7 Ways to Save Money & Time on Public Transport in Singapore
Singaporeans complain about MRT breakdowns all the time, but the truth is that we’re a lucky bunch. Objectively speaking, the Singapore public transport system is reasonably efficient. Try taking the trains and buses in Bangkok and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for our transportation network.
It’s also pretty affordable, even with the recently announced 7% fare hike. (Not that this is going to stop us from grumbling about it, of course.) That said, there are a few ways you can shave either time or money off your commute:
1. Tap into the MRT before 7:45am
Taking the train during morning pre-peak hours used to be free, but even though that policy has been scrapped, you can still benefit from rising early.
Tapping in before 7.45am will earn you $0.50 off your MRT fares. If your ride costs under $0.50, it’s free!
Here’s an example taken from the Public Transport Council site. For a commuter who taps in at Jurong East and taps out at Bishan before 7.45, this is how much he will pay as compared to other peak-hour commuters:
|Commuter Group||Current Fare||Discounted Fare*|
If you’re consistent in being early, the savings do add up. You’d be saving $11 a month (22 working days), which is a few meals’ worth in Singapore!
2. Link your EZ-Link to the right credit card
There are quite few credit cards that can earn you some pretty neat rebates when you top up your EZ Link card for public transport. With the introduction of SimplyGo in April 2019, there’s a whole range of cards you can use — even air mile cards!
We won’t go into the full list here, but these are the 2 more popular credit cards for public transport:
Maybank Family & Friends Credit Card — Highest cash rebate
- Up to 8% cash rebate on groceries, shopping, dining, food deliveries, petrol, and entertainment spend
- Up to 8% cash rebate on bus, train, and taxi rides
- 8% or 5% cash rebate with minimum spend of S$1000/S$500 per month respectively. Cash rebate cap at S$600/year
- Get 0.3% cash rebate on all other spend with no cap on cash rebates
The Maybank Family & Friends card has the highest cash rebate of 8% for public transport rides. The catch is that you need to spend $800 per month to earn it, although this card functions very well as a multi-category cashback card so you can easily consolidate all your regular spending on it.
Alternatively, you can hit a minimum spend of $500 and you’ll still get a 5% rebate, which is relatively good too. Anything under $500 is a waste – you only get 0.3%.
Citi SMRT Card
- Up to 5% savings on on Groceries. 4.7% (For transactions above $50. If transaction is $50 and below, 2.7% awarded instead) + 0.3% (If monthly card spend is at least $300)Up to 5% savings on Fast Food, Movies & Coffee. 4.7% + 0.3% (if monthly card spend is at least $300)
- Up to 3% savings on Online Shopping. 2.7% + 0.3% (If monthly card spend is at least $300)
- Up to 2% savings on Health & Beauty. 1.7% + 0.3% (If monthly card spend is at least $300). Including GNC, Guardian, Nature's Farm, NTUC Unity Healthcare & Watson's
- Up to 2% EZ-Reload Auto Top-up. 0.3% + 1.7% (If top-up more than $30. If $30 or less, 0.7% awarded instead)
- Up to 5% savings for the following with monthly spend of at least $300. 5% at POPULAR Bookstores and Toys"R"Us, 5% at selected Town Councils for Service and Conservancy Charges, 1% savings on Telecommunication bills, 1% on selected Insurance providers, 1% on SPH Newspaper Subscriptions. If monthly spend is less than $300, SMRT$ earn rate will be 0.3% less.Savings awarded in SMRT$. 1 SMRT$ = S$1 of vouchers. Vouchers available for Giant, Sheng Siong, SMRT, Popular, Watsons, Shaw Theatres
- 0.3% awarded on all other spend categories
The Citi SMRT Card is one of the best for public transport – you get 1% rebate in SMRT$ (which is convertible to cash rebates at no cost) when you use the EZ-Reload Auto Top-up function for transactions under $30. If you spend above $30 per transaction, the rebates are bumped up to 2%.
If your monthly statement retail purchases are less than $300, your SMRT$ earn rate will be 0.3% less.
3. Get a public transport concession card (maybe)
I’ll just put it out there. For most people, the Adult Concession Card is not worth it. At $120 per month, you’ll need to travel A LOT to actually benefit from it.
For example, if you live in Jurong and travel to Expo from Monday to Friday for work, you’ll only spend $85.80 ($1.95 per trip, 2x a day for about 22 days) per month. And how many of us actually do cross-country commutes daily?
There’s a one-time $5 card cost and a $3.10 personalisation fee too.
This concession card is probably only useful for those whose jobs require them to travel a lot, like property agents, for instance. If you’re not sure how much you typically spend, you can try to calculate it with the MRT fare calculator and bus fare calculator.
4. Download the EZ-Link Rewards app
Did you even know that you can earn EZ-Link Rewards? Sadly, this scheme isn’t the most enticing…
Basically you link your EZ-Link card to the EZ-Link Rewards app and earn 1 point for every $0.10 spent. I am not a fan because the rewards are mostly vouchers and, uhm, other EZ-Link products. I don’t want to spend more money and I certainly don’t need more EZ-Link cards.
It used to be that you can earn extra data if you’re a Circles Life user, but this scheme has now ended. (Time to look for other SIM Only telco providers?)
Seasonally, though, you will get practical rewards like a free Curry O from Old Chang Kee, Aglio Olio from Pastamania or Classic Kraftwich from, well, Kraftwich.
5. Download schedule apps like Gothere.sg
Well you know what they say – time is money!
Sometimes getting around takes longer than it should, and it’s because you need to change trains and/or buses, or take an inefficient train route (like from Pasir Ris to Expo). Here are some tips to help you save time while taking public transport in Singapore.
I personally use Singabus – and I swear by it, it’s accurate to the minute! – but there are many bus and train schedule apps in the market. The “official” one is My Transport SG by the LTA, and there’s also the Next Bus by SBS.
6. Try bus-pooling apps like Beeline or GrabShuttle
If you’d like to save time by NOT taking public transport, there are a few car- and bus-pooling options for you to try.
GrabShuttle is like an “adult school bus” – you request for a route on the app, and if there are enough people going the same way, you can book a seat for your daily commute to work.
Beeline, and ShareTransport.sg work the same way. These bus-pooling services have quite competitive prices of $3.50 to $5 per trip on average. It’s definitely more expensive than taking the public bus and train, but it could potentially save you a lot of time if your route requires lots of train and bus changes.
7. Or go for car-pooling apps like GrabHitch and Ryde
Want a comfy car ride to work, but can’t bear to spend the cash on taxis? Go for car-pool services like GrabHitch. It’s usually 40% to 50% cheaper than a regular Grab (or even GrabShare) ride. Cheaper than taking a cab for sure, but be prepared to spend a few hundred bucks per month.
You’ll need to schedule rides at least 10 minutes in advance, though, so GrabHitch is not really an option if you’re in a rush. If you can plan ahead, you may be able to get repeat hitch drivers who are nice and get a comfortable and cheap ride daily.
Do you have any other “aunty” tricks to save on public transport in Singapore? Share it with us in the comments below!