Opinion

5 Countries That Do Cashless Payments Way Better Than Singapore

cashless payments singapore

Joanne Poh

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The Singapore government is pushing to create a completely cashless society, but naysayers have been insisting we’ll never make it, since our ATM networks are dense enough and nobody’s afraid of getting robbed or being paid counterfeit bills.

So it’s no surprise that there are many countries that have surged ahead of us and now do cashless payments much better than we do, such as the following.

 

Sweden

The Scandinavian countries have mastered the art of work-life balance, and now it looks like they’ve beat us at cashlessness, too. Sweden is possibly the world’s most cashless state, with an increasing number of local businesses declining to accept cash.

Less than 20% of Swedish transactions are made in cash right now, and you wouldn’t be able to pay in cash on a bus even if you wanted to.

It seems almost every business in Sweden, from big department stalls to street hotdog stands, is equipped with a card machine.

They also have their own payment system, Swish, which is purportedly used by about half the population and enables people to transfer money to each other using their mobile phone numbers. That sure beats having to download a different app for each bank, which is what Singaporeans have been doing.

 

Canada

Canada is yet another country that’s very highly ranked on the list of the world’s most cashless societies, a table on which we’ve still got a ways to go.

One of the key reasons Canadians have taken so well to cashless payments is because so many people use credit cards to pay. The majority of people use credit cards or debit cards to make their payments, with only 44% of the total number of transactions that took place in 2013, amounting to 23% of the actual momey spent, done using cash.

They’ve also adopted digital technologies very readily, from smartphone payments to the Apple watch, and are going to be testing driverless cars very soon.

 

United Kingdom

The UK might be sticklers for tradition, but as far as contactless payments go, they’ve been racing ahead of the pack. More than half of all retail transactions are now made by card.

Unlike Canada and the US, however, it is not credit cards that are driving the cashless revolution, but debit cards—in particularly, contactless ones. Contactless card payment enables customers to simply tap their cards to pay, without having to go through the hassle of signing the receipt or keying in a password.

This is something Singapore could learn from. While we do we have contactless payment options like Visa payWave, they’re far from consistently offered.

 

China

The fact that a country as big as China has shot up in the rankings of cashless societies as quickly as it has is amazing enough.

But what’s even more interesting are the cashless technologies that are unique to the nation.

The most well known of Chinese digital wallets are surely Alipay and WeChat Pay, which can be used to pay for a huge range of services, from taxi rides to street food. To put things into perspective, two years ago, bank cards were the preferred payment method of wealthy Chinese, but they’ve since been displaced by Alipay in first place and WeChat Pay in second place.

You’ll find anyone from a retail shop owner to a wet market fishmonger using QR codes and other cashless modes of payment, and it’s only going to keep growing and evolving. This is one of the other countries Singapore could definitely learn a lot from in terms of cashless implementation.

 

France

The French aren’t exactly known for being quick to embrace change. But even they have overtaken us in terms of adoption of cashless payments.

The French public’s preferred mode of payment is by payment card, which works in much the same way as NETS in Singapore. The user enters a PIN into the card machine rather than signing on a receipt. This payment option is available virtually everywhere, from ticket machines at train stations to stalls at Christmas markets.

One reason the French are so happy about an increasingly cashless society is that paying electronically makes it a lot easier to identify fiscal fraud, which happens for instance when businesses cheat on their taxes by under-declaring their receipts.

What roadblocks do you think Singapore faces on the road to becoming a cashless society? 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.