Banks see spike in e-hongbao usage over CNY weekend

DBS Bank said more than 9,000 DBS eGift transactions were made over the first two days of Chinese New Year. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - More people are giving hongbao (red packets) to their loved ones through digital channels, with banks seeing a surge in e-hongbao adoption last weekend.

DBS Bank said more than 9,000 DBS eGift transactions were made over the first two days of Chinese New Year - last Friday and Saturday (Feb 12 and 13) - and this was a 108 per cent surge from the same period last year.

The total amount transacted also spiked 215 per cent to $595,000.

DBS also saw higher usage of its QR Gift cards, which are physical gift cards that substitute traditional red packets.

They allow users of the DBS PayLah! app to scan a QR code to load cash. Non-DBS customers can also receive the QR Gift as long as they have registered for PayNow.

Some 32,000 DBS QR Gift cards were loaded with a total of $2 million as at last Saturday.

This compares with the 18,000 QR Gift cards with about $660,000 loaded in the same period last year.

Customers also gave more generously. The average value of a DBS eGift rose 51 per cent year on year to $65, while that of a QR Gift rose 69 per cent to $61.

Mr Jeremy Soo, DBS managing director and head of its consumer banking group in Singapore, said: "By harnessing our digital capabilities, customers are still able to celebrate CNY joyfully and safely while retaining the meaningful tradition of gifting and sharing blessings for the new year with our QR hongbao."

Meanwhile, OCBC Bank said transactions on its Pay Anyone app rose more than 140 per cent year on year in the first two days of Chinese New Year.

Mr Gary Wong, the bank's head of digital payments, said more people are getting comfortable with e-payments.

The volume of PayNow transactions made by UOB customers on the first two days of Chinese New Year tripled from last year.

Ms Jacquelyn Tan, the bank's head of group personal financial services, said customers used the bank's digital red packet design for more than 100,000 PayNow transactions on the UOB Mighty app in just under two weeks of the design's launch on the app.

A Maybank spokesman said PayNow transactions on the first and second day of Chinese New Year tripled from last year.

Likewise, PayNow transactions at Standard Chartered Bank surged by more than 400 per cent from a year ago last Friday and Saturday, with the total amount transacted almost tripling.

A Standard Chartered spokesman said: "Given the limitations with regard to physical interactions and gatherings, and the new cashless habits which many consumers have adopted in the last year, there have been a stronger growth in e-hongbao adoption this year".

The industry-wide push for digital payments has also led to greater awareness and usage of e-hongbao, he added.

There have been almost five million PayNow registrations as at last month, with more than $50 billion being transacted since the service's launch in July 2017.

PayNow monthly transaction values crossed $5 billion last December alone.

The spike in PayNow usage during the festive season comes amid the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) push for Singaporeans to opt for e-hongbao and use older notes as more sustainable options.

Around 330 tonnes of carbon emissions are generated by producing new notes, favoured for red packet gifting, each Chinese New Year.

The MAS previously told ST that around 100 million new notes have been issued for the festive season, with the amount being similar to last year. Singapore's central bank said it aims "to strike a balance between preserving traditions and securing a sustainable future for our environment".

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