It’s 2021, and cash is officially passé. With so many mobile payment options, it seems like all you have to do after a restaurant meal is to flash your phone in the air and that’s it!
OK, OK… that’s just the Smart Nation fantasy. The reality is that we have to spend 15 minutes staring at the decal-festooned cash register and fumbling through our app-clogged phones, trying to figure out which e-wallet app to use.
Then we perform the awkward SGQR shuffle while the next counter has already processed several other people who paid in cash.
So let’s take a look at the bazillion mobile payment apps available and decide, once and for all, which ones are worth keeping and which to delete.
Summary: Singapore’s mobile payment apps in 2021
|Payment app||How it works||Benefits|
|PayNow||PayNow (bank transfer)||—|
|DBS PayLah!||E-wallet||PayLah deals|
|UOB Mighty||PayNow||Weekly Mighty Coupons|
|OCBC Pay Anyone||PayNow & NETS||QR cash withdrawal|
|Google Pay||Credit card & PayNow||“Scratch cards” for cashback|
|Apple Pay||Credit card||—|
|Samsung Pay||Credit card||—|
|FavePay||Credit card||Earn merchant rebates|
|GrabPay||E-wallet||Earn rewards points|
|SingTel Dash||E-wallet||Earn rewards points|
|NETSPay||NETS (bank transfer)||—|
There are generally 3 types of mobile payment apps in Singapore:
- PayNow apps: Apps that allow you to scan a QR code and perform bank transfers via PayNow
- E-wallets: These require you to top up and maintain a virtual account. Same concept as EZLink cards
- NETS/credit card payments: Link your existing card to make contactless payment (i.e. PayWave)
PayNow is not an app, but a payment method that powers some of these apps. Its biggest strength is that it’s very widely used in Singapore, with everyone and their mother accepting payment via PayNow.
PayNow lets you perform bank transfers just by entering the recipient’s phone number, NRIC/FIN (individuals) or UEN (businesses). No need to remember their bank account details.
But that’s not all: You can also PayNow merchants (e.g. hawkers and taxi drivers) displaying QR codes. You’ll need to use one of these apps to scan the QR code:
- DBS/POSB accounts: DBS digibank
- OCBC accounts: OCBC SG, OCBC Pay Anyone, Google Pay
- UOB accounts: UOB Mighty
If you’re a business owner or self-employed, you can receive payments from your clients via PayNow. You can also technically receive salary payments and insurance claims via PayNow, although many businesses and insurers have not adopted it yet.
If you haven’t registered for PayNow yet, you can do so in minutes via internet banking. Log in to your preferred bank account and follow the instructions given: DBS/POSB, OCBC, UOB. You can link your phone number, NRIC/FIN, or both.
DBS PayLah is a mobile wallet app by DBS. You don’t have to have a DBS/POSB bank account to use PayLah. But if you do, you can send and receive money directly from your bank account using the app’s autodebit function.
Non-DBS/POSB account holders can also sign up for PayLah. But frankly, it’s quite troublesome. When you make payment to someone, you have to make sure your PayLah wallet is topped up (via internet banking).
DBS PayLah works with PayNow, meaning you can make PayLah transfers to almost all bank accounts in Singapore. Your recipient does not need to have PayLah.
Other than the above, PayLah lets you paying by scanning an SGQR code (exactly the same way as described in the PayNow section above), and at selected online merchants like Qoo10, Chope, Golden Village and Sistic. Check the app for tie-up deals and promotions.
We wish there were more online merchants because it’s a great solution for anyone who doesn’t like keying in their credit card online.
All 3 local banks have their own mobile payment apps, and UOB’s is called UOB Mighty. It’s only for UOB account holders.
Unlike DBS PayLah, UOB Mighty is an all-in-one app that includes regular internet banking activities as well as payments to merchants and sending/receiving funds via PayNow.
Transactions are directly linked to your savings or current accounts, so you don’t need to worry about transferring cash to an e-wallet.
What’s interesting is that UOB Mighty offers Mighty Coupons every Friday with some pretty good deals like $1 Gong Cha bubble tea, $1 Yole yogurt, and $8 off $60 on Lazada. You need to pay using your UOB Mighty app to redeem the deals.
OCBC Pay Anyone
If you’re an OCBC customer, there are several ways to jump on the PayNow bandwagon: the regular OCBC mobile banking app, OCBC Pay Anyone, and Google Pay.
We’ll cover Google Pay in the next section but let’s talk about Pay Anyone first. Like UOB Mighty, it’s an app to for making PayNow and NETS QR code payments. Transactions are directly deducted from and credited to users’ OCBC bank accounts with no need to maintain an e-wallet.
But probably the best feature is that you can use the app to withdraw cash without an ATM card at any OCBC ATM.
Google Pay has recently been revamped to become an all-in-one online payment/peer-to-peer payment/social interaction/deals app. That sounds a bit weird, but it’s obvious they’re trying to be WeChat Pay.
Before you sign up for an account, ask your friends for a referral code first. Both of you will get free money. Then, link any of the below to enable payments on purchases and/or peer-to-peer transfers.
- DBS PayLah!
- OCBC Bank account
- Standard Chartered bank account
- Any credit/debit card
You’ll need to link your PayNow as well. There is no e-wallet involved; any funds you receive (like cashback, referral bonuses, and transfers from friends) will go straight to your bank account via PayNow.
The best part of using Google Pay is that you get scratch cards when you transfer at least $10 to a friend (up to 2 scratch cards a week) or tap or scan to pay in-store (max. 2 scratch cards a week). You “scratch” these virtual cards to unveil cashback.
By the way, Apple users can use Google Pay too, but mainly for bank/PayNow transfers only. It’s nearly impossible to use the contactless credit card payment function because your iPhone will automatically pull up Apple Pay.
Apple Pay & Samsung Pay
Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are both payment apps specifically for users of a particular brand of smartphone.
To use either app, you simply link your credit/debit card to the app, then activate it by waving your phone over the contactless payment terminal at the counter. You’ll get prompted with fingerprint authentication, which offers you an added layer of security.
There’s not much to say about either app since they’re quite basic compared to Google Pay. They’re mainly for you to make contactless purchases in-store, which allow you to earn credit card points.
Apart from Apple and Samsung, there’s also Huawei Pay, but that only works with ICBC cards at the moment. So it’s un-usable for most Singaporeans.
FavePay is not exactly a mobile wallet as you don’t need to transfer any money to use it. Rather, it’s linked to your credit/debit card or GrabPay.
This is advantageous if you want to use a particular card in order to take advantage of cashback or rewards. If you use GrabPay you can earn GrabRewards points at the same time.
So why use FavePay when there are so many other e-wallets out there? One of FavePay’s biggest draws is that it rewards you with perks like discounts and cash rebates when you spend at partner merchants. For example, you can earn 5% rebtea when you patronise your favourite prata shop, to be redeemed the next time you visit.
Its range of merchants includes F&B, entertainment, beauty and retail establishments, amongst others, so it pays to browse available deals beforehand.
Grab has dominated the private hire car market ever since swallowing Uber, and their GrabPay payment method has a result become quite widely-used.
GrabPay uses an e-wallet, which requires topping-up and maintenance just like DBS PayLah! You can transfer money to your Grab wallet through PayNow or by scanning the QR code and using your banking app’s QR payment function.
Some people also link their credit cards for easier top-ups but be aware that most banks now exclude GrabPay top-ups from earning rebates/points.
The GrabPay mobile wallet can be used not only to pay for Grab rides and GrabFood deliveries, but also for in-store purchases at merchants displaying the GrabPay QR code.
GrabPay has an okay number of partner merchants including numerous restaurants, but it’s not as widespread as FavePay. But it can be worthwhile using it whenever you can as you earn GrabRewards points for every $1 you spend and can then redeem your points for vouchers and discounts.
Singtel Dash is a mobile wallet by Singtel. Like GrabPay, it’s an e-wallet and so it requires you to top up using a credit/debit card or bank account. Then you can use the app to pay at partner merchants, and for every $1 spent, you earn Dash Rewards.
Singtel Dash isn’t very widely accepted, but you can use Singtel Dash to pay FavePay merchants, which allows you to “stack” both FavePay discounts/rebates AND Dash Rewards.
One rather unique feature of Singtel Dash is that it lets you remit money to Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines, so it can be useful for users from those countries.
For many Singaporeans, NETS was the first type of cashless payment they ever used. Some small shops still accept “cash or NETS” only.
The NETSPay app lets you pay by tapping your mobile phone on a NETS FlashPay terminal, or scanning a QR code. You need to link your DBS/POSB, OCBC or UOB NETS bank card to the app, and the charge will be deducted from your bank account.
Theoretically, you should be able to use NETSPay at a wide variety of merchants. But without any extra benefits to the user, it just seems like another app you don’t need.
Which mobile payment app should you use?
Your choice of mobile payment app will depend largely on your bank, your phone and the merchants you frequent.
Right now, we’re partial to Google Pay as it supports both credit card and PayNow functions, eliminating the need for multiple apps. The scratch cards are a bonus.
If you dine out quite a lot, FavePay is also a good one as it’s widely accepted. It also stands out as it’s not just a payment method but also a discount app of sorts.
We prefer credit card apps over e-wallet apps because they’re simpler to maintain and allow us to earn credit card cash rebates. For example, these cards let you earn rebates/points on contactless payment:
- Cash Back on Online Spend & Visa Contactless
- Up to 5%
- Min. Spend
- Cash Back Cap
With financial fraud on the rise, mobile payment apps, while convenient, are a bit of a double-edged sword. The more e-wallets you have, the tougher it is to keep watch over them for any fraudulent or suspicious activity.
Regardless of what you use, be careful about linking your credit card for automatic top-ups and stay alert to phishing scams. And before you sign up for that super-attractive online promotion, check if there’s a page about it on the official bank or service provider’s website.
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