MAS encourages Singaporeans to opt for e-hongbao this CNY

Digital method environmentally friendly, reduces queues for new notes which will be still available

Singaporeans can send e-hongbao via PayNow. Those who bank with Citibank, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, UOB and Maybank will soon be able to add Chinese New Year greetings when they do so. ST FILE PHOTO
Singaporeans can send e-hongbao via PayNow. Those who bank with Citibank, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, UOB and Maybank will soon be able to add Chinese New Year greetings when they do so. ST FILE PHOTO

With Chinese New Year around the corner, hongbao - or red packets, which are traditionally exchanged during this period - are on the minds of many Singaporeans.

While hongbao is usually given by hand, it has become common practice in China for relatives to send one another e-hongbao via messaging app WeChat.

In a statement yesterday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) encouraged Singaporeans to opt for e-hongbao this Chinese New Year.

"They will help to reduce queues for physical notes and are more environmentally friendly," MAS said.

One way to send e-hongbao is via PayNow. Those who bank with Citibank, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, UOB and Maybank will soon be able to add Chinese New Year greetings when they do so. The messages can be sent via WhatsApp or SMS.

In a separate statement yesterday, The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) said: "Customers may contact their bank for more information on how to send hongbao digitally with PayNow."

Some Singaporeans prefer gifting new physical notes but these are often returned to the banks by the public after Chinese New Year anyway.

MAS estimates that some 330 tonnes of carbon emissions are generated by the production of new notes each Chinese New Year.

It also added that going digital will complement safe management measures currently in place due to Covid-19.

"E-hongbao will enable remote gifting across a variety of visitation practices, including virtual gatherings," said MAS.

With social gatherings capped at eight people under phase three regulations, some may have to meet their extended family virtually.

The e-hongbao drive is part of a larger shift towards e-gifting by MAS and ABS, which supports this initiative.

Those who still want to give physical notes for Chinese New Year will have to make an appointment via their bank's online reservation system before visiting the branches to collect the new notes.

Those aged 60 and above or who have disabilities are allowed to head down to their bank from Jan 25 to order notes.

However, ABS encourages them to pre-order to reduce crowding and facilitate safe distancing at bank branches.

From Jan 25, 61 ATMs by DBS Bank and POSB will also start dispensing new notes, which can be withdrawn without a prior booking.

Those who want to pre-order new notes can do so earlier with Maybank and Standard Chartered Bank. Pre-orders for new and good-as-new notes will be open from next Monday.

Customers of these two banks are encouraged to place an online reservation for the notes before visiting the branches. Collection for online orders of new notes will also begin on Jan 25.

Mr Bernard Wee, MAS' assistant managing director of finance, risk and currency, said: "The adoption of e-payments grew significantly this past year as it is more convenient than cash.

"The coming Lunar New Year offers an opportunity for us to build on this momentum, to spread the benefits of e-gifting, and to forge new traditions with our families and friends."

Undergraduate Kathy Tan, 22, said: "In my paternal family, new notes are seen as auspicious. Receiving an e-hongbao won't make much of a difference for me, but I can imagine that holding an actual red packet makes you more excited when you receive it."

The final-year student is also unsure if her parents, who are both over 60 years old, will be keen on giving e-hongbao.

"My parents don't use PayNow and if they do give e-hongbao, they would have to learn how to use PayNow," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2021, with the headline 'MAS encourages Singaporeans to opt for e-hongbao this CNY'. Subscribe