SINGAPORE - Digital red packets are giving physical hongbao a run for their money this Chinese New Year, with banks here saying more customers are opting for electronic transfers because of convenience and the ability to gift in auspicious numbers.
Latest figures from local banks indicate a rise in e-gifting solutions, with some banks seeing customer adoption hitting a record high over the Chinese New Year period.
For example, DBS Bank saw 30 per cent more unique users of its QR gift cards compared with 2022. These physical cards come with QR codes printed on them, which recipients scan to receive a pre-loaded amount.
The bank’s customers also have the option of tapping the all-electronic eGift option, which sends funds and greetings via PayLah.
DBS said the total amount loaded in its QR gift cards is up 40 per cent from 2022 over the festive period, with about $5 million loaded onto the cards on the eve and first day of Chinese New Year in 2023.
This was a 55 per cent jump in value compared with the same two days in 2021. The bank added that the average amount per digital red packet also surged by more than 30 per cent to about $120 per transaction, which is more than 1½ times that of each average e-hongbao transaction in 2021.
Ms Diane Chang, executive director of DBS’ consumer banking group, said the ease of preparing and distributing red packets digitally has kept the trend of digital red packets resilient amid the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
She said: “Customers have shared that they appreciate the convenience and time savings that digital gifting brings since it does away with the hassle of having to queue for and pack new notes.”
Bank customers also prefer having e-hongbao on hand as a backup when they run out of traditional red packets, she added.
Mr Gary Low, 39, said he decided to give out e-hongbao this year because it was more convenient, adding that he also does not need to scramble to find red packets during visits.
“I also have family members overseas, so this is an easy way to send blessings even when we are not meeting physically,” added Mr Low, a social media professional.
OCBC Bank said the daily average use of its e-hongbao feature quadrupled on the first day of Chinese New Year. It estimates at least 20 per cent more e-hongbao will be sent during the 15 days of the Chinese New Year period in 2023 compared with the previous year.
OCBC head of digital payments and ecosystems Gary Wong said: “The 71 per cent year-on-year growth from 2021 to 2022 was phenomenal, but the fact that we are seeing continued growth in spite of lifted restrictions and a longer holiday period shows that for many, giving e-hongbao is now permanently part of their traditions.”
At UOB, the total value sent via digital red packets over the eve and first day of Chinese New Year rose more than 10 per cent year on year, the bank said.
UOB head of group personal financial services Jacquelyn Tan added that customers are also seeing digital red packets as more eco-friendly compared with using new notes and traditional red packets.
She said: “In addition to being the greener option to physical hongbao, bank customers can also easily gift auspicious amounts like $8.88 and $88, and the ability to track their giftings means they do not have to worry about missing anyone out.
“Customers can also personalise their e-hongbao on our app with rabbit-themed backgrounds, as well as insert custom greetings.”
Ms Gwendoline Tan, 32, who works in the financial industry, said reducing waste from new notes and red packets is important to her.
She added: “Using e-hongbao is a good way to cut back on the printing of new notes, which creates a lot of waste. Besides printing, there’s also transportation of new notes and disposal of old notes, which are harmful for the earth.
“To me, I think what’s important is doing our little part to cut down on things that are detrimental to the environment.”