Why It Matters

Hurdles remain in cashless move

Two local payment giants Nets and EZ-Link are working together to bring cashless payments to hawker centres from April.

Their approach? Allow holders of ez-link cards, including concession cards, to tap on Nets terminals to pay for food or drinks .

Almost everyone, including senior citizens and students, has such a card. Even if they don't have an e-wallet on their phones for tapping on contactless payment terminals, they will not be left behind in Singapore's journey towards a unified cashless ecosystem in hawker centres and the heartland.

Nets currently has payment terminals at some 1,000 hawker stalls. It has a long way to go before reaching all 14,000 hawker stalls here, but this is a good starting point.

Challenges, however, await the two payment stalwarts.

They have to work out a commercial deal that is viable for both companies should their partnership extend beyond the 1,000 hawker stalls. This will depend on whether EZ-Link gets enough transactions on its cards.

Both parties also have to convince the public that tapping a card on a payment reader is faster than paying with cash. Nobody likes to hold up a queue.

And for some people, topping up the ez-link card could be an extra step. Paying cash or tapping one's phone on Nets terminals for direct debit via an e-wallet is more fuss-free.

In addition, a separate initiative may thwart Nets and EZ-Link's goal of reaching senior citizens and students, who may not have bank accounts but hold ez-link cards, including concession cards.

Topping up a card using cash at ticketing machines in MRT stations will no longer be possible by 2020. Those who do not have a bank account will have to open one just to top up their cards, or ask a friend or family member to top up for them.

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