CEPAS card: a cashless society?!

It sounds rather ominous, I'd say. A cashless society: where people do not have any cash?

Okay, seriously. It actually means that the future when people are to conduct their transaction without using any cash.

That's where CEPAS card comes into the picture. CEPAS (stands for Contactless e-Purse Application) is a Singaporean specification for an electronic money smart card. CEPAS has been deployed islandwide, replacing the previous original EZ-Link card effective 1 October 2009. (Yes, it also has an article in Wikipedia on CEPAS).

It will soon be more convenient for you to pay for your transactions using your CEPAS stored value cards.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and five companies from the industry are spending S$16 million to increase the number of point-of-sales terminals for using these cards. The aim is to increase these terminals from the current 5,000 to 24,000 by 2011.

The five companies involved in the Call-for Collaboration with IDA are EZ-Link Pte Ltd, Nera Telecommunications Ltd, Network for Electronic Transfers (NETS) Singapore, PaymentLink Pte Ltd and Way Systems Solutions Pte Ltd.

This was announced by Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Lui Tuck Yew, at the Infocomm Industry Forum on Monday.

Singaporeans are currently holding nearly six million CEPAS cards, using them to pay for their travel on buses and MRT trains as well as purchases from some retailers.

This convenient mode of payment is set to be expanded very soon. The infocomm industry is broadening the use of the CEPAS card for payment to many more outlets like shopping malls, food outlets and convenience stores.

It is all about creating awareness of a cashless society.

Jeremy Tan, managing director of PaymentLink, said: "There are a lot of inconveniences in using cash and coins. Because we have been using (this mode of payment) for so many years, a lot of us don't recognise the inconvenience - but actually if you think about it, the coins that you get, the change, the calculations that you need to do, the bowl of coins that we have...

"The consumers already have the cards. It is now (a matter of) getting the merchants to be comfortable (with payment by card)."

Hence, IDA and the five companies involved in setting up point-of-sales terminals will be providing incentives to encourage merchants to install the devices. Among the perks is a terminal rental waiver for at least a year.

The key to encouraging Singaporeans to go cashless is also to ensure that there are adequate facilities for them to top up their CEPAS cards with sufficient money so that they can use the cards to pay a whole range of transactions, thus avoid using cash.

Nicholas Lee, executive director of EZ-Link, said: "We recognise this issue from the start and we have been working with DBS bank to equip its islandwide network of DBS-POSB ATMs to (enable customers) top up the EZ-Link cards as well when they withdraw cash. That will span over 900 machines islandwide."

He added that EZ-Link is also working with the operator of the AXS machines, which number 200 now, to accept the EZ-Link card as a means of top up.

When fully implemented by 2011, IDA believes the additional point-of-sales terminals can generate over 94 million e-payment transactions per year.

From Channel NewsAsia, "CEPAS cards can be used in more places by 2011".

And also a related post published in early November this year:
From next year, consumers can use their ez-link cards at more shops and restaurants.

PaymentLink - card operator EZ-Link's partner, previously known as QB - plans to expand the number of shops that accept the new Contactless e-Purse Application Standard (Cepas) card by three times.

More than 5,000 retail points accept this payment method at present. They include 7-Eleven stores, SMRT taxis and eateries in National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.

The company, which started ez-link payment services in 2002, hopes to triple the number of retail points to 15,000 by the end of next year.

It has already roped in retail giant Dairy Farm Singapore, which will install 1,000 terminals in 226 branches of its supermarkets and convenience stores, including Cold Storage and Giant, by the second quarter of next year.

Dairy Farm Singapore came on board because ez-link is a very convenient form of payment and has a large consumer base, said its spokesman.

"Many users of ez-link are also our customers, hence we decided that it would be beneficial to add ez-link to our portfolio of services," said the spokesman.

More than six million ez-link cards are in circulation here.

This is the right time to expand the network as infrastructure for the Cepas system has been completed, said PaymentLink's group managing director, Mr Jeremy Tan.

The card's stored-value capacity has also been increased from $100 to $500, opening up more avenues for consumers to use it for retail transactions, he said.

"We are optimistic about the growth potential for contactless card payment here," he added.

Last month, Network For Electronic Transfers (Nets) launched its multi-purpose contactless card, FlashPay, breaking EZ-Link's monopoly over the $1.3-billion transit market.

This card can be used at 2,500 stores, such as Old Chang Kee and Polar Puffs.

About 39,000 of these cards have been sold, said a Straits Times report two weeks ago. IT executive Hor Woei Ming, 24, uses his ez-link card to pay for taxi fares and buy drinks from vending machines.

"It is especially helpful when you don't have cash," he said.

But he does not foresee using it for more expensive purchases, as he will not store too high a value in the card, which is not password-protected, he said.

From Asiaone, "More retail outlets to accept ez-link payments".

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