More Singapore consumers choose e-payments over cash

Country has highest percentage of consumers, at 87 percent, in Southeast Asia who prefer electronic payments over cash, fuelled primarily by growing preference for debit cards.

Growing preference for debit cards is driving more Singapore shoppers towards electronic payments, with just 11 percent forking out physical cash.

Some 87 percent of consumers in the city-state expressed preference for e-payments, which was the highest in the Southeast Asian region, according to the 2016 Visa Consumer Payment study, conducted by Toluna. The survey polled 500 Singaporeans on their attitudes towards various payment modes, including cash, mobile banking, online shopping, and contactless cards.

The country's increased preference for e-payments was fuelled by debit card usage, which grew 7 percent over the previous year. Some 62 percent said they own and actively used debit cards, up 13 percent from 2015.

Another 48 percent said they carried more payment cards now than five years ago and their increased use of payment cards, mobile wallets, and contactless cards drove down the amount of cash they had in their wallets. Some 52 percent believed it was safer to use their cards than cash for payments.

Visa's Singapore and Brunei country manager, Ooi Huey Tyng, noted that while more than 60 percent of transactions in Singapore were made electronically, this also meant 40 percent still were made using cash and cheques.

"Certain segments in Singapore, such as hawker centres, food courts, and wet markets, are heavily cash-based," Ooi said, urging the need for the wider industry to collaborate and facilitate migration from cash with the introduction of new digital services in these segments. This would help Singapore "become truly cashless", she added.

The government had began pushing the need for a cashless society, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself noting the lack of e-payment adoption in the country. He had stressed the need for a robust infrastructure, including a digital identification service, to facilitate such transactions

As part of efforts to drive this initiative, the Singapore government in March said the central bank was planning to deploy a Central Addressing Scheme to facilitate digital cash transfers. This would enable mobile phone numbers of business unique entity numbers to be linked to bank accounts, allowing allow funds to be transferred without the need to divulge bank account details.

According to the Visa survey, 68 percent of Singapore consumers said they were using e-payments such as mobile devices and wearables more often and moving away from cash payments.

Another 66 percent said they wanted payments to be fully automated, bypassing the need for manual processes to pay for goods and services, and 60 percent expressed comfort in using biometrics such as fingerprint and facial recognition to authenticate payments.

The survey also revealed higher awareness of contactless payments, with 91 percent of Singapore respondents last year familiar with the payment model, compared to 87 percent in 2015.

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