A complete guide to mobile wallets in Singapore: how they work and the most common mobile wallet service providers.
Is going cashless the future of payments? While Singapore is nowhere near the top cashless countries of Canada, Sweden, the UK, and China, recent plans to implement cashless payment options at over 500 hawkers in Singapore are a big step in the right direction. With four digital bank licenses granted in 2020, expect rapid growth in the types of services being offered by mobile and digital wallets.
Here's an overview of how current mobile wallets work, and which are the best service providers in the market right now.
How do mobile wallets work?
A mobile wallet is a type of virtual wallet where users can send, receive, and store money, and pay for purchases through their smartphone.
In general, a mobile wallet service is delivered by and in collaboration with mobile service providers (e.g. SingTel), the smartphone you use and its e-payment solution (e.g. Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay), and financial institutions (e.g. banks). Even Fitbit has its own mobile wallet solution.
What are the pros and cons of using a mobile wallet?
Mobile wallets are fast, secure, widely accepted, and work with rewards programs with participating merchants. With most mobile wallets, you can leave your physical wallet at home or in the office as you no longer need to swipe your physical credit card or sign a receipt. All you have to do is tap your mobile device on the payment terminal to process the transaction. An example of this is the SimplyGo service on public transport.
With the recent national rollout of a unified QR code which accepts 27 e-payment methods such as GrabPay, AliPay, FavePay, Nets, PayLah and Dash, most major merchants now also accept some form of mobile payment.
In addition, tapping your phone at certain merchants also earn you loyalty or reward points, and even exclusive rebates and discounts.
But a mobile wallet is not perfect. While many e-payment solutions are widely accepted, some neighbourhood shops or hawker centres still prefer cash. You also need to remember to top up your digital wallet via a credit card or bank account.
Being a technology-based payment service, it may also be prone to technical glitches like app loading problems or network delays, during which the service or mobile payment solution is temporarily down.
Which is the best mobile wallet in Singapore?
There are a multitude of mobile wallet options but largely, they fall into two categories: bank-owned wallets and non-bank wallets. “Best” is subjective but one way to assess the “best” wallet would be to see how widely accepted they are, not just in Singapore but across the region when it comes to making and receiving payments, as well as how easy they are to use.
DBS Bank's PayLah mobile wallet stands out not only for its standard features and benefits but for its value-added exclusive privileges as well.
For example, DBS PayLah also offers worldwide protection for your phone against loss, theft, and accidental damage (covers unauthorised transactions and usage of airtime/data, reimbursement of withdrawn cash due to robbery, and replacement of personal documents); and a travel insurance plan (covers pre-existing medical conditions, baggage loss or damage of up to S$8,000, overseas medical expenses of up to S$1 million, and emergency medical evacuation of up to S$1 million).
|Bank-owned mobile wallets|
|DBS PayLah||Recurring Bill Payment||Singapore||SGD||Both|
|OCBC Pay Anyone||All Category Spendings||Singapore||SGD||Both|
|UOB Mighty||Dining||Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia||
AUD, CAD, CHF, CHN, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, USD
|Non-bank mobile wallets|
|AliPay||Global Online Payment Protection||Global||SGD, RMB||Both|
|FavePay||Daily Purchases||Singapore, Malaysia||SGD, MYR||Both|
|Google Pay||Sending payment with chat function (Also enjoy scratch cards that give cashback)||Global||Multiple currencies||Both|
|GrabPay||Ride-Hailing, Daily Purchases||Southeast Asia||SGD||Both|
|Huawei Pay||Payments using Huawei devices||Global||Multiple currencies||Both|
|NETSPay||To pay by NETS, completely contactless and digital||Singapore||SGD||Both|
|SingTel Dash||Mobile contactless payments with Dash Visa virtual card||Singapore||SGD||Both|
|WeChat Pay||Global Payment, Transactions between friends||Global||RMB||Both|
|Multi-currency mobile wallets|
Strengths and weaknesses of bank-owned mobile wallets
Most Singaporeans have a DBS or POSB account so it stands to reason that DBS PayLah! is the most widely used and accepted mobile wallet. You can send or request funds from anyone, including non-DBS/POSB customers, via a simple mobile phone number. That's right -- you no longer need to know the bank account number of the recipient, or deal with things like SWIFT or branch codes. With DBS PayLah!, you can also:
- Use QR Codes and Payment Links to pay a merchant
- Scan to Pay at NETS Terminals
- Browse DBS featured merchants on the app
- Split bills with friends
- Pay to over 58 billing organisations
- Face/Touch ID/fingerprint authentication
What makes DBS PayLah! stands out is its auto debit feature from your linked bank account when you have insufficient mobile wallet balance. It can also send WhatsApp notifications when you send or request for funds.
Furthermore, the DBS Lifestyle app has now been integrated into the DBS PayLah! app. This means a single, all-in-one app for all DBS users for PayLah! transactions, deals, rewards, card statements and more. There have been exclusive promotions for DBS/POSB credit card members too, especially during the festive seasons.
OCBC Pay Anyone
OCBC customers can request for money or send money to anyone via a personalised QR code; make NETS QR purchases up to a daily limit of S$1,000; and pay for your dining, shopping; transport needs via QR code at NETS terminal at partner merchants.
Using OCBC Pay Anyone allows you to pay anyone in Singapore as it has a wide range of OCBC partner merchants across major categories such as cinemas, retail shops, convenience stores, food and beverages, and wellness and beauty, including Cathay Cineplexes, TADA, and Koufu.
A downside is the daily transaction limit of S$1,000 while OCBC Pay Anyone is also not widely accepted across the region yet.
UOB Mighty by UOB stands out in terms of exclusive debit/credit card deals across 4 neighbouring Asian countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia) and competitive foreign exchange rates across 11 major currencies (AUD, CAD, CHF, CHN, EUR, GBP, HKD, JPY, NZD, SGD, USD).
UOB Mighty is also accepted at a wide range of partner merchants, many of them dining establishments. In fact, it offers dining deals from over 3,200 restaurants in Singapore.
Strengths and weaknesses of non-bank mobile wallets
AliPay is a global payment platform with over 400 million users around the world to make secure online payments.
Backed by Chinese tech giant Alibaba, AliPay uses the most advanced encryption technology to ensure personal information and online payments are protected and never compromised to any third party. AliPay promises full amount reimbursement, 90-day payment protection, and response within 5 business days after receiving your complaint for any unauthorised transactions using your AliPay account.
Moreover, AliPay offers a full refund if you do not receive your order, and refund or keep items not as described. You can open an Alipay account in Singapore but you need a Chinese mobile number and a Chinese credit card in order to transfer funds to your Alipay mobile wallet.
In Singapore, AliPay is widely accepted at international restaurants or merchants targeted at Chinese tourists.
FavePay is a fast and easy way to pay with your mobile device and get instant cashback at your favourite merchants. FavePay accepts all debit/credit cards (e.g. Visa, MasterCard, American Express), Paypal, Boost Payment, Air Asia Big Points, GrabPay (available in Singapore only), and Alipay (applicable for selected FavePay partners only).
You can also receive online payments from banks (available in Malaysia only): RHB Now, Affin Bank, Am Online, Bank Islam, CIMBClicks, Maybank2u, Public Bank, OCBC Bank, Hong Leong Connect.
Currently, the FavePay payment option is only available at partner merchants in Singapore and selected Malaysian cities (e.g. Ipoh, Penang, Kuching, Klang Valley, Johor Bahru, and Kota Kinabalu).
Google Pay allows you to commute, pay for your purchases, split the bill and more. Google Pay is currently popular for the scratch card that users receive for sending payments of at least S$10.
Earn yourself a scratch card when you use Google Pay to send S$10 or more to another Google Pay user. These scratch cards can give you cashback of up to S$10 and you can earn a maximum of two scratch cards per week.
You can also tap and pay at least S$3 in a store to earn a scratch card (max. two) for the first two qualifying payments for the week. Like sending money to other Google Pay users, this grants you cashback of up to S$10.
With Google Pay, you have to set up a payment method. This can be your DBS PayLah! account or your OCBC or Standard Chartered bank account. You can also add credit or debit cards to your account. Receiving money is simple, as your PayNow account can be made the default receiving account.
To pay with Google Pay, you will have to scan the PayNow SGQR code at the merchant's store, if available. You can also order food on Google Pay, book movie tickets and enjoy other special offers within the app.
GrabPay is best known to regular users of Grab since you can just top-up prepaid GrabPay credits for your Grab rides. Moreover, you can send or receive GrabPay credits to others without a hitch.
When you link your debit or credit card for payment, you will also earn card benefits and reward points on your Grab ride. Check out this article of the 5 credit cards to use for Grab rides.
GrabPay is rapidly adding and growing its network of partner merchants, as well as adding services like GrabFood, GrabDelivery and even hotels and e-scooter services on its platform to expand the use of its e-wallet.
However, credit card rewards for topping up your GrabPay wallet has been slashed mid-2020.
Huawei Pay is a way for you to make contactless, cashless payments with your Huawei or Honor devices.
Much like how you would tap your Apple Watch or your phone near a payment terminal, you can do the same with your Huawei device. Simply add your bank cards to Huawei Pay to pay in stores with a tap.
However, the banks supported by Huawei are limited, currently allowing UnionPay credit, debit and pre-paid cards issued by their partner financial institutions.
Paying by NETS? Whipping out your NETS card for payments will now be a thing of the past. With NETS Pay, you can now pay by NETS with a tap of your phone.
NETSPay is a mobile application which allows you to make digital payments via your DBS, POSB, OCBC and UOB NETS Bank Cards. Simply download the NETSPay app, digitise your NETS bank cards into the app and you're all set!
Simply tap with your mobile phone or scan the QR code to pay, no PIN required for transactions S$100 and below. When shopping online, you can also use NETSPay to pay via the QR code presented on the checkout page.
An all-in-one mobile wallet, it allows you to top-up your Dash account or other Dash accounts, with no admin fees. You can use your Dash wallet to pay VIA partner merchants in Thailand and Japan, and Visa payWave partner merchants worldwide. SingTel Dash also allows you to transfer funds within Singapore and to India, China, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Bangladesh.
Previously, the only way to use Dash was to scan the Dash QR code found at merchant cashiers. Now, Dash comes with a Dash Visa Virtual Card that allows you to tap your phone and pay wherever Visa contactless is accepted. This means paying with Dash when you commute, when you do your grocery shopping and more!
When shopping online, you can even enter your unique 16-digit Dash Visa Virtual Card number the checkout.
The best part? You can earn reward points per dollar when using Dash — whether it's for your purchases or remittance. These Dash points can be used to exchange for rewards such as Grab, Cold Storage, Sephora or Zalora vouchers! However, do note that Dash points expire one year from the date of issuance.
You can even grow your savings and be insured at the same time with Dash EasyEarn.
WeChat Pay is an integral part of the daily lives of Chinese consumers as it enables them to make payments anytime and anywhere with just their mobile phone.
WeChat Pay has made the physical wallet obsolete in China as it’s supported and accepted almost everywhere, including taxis, supermarkets, restaurants, and hospitals. WeChat Pay also connects overseas vendors directly to Chinese consumers. When Chinese consumers buy goods in a foreign country, they can follow vendors’ Official Accounts to pay their transactions.
WeChat Pay can also handle multiple payment methods via Quick Pay, QR Code, In-App Web-Based, or Native In-App Payment. This beats other mobile wallets where they might just support QR codes or contactless payment terminals.
In addition, WeChat Pay supports major foreign currencies. Customers pay in Chinese renminbi (RMB) but the transaction is then settled in a foreign currency, with the spot exchange rate being determined by WeChat Pay's partner settlement banks. The drawback of WeChat Pay is that it’s still mostly targeted at Chinese consumers rather than an international crowd.
Multi-currency mobile wallets
YouTrip is a multi currency mobile wallet app that lets you convert and make payments without transaction fees in over 150 currencies. It's also available in a physical card by Mastercard which you can use over the counter overseas. You can even use your YouTrip card to make withdrawals at any overseas Mastercard, Maestro or Cirrus ATMs, for a flat fee of S$5.
Their handy app allows you to monitor and exchange up to 10 currencies conveniently on your mobile phone with rates updated real-time.
This is extremely convenient because it allows you to skip those long queues at traditional money changers. Enjoy highly competitive exchange rates that are better than most banks' over-the-counter rates. What's more, you can also easily top up your YouTrip wallet with any SGD credit or debit card (for up to S$5,000) that's stored on your phone. There is no minimum balance required to maintain your YouTrip account.
One major drawback, however, is there's currently no way to exchange excess foreign currency after your overseas trip back to Singapore dollar so only exchange enough money to cover your trip expenses.
Revolut is an app that allows you to exchange, send and receive money with no hidden fees.
You can transfer money abroad in more than 28 currencies with the interbank exchange rate, paying a small 0.5% fee for amounts above S$9,000 each month. However, you do incur a flat mark-up on weekends and on certain currencies.
Once you’ve created an account via Revolut's app, you can request for a physical Revolut card that will give you access to its cash withdrawal feature. This enables you to withdraw up to S$350 in cash every month at any ATM around the world without transaction fees. Any withdrawal amount above S$350 will incur a 2% charge, if you are on their Standard account. That being said, Revolut offers premium paid accounts that gives subscribers higher cash withdrawal and transfer limits; amongst its other additional features.
Revolut also offers useful tools for their users, to help you keep track of your finances and budget smarter.
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