Contactless Payments And How To Navigate Singapore WITHOUT Cash

Time to bid your wallets goodbye.

Contactless payment has become a hot topic among banks and governments as the world moves towards greater digitisation. 

Contactless payment (a.k.a., e-payments or mobile payments), which have been made even more relevant due to the Covid-related social distancing measures, is now safer and more convenient than ever.

Problem is, there are many different e-payment platforms available. You’ve probably heard of PayNow, PayLah! and Pay Anyone. OMG, what is the difference? This guide will answer all your queries about contactless payment around the Little Red Dot. Read on!


PayNow is a funds-transfer service that allows users of nine banks to transfer cash in SGD to anyone else who has an account with one of those nine participating banks: DBS/POSB, UOB, OCBC, Citibank, HSBC, Maybank, Standard Chartered, BOC and ICBC.

PayNow technology makes it possible to pay someone simply by entering their phone number or business UEN number — provided they have already created a PayNow profile and have linked up their phone/NRIC/FIN numbers with their bank accounts.

But that’s not all. You can also pay merchants (e.g., hawkers and taxi drivers) which display the PayNow QR codes. Government agencies and ministries also often use PayNow for disbursing reimbursements or cash incentives to citizens.

If you’re a business owner or self-employed, you can also receive payments from your clients via PayNow. You can even technically receive salary payments and insurance claims via PayNow.

You can sign up for PayNow online through your internet banking account. Doing so will link your bank account to your mobile number and NRIC number. To change your PayNow account, you first need to go into the iBanking portal of the bank that it is currently linked with to de-link it. Then, go to the new bank portal’s PayNow page to link it again.

DBS PayLah!

DBS PayLah! is a mobile wallet which can be downloaded as an app onto your smartphone. This application supports PayNow (i.e.: it is DBS’ version of PayNow).

You don’t have to have a DBS/POSB bank account to use PayLah!, but if you do, you can send and receive money directly from your bank account using the app’s auto-debit function.

If you’re using PayLah! with an account from another bank, you need to transfer money to and from the PayLah! e-wallet using internet banking. When you make payment to someone, you have to make sure your wallet is topped up. Quite troublesome, right?

Remember, PayLah! now supports PayNow. This means that you will be able to transfer funds to all accounts (whether DBS/POSB, or other banks) using PayLah! even if the recipient only has PayNow and has not registered for PayLah!

Other than the above, PayLah! lets you pay by scanning a QR code, which is supported by an increasing number of merchants, including some taxis and hawker/food court stalls. You can also use PayLah! to pay for purchases made on online stores with which they have tie-ups. These include Qoo10, Chope, Golden Village, SISTIC and more.

Experience tells us that since PayNow is more ubiquitous than PayLah!, and not every merchant accepts PayLah!, you may find leftover cash in your wallet. No worries, you just have to go into your DBS PayLah! app, go under Manage Wallet > Transfer to Account to send money back to your own non-DBS bank account.

OCBC Pay Anyone

Just like PayLah!, OCBC Pay Anyone is a mobile app that allows you to transfer and receive funds, as well as make payments to merchants.

The main difference is that Pay Anyone is targeted at OCBC customers. While you don’t need a DBS/POSB account to use PayLah!, you do need an OCBC account to use Pay Anyone.

Transactions are directly deducted from and credited to users’ OCBC savings or current accounts. Therefore, it isn’t an e-wallet per se, and you don’t need an extra step of withdrawing money out of there.

Pay Anyone also lets you send money to people using their email address or Facebook ID. If the person doesn’t have the app, they will receive a link via email or Facebook, and they just need to click on it and key in their own bank details to receive the funds. They must also key in a 6-digit passcode provided by the sender. Only then is the money transferred – safely and securely.

That aside, Pay Anyone works similarly to PayLah! and also supports PayNow, so you can also send money to PayNow-registered people via through their mobile or NRIC/FIN numbers, whether or not they have an OCBC account.

So, which contactless payment do I use?

PayNow is the least restrictive payment method as pretty much anyone can use it. It’s also integrated in the major banks’ mobile banking apps, so you don’t have to download yet another app.

However, if you have a keen eye for deals and discounts, you you might want to download DBS PayLah! or OCBC Pay Anyone, depending on which banks you bank with. These services often have discounts and promotions for consumers who pay using their services.

What other contactless payment alternatives are there?


PayNow, PayLah! and Pay Anyone aren’t the only mobile payment options open to Singapore residents.

You can also use Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Singtel Dash to make payments to individuals and/or businesses. Google Pay technically uses the PayNow system, but they offer cash rebates and other promotions too. Apply Pay, on the other hand, requires you to add a valid card into your Apple device.

In addition, service providers are starting to provide their own mobile wallet payment methods – like GrabPay and FavePay.

The main difference is that you can link your credit cards to them (instead of your bank accounts). That also means that when you spend using these apps, you can take advantage of credit card benefits like cashback and air miles. Many credit cards reward you for paying with contactless payments, too.

In extension, NETS Flashpay and even Ez-link card payments can be considered contactless payments too. NETS Flashpay allows you to pay with your NETS debit or credit card at many merchants across the island. Ez-link cards are also an acceptable payment method at convenience stores, some F&B merchants, and other service providers. Heck, you can even use your NETS card to pay for buses and trains!

So, remember. Next time you leave your house without cash, don’t panic and search for an ATM (Automated Teller Machine). You can opt for contactless payment if you have your phone (or even smartwatch), or your trusty bank card with you. It’s really that simple.

Originally by Joanne Poh, Jan 2020, MoneySmart / Last Updated by Derrick Tan

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