Long queues at banks, pop-up ATMs for new Chinese New Year notes

People queueing to use POSB ATMs at Toa Payoh Hub on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
People queue to use POSB ATMs at Toa Payoh Hub on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Long queues of mostly elderly people were seen outside banks and pop-up ATMs for the collection of new dollar notes ahead of the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 1.

The queues come even as the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Association of Banks in Singapore encouraged Singaporeans in December to opt for e-hongbao this Chinese New Year.

But some believe that exchanging new notes during the festive period is an important part of tradition.

When The Straits Times visited the DBS branch in Lorong 6 Toa Payoh on Wednesday (Jan 12) morning, around 40 people were in queue.

Mr Chan Kee Heong, 76, who arrived at 6am, said: "I wouldn't say that I'm queueing for myself, but rather for the younger generation. I want to make them happy by giving them new notes in their hongbao."

The retiree was subsequently given a queue slip and asked to return by 9.30am.

DBS said on its website that it would carry out new notes exchange services only for customers who have made online reservations. It added that walk-ins are allowed for seniors aged above 60 and those with disabilities.

DBS said on its website that it would carry out new notes exchange services only for customers who have made online reservations. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Most banks provide new notes in denominations of $2, $10 and $50.

Checks by ST on Wednesday morning showed the expected waiting time at 28 of the 45 DBS locations was more than two hours.

A spokesman for DBS said that all slots were fully booked within a day of release on Jan 4 and Monday, for two different collection periods respectively.

Mr Mark Lee, 65, was the first in line at the OCBC branch in Toa Payoh on Wednesday. The retiree, who did not book a slot, began queueing at 7.15am to collect new notes for his friends.

People queueing at OCBC Bank at Toa Payoh Hub on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

He said: "My friends were scared that the new notes would run out, so I came early. Even though I'm not very particular about new or old notes, I still prefer the traditional way of celebrating Chinese New Year with physical hongbao."

Mr Bob Ng, head of personal and premier banking at OCBC, said that the bank's first tranche of collection dates for Jan 11 to 17 were fully booked by Jan 6.

He added that almost half the slots for its second tranche of collection dates for Jan 18 to 24 have been taken up.

At the UOB branch in Toa Payoh, ST observed around 45 people in queue at 9am on Wednesday.

Ms Sharon Au, 47, arrived at 7am with her 79-year-old mother to collect new notes.

"We booked a slot for 9.30am, but decided to drop by early just in case. My mother's generation prefers the traditional way of exchanging red packets," said Ms Au, who works in retail.

In response to queries from ST, a spokesman for UOB said all collection slots from Jan 11 to 22 have been fully taken up as at Monday.

More slots will be opened on Jan 17, the spokesman said. The last day to collect new notes is Jan 29.

A Standard Chartered spokesman said the bank's new notes have been fully reserved. Walk-ins are allowed for those above 60 or who have special needs.

A Maybank spokesman said that while all its 10,000 bundles of new notes were fully reserved by Monday, walk-ins are accepted for the public to exchange old notes for new ones.

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When ST visited UOB and OCBC bank branches in Bukit Batok Central on Tuesday afternoon, there were fewer than 10 people outside each bank.

There were 20 people in queue at POSB's Bukit Batok Central branch at 4pm, and its staff were seen ensuring that those in line adhered to safe distancing measures.

Mr Nick Lam, 44, who had booked a slot at POSB, said he was collecting new notes for his parents.

"We may be encouraged to use e-hongbao, but I think the older folks still prefer to give hongbao the traditional way. As the younger generation, I think we should just help wherever we can," added Mr Lam, who works in sales.

Queues also formed at a few of the 64 pop-up ATMs by DBS and POSB on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mr Joseph Gan, a 35-year-old deliveryman, who was queueing at a pop-up ATM in Bukit Panjang Community Club on Tuesday to collect notes for his parents and in-laws, said: "With Covid-19 still around, I don't want them to be in crowded places and get exposed to the virus."

Madam Noor Siti, 67, a retiree, queued for 30 minutes at a pop-up ATM in Toa Payoh on Wednesday morning to collect new notes for her neighbour, who is in her 70s.

"I think those who celebrate Chinese New Year will still prefer the traditional red packets. I, too, would also prefer to exchange physical ones during Hari Raya," she said.

The pop-up ATMs will dispense new notes until 1pm on Jan 31.

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