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April 11, 2017updated 20 Jan 2022 7:33am

Singapore’s freak discrepancy between card penetration and transaction volumes

By Anna Milne

One of the most advanced payments markets globally, 83% of adults in Singapore hold both a debit and a credit card, according to GlobalData’s annual consumer payment survey. The market also has a strong payment infrastructure. Yet card usage lags way 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 consumers in Singapore use their payment cards at the POS around a third as much as consumers in Australia and New Zealand.

Merchant attitudes towards payments cards are different and consumers tend to use their card for relatively high-ticket items, rather than low-value transactions like their peers in New Zealand and Australia. If Singapore is going for a cashless society, it needs to bring low value card payments into consumers’ consciousness and incentivise merchants to accept them.


Source: GlobalData

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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