Easier funds transfer with expansion of PayNow, Fast in 2021

Starting February 2021, eligible non-bank financial institutions will have direct access to the banking system's retail payments infrastructure. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Consumers will soon be able to transfer funds from their bank accounts to mobile wallets, and between such e-wallets, in a faster and more hassle-free way.

This comes as two major funds transfer services will open up to non-bank financial institutions (NFIs) from February next year, in a significant step towards making digital payments here more seamless.

NFIs that are licensed as major payment institutions will be allowed to connect directly to Fast (Fast And Secure Transfers) and PayNow, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

These NFIs include Grab Financial Group, which operates mobile wallet GrabPay; Razer Fintech, the financial technology arm of gaming firm Razer; and e-wallet Singtel Dash.

The move will allow users of NFI wallets to make real-time funds transfers between their bank accounts and e-wallets, as well as between various e-wallets.

Most e-wallets currently require users to top up their funds using debit or credit cards, and do not allow transfer of funds between e-wallets.

With the change, a customer can choose to transfer funds via Fast or PayNow from his mobile banking app or internet banking platform to top up his mobile wallets, instead of keying in his credit or debit card details.

MAS managing director Ravi Menon said the move closes the "last-mile gap in Singapore's e-payments journey".

He said: "Consumers who may not have ready access to debit or credit cards to fund their e-wallets will now have the option to do so directly through their bank accounts."

Merchants are also expected to benefit as they will have a larger market of consumers than before for receiving payments instantly, said Singapore's central bank.

Businesses that partner any of the 23 Fast or nine PayNow banks, or e-wallets that have traditionally been closed-loop ecosystems, will soon be able to receive real-time payments from users of other e-wallets or mobile banking applications that will be joining Fast or PayNow.

The nine participating PayNow banks are Bank of China, Citibank, DBS Bank, HSBC, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Maybank, OCBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and United Overseas Bank.

As for the mechanics of the initiative, NFIs will be able to connect directly through a new Application Programming Interface (API) payment gateway developed by the Direct Fast Working Group.

The group is guided by the Singapore Clearing House Association and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), which govern Fast and PayNow respectively.

ABS director Ong Ai-Boon said this is the first time the industry has opened access to these two important e-payment platforms to non-banks.

"Fast and PayNow adoption rates have exceeded expectations and we are confident that the addition of new players will help accelerate the national path towards a less-cash economy," said Mrs Ong.

Fast transaction volumes averaged more than 12.5 million per month from July to September. Monthly transaction volumes for PayNow made up almost half of all Fast transactions.

Mr Lawrence Chan, chairman of Banking Computer Services, which operates Fast and PayNow, said: "The successful launch of the API payment gateway is a significant milestone for Fast and PayNow, which are the foundation of instantaneous, open and accessible payments."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.