'Lucky money' via QR code a new trend

By Phan Duong   February 7, 2024 | 12:30 am PT
'Lucky money' via QR code a new trend
Anh Hang creates hairpins featuring QR codes for her children, facilitating the exchange of lucky money among parents for Tet 2024. Photo courtesy of Anh Hang
While arranging "lucky money" red envelopes for Lunar New Year (Tet), mother Anh Hang heard that people were pinning their bank account QR codes on their children to collect the highly-sought lixi.

Finding the idea reasonable, Hang, a 27-year-old office worker in Hanoi, contacted a gift shop to make a hairpin QR code for her daughter and a brooch for her son.

"It only took three days and VND80,000, including shipping fees for me to receive the goods. The product is printed clearly and it is easy for me to ‘swipe’ the code to send money," Hang said.

Her whole group of friends made hairpins, keychains, and badges and were ready to wait for this Tet to give and receive lucky money the new way.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Minh Nhat, 31 years old, was scrolling through social media and saw an advertisement for a facility that could print QR codes on New Year-themed phone cases. He ordered a pair for him and his wife with their bank account printed on the case for this Tet, costing VND200,000 ($8.18). After a few days of waiting, he received a pair of eye-catching red cases with working QR codes.

"It's been a sad year for the economy. This Tet I’ll have to rely on my kids," the father of two said jokingly.

Recently, a meme about not accepting actual red envelopes and only receiving transfers through QR codes has been spreading on social media. The keyword "lucky money with QR code" produces thousands of results so it looks like the trend has started to gain traction.

Le Van Tien, 34 years old, was among one of many who followed the trend when he uploaded a photo of his two children's faces and a QR code, then posted it on his social media page with the announcement:

"This year, Tet is forecast to be cold and rainy, If you and your relatives from near and far don't know how to give lucky money to children, just swipe the QR code in this photo and they’ll receive it."

Giving lucky money by bank transfer via QR code has become increasingly popular this Tet season, from using hairpins and keychains to phone cases and clothes, or simply sharing the code on social media.

On social media, there are hairpin groups that print QR codes on demand with up to 10,000 members.

A VnExpress keyword search "QR code lucky money" attracted more than 150,000 views on TikTok. On e-commerce platforms, there were dozens of shops selling hairpins, keychains, and phone cases printed with QR codes, with prices ranging from VND 30,000-70,000 depending on the store, with some shops having thousands of sales and hundreds of good reviews.

Trang Nhung, who prints and sells such QR code accoutrements, said the trend originated in China, then spread to Vietnam at the beginning of 2023. But it only started becoming popular this year.

Without disclosing the number of orders, Nhung said customers have been buying since two months ago. A week ago, she had to stop accepting orders because she was afraid she wouldn't be able to complete them in time. "Many customers begged but we did not dare to accept," she said.

Associate Professor Bui Xuan Dinh at the Institute of Ethnology under the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences said that lucky money, known in Vietnam as "lixi", started as a Chinese custom to express wishes of good luck and good health to children.

Initially, the custom was only practiced among merchants and manufacturers in Vietnam. They had profits and shared them with their children in the hope that their work would go smoothly.

"The principle of lucky money is new money, small denominations," said the associate professor.

According to cultural experts, receiving lucky money via QR code is too new to be judged as positive or negative yet, but its convenience can be seen. People who want to celebrate a new year do not need to exchange new cash bills, do not need to buy envelopes, and do not need to come to the child's house to meet them.

This convenience also helps people who want to celebrate the New Year but are unable to do so with family. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as living far away, not being able to return home for Tet, or not being able to visit each other because of illness or busy work schedules.

The amount of lucky money given to the child goes into the father's, or mother's, account, so the child does not directly receive the envelope – avoiding situations where children could become curious and immediately open the envelopes, leading to cases where they publicly compare and criticize the amount of money each other receive – something that is considered rude by many.

However, giving lucky money through bank transfer is not exactly a traditional custom. Some find it takes away from the true meaning of the tradition if the person giving the money does not get the chance to directly express their celebration and encouragement to the child, as well as wish them luck in their studies.

"In my opinion, it should only be considered a new form of the tradition we know, thanks to the development of information technology. We still need to try to maintain the practice of visiting each other on Tet and directly giving lucky money to children," Dinh said.

In case visiting is not possible and transferring money is the only way, you should only give a moderate amount of money, according to Dinh. Parents need to tell their children who gave them money, and how much they received, alongside any words of encouragement from the giver, so children can properly receive the true blessings. Parents need to manage their money and instruct their children on how to spend wisely.

A trending online image about not accepting cash for lucky money, only accepting bank transfers.

Psychologist La Linh Nga added that lucky money via QR code transfer, although convenient and fun, can easily be misunderstood as rude and too pragmatic.

"Scanning QR codes will take away the beauty of giving lucky money, no red envelopes filled with wishes and blessings. Money can be spent, but lucky money envelopes can be kept forever," Nga said.

Furthermore, QR scanning is not suitable for older people who are not familiar with using technology.

According to the psychologist, this trend should only be applied to groups of young people who are close to each other, and should only be done for fun to avoid awkward situations. Parents should advise children that this trend is only meant to be a fun way to experience online transfers, and should emphasize the importance of giving lucky money and cherishing the tradition.

Anh Hang still believes that scanning QR codes represents a modern, trendy lifestyle and is more fun than the traditional way of giving lucky money.

For the past three years, she has rarely used cash. Every Tet holiday, having to exchange money is a waste of time and cash, she said. Hang does not carry a lot when going out during Tet, so she had to calculate how many envelopes to bring – something that she saw as annoying.

"My kids don’t know how to keep their money, so there are times when they don’t know where they dropped it," she said.

Minh Nhat believes that lucky money is a debt that needs to be paid immediately. In previous years, there were a few times when his children followed their grandparents or went out and received lucky money without their parents being there to give it back, and he had no chance to give back later because everyone was too busy to meet during Tet.

This caused him to feel guilty for the rest of the year and hope that he’ll be able to give back double the amount on the next Tet.

"If lucky money via QR code were even more popular, I think I would not fall into such a situation," Nhat said.

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