Going cash-free at hawker centres will soon be a reality as Nets, the Network for Electronic Transfers Singapore, rolls out new initiatives to promote cashless payments.
The company is already testing out contactless FlashPay card systems at 10 stalls at the Beo Crescent Market and Food Centre near Havelock Road, and a hawker centre in Clementi Central is the next in line to use the system.
Contactless payments are transactions made by waving a card over a reader, instead of signing a charge slip or entering a PIN code.
Bedok's upcoming hawker centre at Block 208B along New Upper Changi Road, due to open in October, will be 100 per cent cashless, said Nets chief executive Jeffrey Goh. To pay, consumers simply tap a FlashPay card on a small electronic terminal that hawkers can preload with item prices.
Mr Goh told The Straits Times: "For old hawker centres, we have to go stall to stall to encourage owners to sign up. We have to create awareness, generate acceptance and inspire action."
He notes that it costs about $10,000 to set up this system in a typical hawker centre of 30 stalls. Stall owners can rent the micropayments terminal for $28 each month.
Madam Alison Koh, 52, co-owner of Uncle Lim's Beverages at the Beo Crescent centre, said the $28 fee is reasonable and she likes the convenience.
"You don't have to look for change which includes coins. It saves a lot of time as it is cashless. It is also more hygienic because you don't use wet hands to handle the cash. Our hands tend to get wet especially since we're a drinks stall, and some customers don't like that," she said.
Mrs Jessy Nara, 42, an administrative executive, used the system at the Beo Crescent centre last week and found payment a breeze.
Said Mr Goh: "Hawkers are the last frontier. You can use almost all your cards at all shops except at hawker centres. We are also open to implementing this at wet markets."
He added that wet markets in Scandinavian countries are already cashless.
Nets is also going a step further by looking into developing a self-service electronic system for hawkers, which could boost productivity, given that it is difficult to hire stall assistants.
A prototype of a self-service machine will be out in three to four months, said Mr Goh.
Nets has also created a contactless payment tag - in the form of a waterproof wristband - for Resorts World Sentosa, slated to be launched within two months.
In 2011, there were 68,000 retail points accepting Nets payment, but not all accepted FlashPay.
Today, there are 85,000 retail points that accept payment by both Nets and FlashPay, and Mr Goh hopes to hit 100,000 retail points in the next few years.
Said Mr Goh: "For 29 years, since Nets was formed, we've been talking about going cashless, but we need to seriously focus (our efforts)."