grow its millennial consumer base in Singapore.
“So it wasn’t wasted,” she smiled. “Pre-pandemic, we were reliant on
travel spend. Now shopping and travel are growing together.”
YouBiz will “enable SMEs to build borderless businesses”
It was also during the pandemic when work habits changed that the
company sensed another opportunity – a product targeted at corporate
travellers, especially from SMEs who have emerged into a new world of
remote work and changed workplaces. It launched its corporate travel
product YouBiz in partnership with Mastercard.
“In the consumer world, by regulations, you can only deposit S$5,000
(US$3,600) in your wallet – so there is a spending limit. So it’s not
practical for business travellers. With corporate cards, there is no
limit. It’s powered by the same infrastructure so we will offer zero FX
fees and we will give one percent uncapped cash back on all spend,” said
Chu believes it will empower SMEs to build borderless businesses.
“The way we work has changed. The need for multi-currency operations
will only increase. Now companies realise they can hire talent from
anywhere, can put up digital storefronts and sell from anywhere, can
work with vendors anywhere. In the next five to 10 years, banking also
needs to be more borderless.”
With YouBiz, SMEs will also have the option to get credit. “Corporate
credit card penetration is low in Singapore – there are about 80,000 to
90,000 corporate credit cards but there are 300,000 SMEs, so there is a
Next in line is insurance products, which will launch in a couple of
weeks in partnership with Hong Leong Assurance. Seeing travel insurance
as an opportunity, it applied for a licence in April. “We are now
licensed as an insurance agency and can sell any insurance. We want to
start with travel, it’s on trend, it’s on people’s minds.”
Given it already has a healthy user base and will not incur any
additional customer acquisition cost, Chu said, “We will give some of
the savings back to the customer and use some of our commission income
to subsidise the sale.”
She said the plan is to offer a fuller suite of financial products and put them on one single platform.
Growing, one country at a time – “we are not a superapp”
Because of the fragmented multi-currency market in South-east Asia,
and the various banking regulations, YouTrip has had to build, one
country at a time. It took on Singapore first, then launched in Thailand
in 2019. It will launch in Malaysia in a few months. Each market launch
is done with a local partner – in Singapore, its partner is EZ-Link,
and in Thailand, it’s Kasikornbank (Kbank).
It targets outbound travellers in each market because it can only
serve the residents of each country. Chu said that while this can make
it harder to scale the business globally, that is precisely the
opportunity – to go really deep in each local market, something global
competitors (such as Revolut) cannot do.
“We can do this, solve the fragmentation problem, one by one because
we just do this. We are not an OTA trying to do fintech, we are not a
superapp, we do not want to be a superapp, you won’t see us selling
airline seats or deliveries. We are focused in expanding our suite of
She said that if anything, the pandemic helped crystallised its
purpose – to solve the fragmented multi-currency problem by creating a
borderless banking product.
“Our mission statement is to create payment innovation and give
customers the best value, utmost convenience and great reliability. As
an Asian company, we care about costs. Whatever shiny thing that comes
along is good but if you can help me save money, even better.”