Pay bus, train fares with Mastercard contactless cards

Commuters will soon be able to use their Mastercard contactless credit or debit cards to pay for bus and train rides.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday said it has partnered the card company to launch a trial of its account-based ticketing (ABT) system.

Instead of using stored-value transit cards such as ez-link and Nets, users can tap their smart credit or debit cards to pay for fares. They will be billed each month along with their other card purchases.

LTA said Singapore will be the first in Asia, and one of the few cities in the world, to enable this.

The pilot will be launched on March 20 and will be applicable for all public bus and train rides.

Those with Singapore-issued Mastercard contactless cards can register their interest on the TransitLink ABT portal, if they have not been pre-registered by their banks.

LTA and Mastercard hope to attract at least 100,000 commuters to take part in the trial.

Commuter Anthony Ng, 67, welcomes the initiative, saying: "I think it'll be very convenient. But I wonder about the economic benefit for the card issuer though."

Mastercard Singapore country manager Deborah Heng said: "In the near future, we expect to broaden contactless access by enabling mobile and wearable devices for cashless use."

Asked why Visa - whose payWave contactless payment platform is commonplace - is not included in the trial, LTA said it was because it had worked with Mastercard in the early stages of developing the system.

"The pilot is intended to identify and address technical and operational issues faced by an account- based ticketing system, which will be more effectively achieved with a single scheme operator," a spokesman added. "Nevertheless, we look forward to working with other payment schemes if we decide to implement a full-scale system."

UOB head of personal financial services Jacquelyn Tan said its customers are already familiar with using credit and debit cards with stored-value function to pay for transport. She added that the bank saw the number of such transit-related transactions more than trebling to half a million last year, from around 150,000 in 2015.

"We expect many of our (Mastercard) card members will want to get on board this pilot," she said.

If the new system takes off, observers expect it to be the first serious competition to LTA-owned ez-link and banks-owned Nets - currently the most popular transit payment mode providers here.

Christopher Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Pay bus, train fares with Mastercard contactless cards'. Print Edition | Subscribe