Singapore to cut use of cash, aiming to become cheque-free by 2025: Ong Ye Kung

The use of cash and cheques has been coming down steadily in recent years, said Minister for Education and Monetary Authority of Singapore board member Ong Ye Kung.
The use of cash and cheques has been coming down steadily in recent years, said Minister for Education and Monetary Authority of Singapore board member Ong Ye Kung.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans are adopting online payments with such gusto that the Government hopes that the country will be cheque-free by 2025.

The latest step will allow business owners and the Government to receive payments instantaneously, without having to disclose details such as bank account numbers.

This is made possible with the expansion of the PayNow transfer service to include businesses.

PayNow Corporate will start at 8am on Aug 13, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) announced on Wednesday (June 20).

Education Minister and Monetary Authority of Singapore board member Ong Ye Kung noted last night that more than eight in 10 Singapore consumers have adopted e-payments, while nearly three in five merchants accept e-payments.

The value of e-payments has been growing by more than $10 billion a year.

Meanwhile, ATM cash withdrawals have been going down by more than $300 million a year.

In 2015, ATM cash withdrawals were almost 60 per cent of e-payment transaction values. This was down to about 40 per cent by the end of last year.

"Let us aim to bring this down to 20 per cent in 2020," said Mr Ong, who was speaking at the ABS' 45th annual dinner.

 
 
 
 

"We don't need to be literally a cashless society - some people will always find cash useful - but we certainly can transact with a lot less cash, and we won't need to visit the ATM so often."

The share of cheques as a proportion of all payments using the Fast (Fast and Secure Transfers) interbank transfer service, Giro and cheques was about 28 per cent last year, down from 37 per cent in 2015.

"Let us aim to bring that down to 15 per cent in 2020 and become a cheque-free society by 2025. Sweden has done it. We can too," said Mr Ong.

He said there will also be added consumer protection against e-payment risks, with a new Payment Services Bill to be introduced later this year.

PayNow, which was launched last year, lets users send payments via their mobile phones without requiring bank account details. It has around 1.4 million registrations, and nearly $900 million has been transferred via the service.

PayNow Corporate will have seven participating banks: Citibank, DBS, HSBC, Maybank, OCBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and UOB.

Mr Ong said: "Government agencies are actively exploring using PayNow for other disbursements," he said. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education piloted disbursing Edusave Awards to students via PayNow.

ABS chairman Piyush Gupta, who is also chief executive of DBS Group Holdings, acknowledged at last night's dinner at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre that there is a pushback to going cashless in some segments of society.

"There are also concerns about the financial exclusion of certain sections of society, such as the elderly or lower-income citizens," he added.

Mr Rohit Joshi, head of global liquidity and cash management at HSBC Singapore, said PayNow "is especially useful for one-off payments like insurance claims and casual labour wages".

"Remitters don't need to keep track of payee details. That data is maintained at a central depository managed by a third party," he said.