Payment card usage in Singapore remains stubbornly low

Written by Arnie Cho

Payment card use in Singapore is relatively low, says Arnie Cho. Is cash the preferred payment tool?

Singapore is one of the most advanced payments markets globally. As per the GlobalData 2016 Consumer Payments Insight Survey, 83% of adults in Singapore have a debit card, and the same proportion hold a credit card. The market also has a strong payments infrastructure. However, card usage in Singapore lags behind other developed markets in the region.

At 349 payment cards per 100 inhabitants, consumers in Singapore hold significantly more payment cards in their wallets compared to their peers in Australia and New Zealand. All three markets have a high level of point of sale (POS) penetration, but consumer and merchant attitudes towards payment cards are different.

Consumers in Singapore use their payment cards at the POS around a third as much as consumers in Australia and New Zealand. They also tend to use their cards for relatively high-ticket items rather than low-value transactions like their peers in New Zealand and Australia.

Asia payment cards. Source: GlobalData's Payment Card Analytics.

One of the reasons for this is that there are still pockets in Singapore’s retail market where cash is the preferred payment tool, and where payment cards are not accepted. According to data from Statistics Singapore, there are currently over 14,000 licensed hawkers in the country. This specific retail segment also represents the largest cash-based merchant segment in the market.

If these merchants start accepting payment cards, the country would have a much better chance of progressing towards a cashless economy, or at the very least, significantly boosting payment card usage.

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– This article is reproduced with kind permission from GlobalData Financials. Some minor changes have been made to reflect BankNXT style considerations. Read more here. Photo by Valeri Potapova,

About the author

Arnie Cho

Annie Cho is a senior analyst at GlobalData, specialising in APAC payments and retail banking.

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