Fri, Jun 22, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Singapore to be check-free by 2025, government says


Singapore is accelerating the shift toward digital payments by pledging to eliminate check use by 2025 and slash cash withdrawals from ATMs.

Both payment methods are declining in popularity, Singaporean Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung (王乙康), who sits on the Monetary Authority of Singapore board, said in a speech on Wednesday night.

To promote electronic fund transfers, the government-endorsed payments platform, called PayNow, is to be extended to companies starting Aug. 13.

Singapore is embracing technology to enhance its status as a regional financial hub and compete with other major cities, including Hong Kong and London.

Competition at home is heating up as its largest bank, DBS Group Holdings Ltd, vies with ride-hailing firm Grab Inc for digital payments, while Chinese giants such as Ant Financial Services Group (螞蟻金服) are looking to expand in Southeast Asia.

“Our aim is not to be a cashless society, but to use less cash and more e-payments,” Ong said. “When the level of convenience and confidence crosses a critical tipping point, adoption will rise across our population within a short time and become pervasive.”

There are more than 1.4 million PayNow registrations and almost S$900 million (US$660 million) has been transferred through the service since its launch last year, Ong said.

The expansion of the service would allow corporate clients of seven banks to transfer funds via PayNow in Singapore, including DBS, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, United Overseas Bank Ltd, Standard Chartered PLC, HSBC Holdings PLC, Malayan Banking Bhd and Citigroup Inc, the bank association said.

Cash withdrawals at ATMs have been falling by more than S$300 million each year, Ong said, adding that checks have also been declining in popularity as people gravitate to electronic systems.

The proportion of check transactions to electronic payments known as FAST and GIRO was about 28 percent last year, down from 37 percent in 2015, and might come down to 15 percent in 2020, Ong said.

“Sweden has done it. We can too,” Ong said.

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