Singapore is taking cues from China; a country where cashless now is deeply ingrained into society. As part of the government’s Smart Nation initiative, more establishments are making the move to cashless. In the case of public transport, cash top-up will no longer be an option at ticketing machines by 2020.
Cashless is an inevitability, however, there’s still confusion over what cashless systems we have in Singapore and when to use them due to the variety of options available. This guide is here to help illustrate every system we have now and what situations to use them.
The OG Singapore cashless payment method, NETS has been around for more than three decades servicing Singaporeans. NETS itself has various ways to make payments. The one most people are familiar with is using NETS-enabled cards for payment by inserting them into payment terminals and punching in your PIN. Additionally, CashCards are still widely used by drivers for parking and ERP payment.
NETS has recently added more options to aid in the convenience process. NETS FlashPay is a more convenient way to make payment. As its name suggests, all you need is to tap your NETS card; no need to type in a PIN. They’ve also introduced NETSPay, their own digital wallet app where users can also make payments through scanning QR codes.
With NETS having been established for so long, you’ll find that most shops that accept card payments do support NETS, and that includes shopping in supermarkets, F&B and clothing stores.
NETS is the most accessible payment method, making for a fairly safe option to use if you do not have cash, but the trouble with it is the number of steps you need just to make payment — you’ll need to take out your NETS-enabled card, insert it into the card reader and then enter your pin. FlashPay is not readily available at some outlets too.
PayNow, DBS PayLah! And OCBC Pay Anyone
This is a cashless system in Singapore that has many people stumped. All three are named so similarly that people often get confused on which is what.
Essentially, there is only one thing that you need to know in order to understand what three are. PayNow is a funds transfer service that helps transfer cash directly to bank accounts, while DBS PayLah! and OCBC Pay Anyone are apps that use PayNow’s service.
DBS PayLah! and OCBC Pay Anyone basically functions in similar ways, both let you transfer cash to various banks and also to make payments through scanning QR codes.
What differentiates the two is accessibility. PayLah! Can be used by anyone, even if they use different banks. Pay Anyone, however, only allows people with existing OCBC bank accounts to use the app. PayLah! Also acts more like a digital wallet compared to Pay Anyone; needing to top up whenever you’ve used up your balance.
These three cashless systems are mainly used for transferring money between peers rather than to be used as an official payment method by shops. So if you are going dutch, any of these systems are a suitable and easy method to pay back your friends. For stalls themselves, they are slowly rolling it out as an official payment option, so do check back regularly to see if your favourite shops allow you to use them.
If you have used Grab either to travel from one place to another or to order food, chances are that you have also heard of GrabPay.
Basically, if you did not use cash to pay for using those services, you’re paying with GrabPay. GrabPay is Grab’s digital payment method, using a digital wallet system that has you topping it up with money. You can pay using the QR code scanner.
Grab also has a tiered membership and rewards system in-built into the app, Using GrabPay to make payments gains you points that you can use to purchase rewards and also works towards your progress to higher tiers of members, where more rewards await.
Such is the popularity of using GrabPay that they even have their own card now, creating a new numberless debit card that can be used both locally and overseas as long as it is a Mastercard merchant. So whether it be by QR code or a GrabPay card, you essentially cannot go wrong with using GrabPay since its rewards system benefits you the more you use it. Win-win.
Another common cashless payment option for Singapore, FavePay is actually more of a supplement rather than being its own payment system.
There is no wallet system to be seen with FavePay. Rather, you connect it directly to your bank card or even your Grab account to have access to the funds to pay. The only obvious similarity between GrabPay and this would be the scanning of QR codes displayed at the cashier.
The main attraction of FavePay would be its Cashback system. The more times you shop at a certain store garners you more cashback for future purchases. This is only, of course, advantageous if you are a regular customer, so choose wisely before taking up the option to use this system for payment.
A relatively new cashless system, it has only been introduced to Singapore in March and is currently in Beta testing.
Like most other cashless payment systems, this employs a digital wallet system and lets you pay by scanning valid Razer Pay or SGQR QR codes. Since Razer is a gaming company, the app is integrated to include gaming.
As of now, there aren’t many participating merchants besides Dunkin’ Donuts and Buzz convenience stores. Many promotions running on their social media also are catered only to the Malaysian market. More updates will undoubtedly be made once the full roll-out of the app is made available.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay
Phones are such a necessity for users now that it is usually the first thing in their hands. What these three services do is essentially take away the hassle of looking for your card and simply use your phone as the card instead.
What separates these three services from each other is the type of phone being used. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are specific to the Apple and Samsung smartphones respectively while Google Pay can be used by anyone with an Android phone running KitKat 4.4 or higher.
To use any of these, you need to have a Near Field Communication (NFC) capable phone. Then, just input your card details into the respective apps (for Apple Pay, it is under the Wallet app), that’s it! Any merchants with NFC-ready terminals can be used to make payments, simply hover your phone near the reader, authenticate your ID (PIN CODE, Fingerprint unlock or Face unlock) and you’re done.
These apps are especially useful to use overseas as well. Once you enable currency exchange for your card, you can use the phone to pay for things in other countries. You can leave your cards in a safe place and have less worry about having them stolen while still enjoying shopping.
Don’t be confused by the company name attached to this app. Yes, it is a telco, but anyone can use the app. It functions similarly to most of the options listed here; simply add value to the digital wallet by using your bank account and scan QR codes to make payments or make use of your phone’s NFC to commute on public transport.
Additionally, it has a feature called Dash Visa Virtual Account that turns your phone into a Visa card and you can use it to pay at any retailer that has a Visa payWave terminal.
Although you don’t have to be a Singtel customer to use the app, those who are will get additional benefits. Users can choose to add payments to their Singtel bill instead of topping up. Also, Those who have Singtel prepaid accounts can instantly top up using the app, receiving 15% bonus talktime/IDD and free incoming calls when they top up S$10 or more.
There are many interesting deals available for those who use Singtel Dash. Offerings of cashback are listed among the list of deals, such as a S$0.50 cashback for S$3 purchases at hawker centres and free 1GB of data monthly for completing five ComfortDelGro rides.
Singtel Dash is not adopted as much by retailers as some of the other options listed here, but those who are Singtel users might want to check this out for the additional benefits. Do connect a Visa account as well so that there are more opportunities for you to use this system.
Now you should have a better understanding of the cashless systems in Singapore. It may not be the most exhaustive list, but hopefully, this knowledge can help you determine which system to adopt and when to use it.
Visuals courtesy Samsung, Razer, Singtel and NETS. Additional visual of DBS Paylah!, OCBC Pay Anyone and GrabPay by Darren Chiong and Soloman Soh of the DANAMIC team.