American Express launches first NFC prepaid card in S'pore

Strong government emphasis on NFC-based payment technology and partner relationships convince American Express to partner EZ-Link to introduce its contactless prepaid card here.

SINGAPORE--American Express has chosen Singapore to launch its first contactless prepaid card by partnering local payment company EZ-Link to release the youth-targeted offering.

At the launch of the EZ-Link Imagine American Express prepaid card (Imagine card) here Wednesday, Kula Kulendran, executive vice president and head of global network services for Japan, Asia-Pacific and Australia at American Express International, said it decided on Singapore because of the government's push in contactless payment technology. Its strong ties with the locally-based EZ-Link also played a part, he added.

Kulendran said American Express is excited about emerging payment technologies--which it defined to include contactless payment, e-commerce, mobile wallets and other non-credit card payment methods--as these offer more convenience and greater efficiencies to users.

The EZ-Link CEO Nicholas Lee added during the launch that the partnership with American Express for the Imagine card took months of planning given they needed to tailor it to meet the needs of young adults.

Young adults these days are prudent, savvy and want to be in control over their finances, and a prepaid card enables them to do so as they only load the card with the amount they want to spend, said Johanna Toh, vice president of EZ-Link.

The prepaid card, which doubles up as a transport fare card in Singapore, will be available at Transit Link offices starting Nov. 1, but customers can apply for the card online from today, Toh said. The card will cost S$50, and users will have S$40 credit for purchases.

Customers can check their card balances online or via an Android app, she added. The iOS app will be available later, but no specific date was provided.

Strengthening Singapore's NFC backbone
Kulendran pointed out that while American Express is not directly involved with the country's nationwide near-field communication (NFC) development, it is supportive of the government and other private sector partners such as EZ-Link.

The company has been separately investing in contactless payment infrastructure, so local merchants can accept payment from cards such as the Imagine prepaid card, the executive noted.

Singapore has been pushing for contactless payments for some years now. In 2009, the government announced it would facilitate the development of an interoperable infrastructure for mobile payments using near-field communication (NFC) technology. This infrastructure went live in August this year .

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story misstated the prepaid card as a "prepaid credit card". This article has been updated to reflect the changes.]