photo: A standard scan of a QR code

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore’s central bank, will be developing a universal QR code payment system for island-wide usage by end of year1. This aligns with the Singapore government’s efforts to push the country towards Smart Nation and a cashless society2. QR refers to a quick-response code which comes in a squared barcode. It is used to scan a wide variety of data into smartphones3.

The Singapore government is advocating the implementation of QR code to promote the convenience of cashless transactions between merchants and consumer3. They recognize the demand for quick payment services due to the growing adoption of e-payments in the country. For instance, DBS Bank encourages small-scale cash-based merchants such as hawker centers to embrace QR codes as a mode of payment3. Patrons can purchase their favorite local dishes such as chicken rice, chicken dumpling noodles and roasted duck rice by simply scanning the barcode in the app. Since its debut back in April, DBS Bank has facilitated over 15,000 QR code scans with the number of such transactions expected to increase3.

Despite the push for cashless payments, some merchants believe that physical cash dominates4. According to a study conducted by an online payment service provider PayPal, 90 per cent of 500 consumers revealed that they prefer transacting with cash2. Small-scale cash-based merchants voiced their concerns regarding the fee they will incur in order to adopt e-payments at hawker centres.

Despite some challenges, a DBS Bank spokesperson recently shared that over 1,000 merchants are adopting the cashless payment system and majority of these merchants are hawker stall owners4. The DBS Paylah app is free for merchants to implement and there are no additional costs incurred for transactions that are made through the app4. DBS hopes to encourage hawker stall owners to adopt the e-payment system by reducing the barrier to entry and adoption. By venturing into the new market of a cashless society, hawker stall owners can tap on a new pool of customers who prefer to transact via e-payments4.

Another example of increasing cashless payment adoption is from a trendy hawker centre at Pasir Ris was recently launched. It is designed to provide the best dining experience for diners and support hawker stalls in their daily operations. All transactions made in this hawker centre will be cashless5. Singapore authorities plan to expand cashless payment method to 30 hawker centres by end of 2017. It is estimated that about S$1 billion in cash based payments are transacted across 6,000 hawkers and food stalls in Singapore annually. With such measures in place, Singapore definitely seems to be heading towards being a cashless-first society.


1. The Business Times. (2017). Singapore looks into common QR code for cashless payments. [online] Available at: http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/singapore-looks-into-common-qr-code-for-cashless-payments
2. SGSME. (2017). Singapore looks into common QR code for cashless payments. [online] Available at: http://www.sgsme.sg/news/singapore-looks-common-qr-code-cashless-payments
3. The Straits Times (2017). Common QR code for cashless payments in Singapore may be ready by year’s end. [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/business/banking/task-force-set-up-to-create-common-qr-code-for-e-payments-in-singapore
4. The New Paper. (2017). For businesses in Singapore, cash is still king. [online] Available at: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/businesses-singapore-cash-still-king
5. Yahoo! Lifestyle Singapore. (2017). Street food, ‘hipster kitchens’ and no cash at Pasir Ris’ first hawker centre. [online] Available at: https://sg.style.yahoo.com/street-food-hipster-kitchens-no-cash-pasir-ris-first-hawker-centre-095034003.html