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What Does Singapore Need to Do to be Fully Cashless?

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Joanne Poh

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Everybody has that one friend who always uses the excuse that he has “no cash” when the bill arrives, and then promises to pay you back when he finds an ATM machine, which of course, never happens.

The day when you can finally stop accepting his lame excuses is fast arriving, because cashless and cardless transactions are becoming increasingly common in Singapore. You will no longer have to fish around in your wallet for that crumpled $10 bill or sift in confusion through your collection of credit cards.

Quite a few retail outlets like 7-11 now accept payment by EZ-Link, and with the rise of Apple Pay and Android Pay, losing your smartphone will become even more of a nightmare. Experts predict that we’ll someday be paying for stuff with other items like tokens or even our thumbprints.

But until Singapore becomes a fully cashless and cardless society, it looks like we’ll still have to put up with the likes of Mr “Sorry No Cash”. Here’s what needs to happen before we get there.

 

Let people know when there are cashless options available

Have you ever noticed how sometimes the cashier just waves your card over a sensor that beeps instead of swiping your it and then getting you to sign the receipt? If so, then you’ve already paid by Visa PayWave or MasterCard PayPass, probably without knowing it.

And it’s precisely because people don’t know it that cashless payment isn’t taking off as fast as it should be. For instance, few people have any idea what Visa PayWave is or when you can use it. In case you didn’t know, it lets you pay by beeping your Visa credit card, which saves time since the cashier doesn’t need to go through the whole drill of printing out a receipt. For those of you that have taken a trip to Australia recently, you’ll know what I’m talking about because using PayWave is so much more natural there.

And businesses aren’t helping, either. The fact that cashless payments like Visa PayWave, MasterCard PayPass or EZ-Link payment are accepted is rarely advertised. For instance, bet you didn’t know that you could EZ-Link to pay at certain llao llao, Old Chang Kee and Jollibean outlets? If you work in the CBD, did you know you could pay for an entire meal at The Rotisserie using EZ-Link? Me neither, because at these outlets nobody says a word about it.

In order to make cashless payments more widespread, customers need to be constantly reminded until it becomes a habit.

Establishments can be encouraged to ask customers if they want to pay using Visa PayWave, MasterCard PayPass, EZ-Link, Apple Pay, Android Pay and so on.

If more people realised they could use contactless payment methods, people would spend less time standing in queues and maybe Singaporeans would lose our reputation as master queuers.

 

Incentivise consumers and businesses to use contactless payment methods

While contactless payment may be a time saver, many consumers just can’t be bothered to download Apple Pay or Android Pay in order to save a minute or two per day. No, they need a more compelling reason.

The same goes for merchants. When customers pay using Visa PayWave or MasterCard PayPass, the merchant pays the same Visa and MasterCard fees as they would for regular credit card transactions.

That’s why most corporations and business owners don’t really care if you bother to use the available contactless systems or not. They’re not the ones standing at the counter dealing with customers who spend 5 lifetimes peering into their wallets looking for that 5 cent coin, the cashier who’s being paid $6 an hour is, so let him deal with it.

Clearly, more carrots are going to have to be dangled in order to incentivise consumers and businesses alike to start using contactless or mobile payment methods, perhaps by reducing fees.

 

Boost mobile payments for everyday activities

In order to turn mobile payments into something people automatically use, you’ve got to start from the ground up. That means targeting activities that people partake in on a daily basis, like taking the MRT, buying groceries, buying stuff from convenience stores and having weekday lunches in the CBD.

NTUC FairPrice outlets already accept Visa PayWave, so this is one place where they can start drilling into people’s brains that contactless payment is available. There are also some credit cards you can use as an EZ-Link card, but despite the allure of not having to carry around so many darned cards in your wallet, few people know they have this option.

There’s a lot of potential for hawker centres and food courts when it comes to contactless payment. It’s a hassle for hawkers to have to handle money while trying to make sure the wok doesn’t burn the whole stall down.

At the moment, it seems merchants need a little push in order to start offering contactless payment despite the fact that it could potentially boost efficiency and make life a lot easier for harried employees. Perhaps some juicy government subsidies might be needed in order to turn us into a truly cashless society.

Do you often use contactless payment methods? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • Patrick

    Nope. Don’t agree. Big Brother society. Cash is best. Spend only what you have. You name it, there are many more reasons not to go cashless. I believe many will agree.

    Why does $10 dollar bill have to crumpled, as you say. I like the smell of freshly printed notes.

    This article is very much bias. You could do better to present a balance view.