Cross-border Transactions: Focus on Payment Efficiency

Cross-border Transactions: Focus on Payment Efficiency

By Griffin Peng, Head of Product and Payments at Atlas

Travel businesses rely on cross-border payments. To ensure successful transactions, it is important to strike the right balance between cost, risk, and conversions. While costs and risk management are top considerations, payments efficiency is often overlooked. A significant share of all bookings made on online travel agency (OTA) websites are lost at the final stage due to changes in prices, technical problems, and unclear payment information. 

Griffin Peng, our Head of Product and Payments at Atlas, shares some insights on how we achieve an efficient payment flow that makes the difference between a successful and a failed transaction. 

Griffin Peng, Atlas' Head of Product and Payments
Griffin Peng, Atlas’ Head of Product and Payments

Griffin is a payment and product specialist with over 20 years of experience in the payment and banking industry. He was the first Regional Head of Ant Financial in Southeast Asia and Europe, and built Alipay’s international business and payment system from the groundup. At Atlas, Griffin is growing Atlas’ payment and product expertise. 

The typical payment-related conversation between travel agencies and their air content providers revolves around two essential questions: the available payment methods and the associated costs for each method. These questions form the foundation of the discussion. 

However, there is another question that holds equal importance – the efficiencies and success rates of these payment methods. After all, there is no use offering the best fares if your customer’s payment fails at any stage of the process. Understanding the reliability and efficiency of payment methods is paramount. 

At Atlas, we approach our payment services through this critical lens. Our goal is to enhance the payment flow’s efficiency and profitability for both travel agencies and low-cost airlines while ensuring that the prices for travelers remain reasonable. This approach entails improving every minute aspect of the payment process. 

Here are three key principles we apply to address the challenges of cross-border payments in airline retailing. 

Understanding local markets inside-out 

The latest Racounteur’s report on the future of payments clearly shows that “for merchants seeking to expand into new territories, local knowledge is the key to maintaining a smooth purchasing experience”.

Understanding and adapting your payment strategy to the local markets you operate in is a way to not just reduce your costs, but also to ensure that traveler’s payment moves smoothly through the whole payment flow and reaches the airline’s bank account promptly.  

At Atlas, we work with local payment and airline partners in each country to identify the most preferred and successful payment methods and set up the transaction route in an optimal way. 

In some countries, this involves setting up our local bank accounts, which significantly reduces the settlement time for cross-border payments. Keeping funds in local currencies also reduces exposure to foreign exchange fees and fluctuations. As a result, we can process payments in all major currencies such as EUR, USD, GBP, SGD, HKD, CNY, AUD, JPY, in real-time and with minimal costs. 

In countries like Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia, we offer tailored payment solutions in local currencies Thai Baht, Philippine Peso, and Indonesian Rupiah. 

To further increase our booking success rate, we place a strong emphasis on optimizing the payment collection process for airlines. We carefully analyze airlines’ payment requirements and put strategies in place to ensure frictionless transactions. In different markets, we have established arrangements to hold deposits with specific airlines or utilize our own Virtual Credit Cards (VCC) and B2B payment methods. We know what payment options guarantee stable transactions with specific airlines, so our customers don’t need to worry about unsuccessful payments or deposit requirements. 

Optimizing payment routings  

Depending on the markets in which a travel business operates, the optimal payment route may differ enormously. 

A “Remittance Prices Worldwide: 2023” study by the World Bank demonstrates how significantly the cost of cross-border payments can vary, depending on the country pair. For example, the average cost of sending $500 from G20 countries to Brazil is $7.68, while the remittance cost to South Korea currently sits at $1.34. 

Equally, the processing times also vary across different countries and regions. 

Finding the right balance between price and speed is another challenge for cross-border transactions, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer that would work for everyone. 

This is the reason why we invest in building a flexible and sophisticated payment ecosystem at Atlas, growing our network of payment partners and local bank accounts, so we can utilize the right elements of this ecosystem when we need them. We also leverage our technology and data capabilities to constantly analyze customers’ bookings, allowing us to offer the most optimal payment routes for each customer. 

Mixing internal expertise vs external partnerships 

Risking stating the obvious, cross-border payments are hugely complex. Regulations governing cross-border payments, currencies, transaction fees, and exchange rates, as well as customer preferences and the speed of settlement – the list goes on. 

To stay on top of all the changes and innovations in cross-border payments, we place a strong emphasis on building partnerships with external payment providers who are experts in this field, while also growing our internal payment expertise. 

Payment providers can help consolidate payment options and streamline the payment routing process. They have a wide network of connections with various payment processors worldwide and can provide access to a much larger number of currencies.  

However, what specialized payment providers can’t offer is the insider knowledge of the industry. This is why we see a lot of value in building our own specialist payment team, with backgrounds in e-commerce and finance, coupled with applied knowledge in airline retailing. 

This approach enables us to monitor the performance of different payment routes and analyze the data to identify opportunities for further optimization. We regularly reassess the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of payment routing strategies and make adjustments as necessary to ensure seamless transactions for our customers and airline partners. 


To sum up, discovering the ideal balance between cost, risk, and conversion rates is vital for travel businesses, but focusing on payment efficiency is just as important. By understanding local markets, optimizing payment routings, and combining internal and external expertise we can build a frictionless payment process that results in successful bookings.  

What are your thoughts on enhancing cross-border payment efficiency in the travel industry? Share your insights below! 



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