Fare payments: LTA studying 'contactless' credit and debit cards

Commuters tapping their cards at the fare gates at Ang Mo Kio MRT station.
Commuters tapping their cards at the fare gates at Ang Mo Kio MRT station.PHOTO: ST FILE

Commuters may be able to use their "contactless" credit and debit cards to pay for bus and train rides in future, as part of a new payment option the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is exploring.

With the system, commuters can tap their credit cards in and out at train station fare gates or on bus card readers, just like using stored- value fare cards.

And there will be no need for top-ups. Commuters will be charged for their trips through their credit or debit cards, similar to a post-paid telco subscription or an utility bill. Details of the payment process for debit cards are still being worked out.

A tender was called by the LTA yesterday for a consultancy study into this account-based ticketing system to gauge its feasibility. The study is expected to start in the second quarter of this year.

"Should the account-based ticketing pilot be successful, Singapore would be one of the few cities in the world to adopt this fare payment system," said LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong. "Commuters can look forward to having more choices for fare payment without the hassle of topping up their fare cards."

In London, a similar payment system called Contactless has been implemented on buses since 2012, and on the train network two years later.

For such a system to be rolled out here, the software of fare gates and card readers on buses has to be upgraded to accept credit and debit cards that have EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chips. These are "contactless" as they do not have to be swiped like the usual bank cards.

Such cards are already available in the market, such as Visa's payWave and MasterCard's PayPass.

In London's Contactless system, commuters can track their journeys and fare history, and apply for refunds through a Web account on the Transport for London website.

It is understood that the LTA will have a similar Web portal should its system take off.

LTA said a trial will be conducted in the fourth quarter of this year. Besides the tender for the consultancy, another will be held to appoint an "acquiring bank" to process payments made.

Public relations consultant Celina Lim, 27, said it would be convenient to use her credit card for train and bus rides.

"I don't have to top up my fare cards any more. During the rush hours in the mornings, the queues at the top-up machines at the MRT station can be very long," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'Fare payments: LTA studying 'contactless' credit and debit cards'. Print Edition | Subscribe