Instead of fishing out their wallets, patrons of Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre can now use their mobile phones to pay for their meals - the latest move in Singapore's push for a cashless society.
The cashless payment option has been rolled out at close to 50 stalls in the Tanjong Pagar centre, where payment network Nets launched a standardised QR (quick response) code which can be used by bank apps. Customers scan the code displayed at stalls, before keying in the amount to be paid. Hawkers will get a confirmation on their terminals - and receive the payments the next working day.
Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah, who is an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, was present to launch the collaboration between Nets and the hawker centre - the first such tie-up involving the standardised QR code.
"We want Singapore to take full advantage of IT (information technology)," Ms Indranee said. But consumers today may be using "too many wallets", provided by different financial institutions. These may not all be accepted at point-of-sale terminals, she said, and, hence, there is a need for a standardised code.
Nets chief executive Jeffrey Goh said yesterday's launch marks "the first time such a system has been fully deployed in a traditionally cash-based environment".
"Six in 10 transactions today are made using cash or cheque," he said, adding that cash-based transactions are mostly "micro-payments" involving $10 or less.
While outlets where such payments take place, such as convenience stores and coffee shops, have mostly moved towards some form of e-payment, this is not the case with hawker centres, he said.
"Close to $1 billion worth of cash-based transactions take place across 6,000 hawker and food stalls in Singapore every year," he added. He told reporters there are plans to offer such payment methods to heartland shops eventually.
Mr Adrian Wong, 39, a programme manager who visits the Tanjong Pagar hawker centre, said: "I like the cashless system, because I can go out without my wallet. It's good to have this option, because we wouldn't have to deal with coins anymore..."
Mr Ng Tiong Hoe, 52, who runs a porridge stall at the hawker centre, said: "We decided to give it a try because people are moving towards cashless payments. It may be more hygienic as well, not having to deal with coins."
Hawkers will be able to adopt the Nets system for free for the first three years.
Some hawkers at stalls that previously implemented the cashless Nets FlashPay service said they were still considering if they wanted to adopt the new system.
A wonton-noodle stall owner at Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, 57, said his older staff had trouble using the FlashPay terminal, as "screens were small".
Another issue was that few customers made use of the FlashPay system, said Ms Joan Wong, 55, a staff member of Xin Kee Signature Curry House, also in the Bedok hawker centre: "Only one or two people used it in a month, and it was always the same customers."
But she added that things might improve with a machine that can accept various payment methods.
Customers can pay with OCBC's PayAnyone and UOB's Mighty, and, from mid-November, with DBS Paylah! Nets has plans to include others in the future.
Nets aims to roll out the standardised QR code to 30 hawker centres before the year-end.
Under the new tie-up, Nets will install the codes, providing hawkers with monthly reports of payments.
Currently, stalls at over 20 hawker centres have adopted Nets' cashless payment systems, where customers may utilise the contactless smart card Nets FlashPay.
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A customer scanning the QR code to pay for a meal str.sg/4VdF