Topping up ez-link cards to pay for food may be a problem

A customer using her EZ-link card to pay at a hawker centre. PHOTO: NETS

In the report on e-payments at hawker centres, Nets and EZ-Link said they ensured that senior citizens and students - who might not have bank accounts but most likely carried ez-link cards - would not be left behind in the drive towards going cashless (Ez way to pay for food at hawker centres; Jan 25).

However, as all ticketing machines at MRT stations will accept only cashless top-ups, such as via Nets and debit and credit cards, by 2020, how would these people be able to top up their ez-link cards to pay for their hawker food?

Nets and debit cards require bank accounts, and credit cards are not within the reach of low-income folk.

A fee of 50 cents a top-up is charged at 7-Eleven stores; being a private enterprise, it is not likely that it would waive such fees.

Besides, the point has been raised in the past that attacks by hackers on a country's infrastructure are an increasing possibility. So cash payments should still be made available as a redundancy.

In addition, telco charges for data plans are not inexpensive. So using smartphones is not an easy alternative for those in the lower-income group.

Before the announcement to end cash top-ups for ez-link cards by 2020, I could use my Standard Chartered Bank credit card for the top-ups. The card offers cash rebates when it is used for purchases, including for ez-link top-ups.

However, after the announcement, StanChart informed me that such top-ups would no longer qualify for rebates. If I wished to use the credit card to top up ez-link cards, I would have to pay a fee. To be fair, the bank is not the only one charging a fee for ez-link top-ups.

In our drive to go cashless, let us not forget the additional costs that the less-privileged may have to bear.

Ang Chiew Leng (Ms)

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