By simply tapping their Visa or Nets card on the same machines that read ez-link cards, commuters can pay for train and bus rides from this month in an ex-pansion of a pilot with Mastercard that began in March last year to allow for an account-based ticketing system (ABT).
The charge for the public transport ride will show up in the credit or debit card bill, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Nets and Visa said in a joint statement yesterday. Commuters will pay the same fare as they would with an ez-link card.
The system is similar to contactless transactions made at retail shops, where services such as Visa's payWave allow users to tap their card against a machine to make payment.
LTA chief executive Ngien Hoon Ping said: "I am confident that the Visa and Nets trials will be equally helpful in fine-tuning the ABT system before we launch it to the public in future."
Mr Kunal Chatterjee, Visa's country manager for Singapore and Brunei, said that a recent study by Visa found that nearly seven in 10 Singaporeans agree that the top benefit of using contactless payment is the convenience it brings.
Since the Mastercard pilot was launched in March last year, more than 100,000 commuters have made 26 million trips using the ABT system. This is an average of more than 50,000 trips daily, LTA said.
An LTA spokesman said the authority and its partners will fine-tune the operations before offering ABT to all commuters with contactless bank cards.
Mr Anthony Seow, head of cards and unsecured loans in the consumer banking group at DBS Bank, said: "More than 50,000 DBS/ POSB customers signed up for the first ABT pilot which we partnered Mastercard on. Post-pilot, we saw significant behavioural change in these customers, with them showing increased inclination towards digital payments both within the transit ecosystem and beyond."
Assistant professor of finance Aurobindo Ghosh of the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at the Singapore Management University said commuters will have the convenience of carrying fewer cards and tracking their budgets better.
However, he said the main challenge comes from data protection and privacy issues.
"Payment services companies like Mastercard and Visa will have access to the data on travel usage as well as other charges. One important aspect of the challenge is financial awareness of use of credit as well.
"If credit is used for transportation like anything else, it should be monitored and controlled so as not to get into any sort of long-term debt trap," Prof Ghosh said.
Dr Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences said the ez-link card will still have to be kept for those who do not use credit cards.
Nanyang Technological University senior transport research consultant Gopinath Menon agreed, adding that children and the elderly have travel concessions on their ez-link cards.
LTA said commuters with Nets contactless bank cards with DBS/ POSB, OCBC and United Overseas Bank (UOB) who are interested in joining the pilot can register at www.nets.com.sg/netsintransit from Monday.
Visa will be inviting a group of employees and participants from banks such as the Bank of China, Citibank, CIMB, DBS, HSBC, ICBC, Maybank, Standard Chartered and UOB to take part in the pilot.