Many e-payment proposals received: MAS

The Monetary Authority of Singapore building in Shenton Way on March 29, 2017.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore building in Shenton Way on March 29, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it has received many e-payment proposals from the private sector, and reiterated its commitment to keep the national system open to all players.

MAS did not reveal which firms, other than tech company Razer, had submitted their proposals in response to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call for a national system that would unite the hotchpotch of confusing options available here.

But a spokesman noted: "MAS receives many such proposals, and we will not be able to respond to each and every one of them. We will study the proposals carefully and be in touch with companies with more credible and concrete ideas."

She also said that Singapore is a relatively small yet internationally oriented market, so it cannot afford to have an e-payment ecosystem that is fragmented and not interoperable.

For starters, MAS is overseeing the roll-out of a unified point-of-sale terminal at the 100,000 Nets acceptance points. This is meant to reduce the clutter of terminals at checkout counters, such as those seen at Harvey Norman, Best Denki and Din Tai Fung.

Over the last two years, Nets has managed to upgrade about one-third of all its acceptance points islandwide, including those at Cold Storage and FairPrice supermarkets and in taxis, to a new terminal that accepts all chip-based and contactless cards.

Experts close to such implementations said the biggest challenge is the "interchange fee" that card-issuing banks charge payment terminal installers, which are also banks. For instance, if a customer uses bank A's credit card on bank B's terminal at a checkout counter, bank A charges bank B a transaction fee that ranges from 1.6 per cent to 2.2 per cent. Merchants pay the bank that installs the payment terminal a 3 per cent fee for the transaction.

However, if a merchant processes a payment made using bank A's credit card on bank A's terminal, the interchange fee is avoided. As a result, the merchant gets to enjoy a discounted fee of about 1 per cent. This is the reason why merchants maintain multiple payment terminals at their checkout counters.

Irene Tham

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2017, with the headline 'Many proposals received: MAS'. Print Edition | Subscribe