Photo of EZ Link card top up machine in Singapore from Holland Village

A day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his National Day speech that he will be more aggressive in the push for a “Smart Nation”, the ex-military officer-turned-Land Transport Authority Director ordered the removal of cash top-up services at 11 MRT stations. The new government policy will effect from Sep 1 onward, and all cash services at the passenger service counters will be removed by 2020, according to the civil servant who is eager to please the PM.

However, this will be causing severe inconvenience to tourists who do not want to impose an international credit charge, and Singaporeans, particularly the elderly and children, who do not have a bank card or know how to operate a NETs transaction. While countries like Australia and Japan are also pushing for similar cashless transactions, their transport fare card top-up machines also accept cash.

Group director for the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Lam Wee Shann, a former military officer, told state media Straits Times:

“The growth of electronic payments has rapidly transformed the public transport ticketing scene, with cash payments and top-ups being replaced by convenient, fuss-free cashless options. With more than seven million ticketing transactions each day, a fully cashless public transport system will be an important step in Singapore’s quest to become a cashless society and a Smart Nation.”