Will cashless public transport be convenient for all?

Reader Lim Kger Liang wrote in to ask how the Government's plan to make the public transportation system cashless will accommodate the elderly as well as school-going children.

As part of Singapore's Smart Nation push, the Land Transport Authority announced last week that by 2020, all bus and train rides in Singapore will be paid for using travel cards, with cash top-ups no longer available at passenger service centres in MRT stations.

Since January, payment options such as credit and debit cards, as well as mobile payment platforms such as Apple Pay, have been added to ticketing machines.

"Will the elderly and school-going children have to carry a bank card everywhere they go?" asked Mr Lim.

"Will using mobile platforms be more of a convenience or a hassle?"

Transport reporter Zhaki Abdullah has the answers.


The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has promised commuters a "progressive" approach in the move towards a cashless public transportation system, including accommodating the elderly and "less digitally savvy".


Passenger service centres at 11 MRT stations, including Buona Vista, will no longer offer cash top-ups from next month. However, general ticketing machines at these stations will still accept cash. TransitLink officers will be at these stations to help commuters learn to use these machines for both cash top-ups and electronic payments. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

At the 11 MRT stations where passenger service centres will no longer offer cash top-ups from next month - Admiralty, Bedok, Bukit Panjang, Buona Vista, Farrer Park, HarbourFront, Hougang, Lakeside, Pasir Ris, Serangoon and Yew Tee - general ticketing machines in the stations will still accept cash.

TransitLink officers will also be at these stations to help commuters learn to use the ticketing machines for both cash top-ups and electronic payments.

The LTA will also work with government agencies and grassroots organisations to familiarise residents with electronic payment methods.

From 2020, when all bus and train rides here are expected to be fully cashless, cash top-ups will continue to be available at selected places in the vicinity of transport nodes, such as convenience stores. But these top-up services currently incur a 50-cent surcharge.

For school-going children, who by virtue of their age are not allowed to own ATM cards or debit and credit cards, expanded top-up options are being explored. These include allowing their travel cards to be topped up by their parents or guardians.

Currently, the minimum age to own a POSB ATM card is 15, and those below 15 must have a consent form signed by a parent or guardian, or the principal of their school, in order to acquire a card. Other banks have higher age limits.

Plans to remove the cash option at the 39 TransitLink ticketing offices at MRT stations and bus interchanges are also being studied "very carefully" before they are implemented.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Will cashless public transport be convenient for all?'. Print Edition | Subscribe