EZ-Link to take e-wallet route with digital push

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Travel card issuer EZ-Link plans to go digital next year, by getting users to migrate the monetary value stored on their physical cards into online accounts.

With these digital wallets - akin to Alipay and WeChat Pay - EZ-Link says it can offer a range of new services, such as payments to bike-share operators, peer-to-peer transfers, as well as payment for online shopping.

This digital push will enable the firm to stay relevant in the market, EZ-Link chief executive Nicholas Lee said in an interview yesterday.

"Public transport has evolved and we see more players such as car-sharing and bike-sharing firms. All these are digital platforms.

"If EZ-Link is not digitised, we will never be part of the equation," Mr Lee told The Straits Times.

The details are still being ironed out, but Mr Lee said he plans to start educating and encouraging users to switch from offline to digital accounts from the middle of next year.

To date, EZ-Link has issued 30 million cards with the Contactless E-Purse Application (Cepas) standard, and among them, 3.4 million are used at least once every month.

With the digital wallets, users will still need physical cards - as tokens - to tap in and out of fare gantries and on card readers on buses. But in future, the electronic wallets can be linked to wearable devices or even a thumbprint, said Mr Lee.

From yesterday, users of the EZ-Reload service will no longer be charged 25 cents when an automatic top-up is made with Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards.

EZ-Link has also moved EZ-Reload to the EZ-Link app, cutting down the approval process from five days to minutes.

There are close to 400,000 users of the EZ-Reload service, which automatically tops up a user's EZ-Link card when it has insufficient value.

EZ-Link has also partnered with Cheers to let customers use loose change from purchases to top up EZ-Link cards.

The service, available at 103 Cheers outlets, is free.