Cheque payments, cash withdrawals falling amid rise of e-payments: Ong Ye Kung

SINGAPOREANS have been making more contactless payments, thanks to the availability of multiple e-payment services including digital wallets, QR code payments and peer-to-peer fund transfer service PayNow, said Education Minister and Monetary Authority of Singapore board member Ong Ye Kung. 

Cheque volumes have been decreasing by 8 per cent annually over the last three years, while ATM cash withdrawals relative to card and FAST (fast and secure) payments have fallen from about 50 per cent to 30 per cent over the same period, said Mr Ong in response to a parliamentary question on Tuesday about cashless transactions in Singapore.

The Singapore government is gunning for a cashless society by 2025. 

Mr Ong noted that after its launch in July 2017, PayNow saw 150,000 transactions totaling about S$24 million in the first month of operations. This volume has grown to over 5 million transactions in July this year, with total monthly values above S$1 billion, he said. 

PayNow lets users send payments via their mobile phones without requiring bank account details.

There have been 2.8 million individual PayNow registrations to date, of which 1.8 million are bank accounts linked to mobile phone numbers, with the rest linked to NRIC numbers, said the minister. It is estimated that more than 65 per cent of Singaporeans aged between 20 to 75 have already registered for PayNow, he said.

For PayNow Corporate, more than 115,000 unique entity numbers (UEN) have been registered, representing around 50 per cent of UENs listed to active businesses. 

While the take-up for PayNow has been "encouraging", Mr Ong noted that "there is more work to do" to drive the adoption rate of QR code payments in Singapore.

More than 32,000 SGQR code labels - Singapore's single unified QR payment interface - were deployed across a range of merchants since September 2018, including retail stores, hawker centres and supermarkets. But this only represents a 20 per cent penetration rate of all retail acceptance points nationwide, said Mr Ong. 

To encourage cashless payments in hawker centres, unified e-payment terminals - developed by Enterprise Singapore and Nets - have been deployed at small food stalls since December last year.

To date, over 500 stalls across 10 hawker centres, 22 coffeeshops and 12 industrial canteens have been equipped with SGQR code labels and unified point-of-sale terminals, said Mr Ong.

"E-payments usage at these stalls is gradually increasing and four out of five e-payment transactions are via SGQR. While the
volume of e-payments is still low compared to cash, we expect it to grow," said Mr Ong. 

"E-payments are convenient to use at hawker stalls, and payment operators are looking into ways to make it even more convenient for hawkers," he said.