Singapore’s real-time payments system PayNow doubled in both value and volume of transactions in 2020, and is set to double in value again this year after very strong growth in the first half.
Launched four years ago, PayNow has been increasingly embraced by Singaporeans as part of the growing trend towards e-payments during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Minister in charge of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), said there were just under 125 million PayNow payments in 2020 compared to around 68 million the year before.
PayNow transactions amounted to S$22.6 billion in 2020 from S$10.1 billion in 2019, and have already hit S$20 billion in the first half of 2021 alone.
“Credit and debit card transaction values and volumes have been fairly stable during this period while digital wallet use has been growing,” Tharman said in a parliamentary reply in October.
Take up for the Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR) as a payment solution is also strong. SGQR combines multiple payment schemes into a single QR label. It means businesses only need one standardised QR code for multiple e-payment schemes, including PayNow.
Tharman said about 75 per cent of merchants across various service industries in Singapore, ranging from retail stores in shopping malls to food stalls in hawker centres, now offer SGQR.
SGQR has grown from 42,000 merchant acceptance points in 2019 to around 120,000 in 2020, and at least 260,000 merchant acceptance points today.
The Government’s Hawkers Go Digital initiative, targeted at hawker centres and small coffee shops in public housing blocks, had encouraged wider adoption and use of SGQR.
“We have put in place the backbone interoperable infrastructure to enable multiple payment service providers to offer users in Singapore a good array of safe, simple and secure e-payment solutions,” Tharman said. “We will continue on this drive to enable convenient and low-cost e-payments.”
In addition to rapidly growing e-payments in the domestic market, Singapore is also rolling out partnerships in cross-border payments this year, linking PayNow with similar real-time systems in other countries such as Thailand and India.
The most recent payments partnership announced is with its closest neighbour Malaysia. MAS and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said Singapore’s PayNow and Malaysia’s DuitNow will start a phased linkage in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Customers of participating financial institutions will be able to make real-time fund transfers between Singapore and Malaysia using just a mobile number, ensuring more seamless payments.
Remittances between Singapore and Malaysia reached S$1.3 billion in 2020.
“Singapore’s remittance corridor with Malaysia is our largest remittance corridor; hence, the PayNow-DuitNow linkage will be an important infrastructure to support cross-border payment needs of individuals and businesses, as well as the growing digital economic activity between both countries,” Sopnendu Mohanty, chief fintech officer of MAS, said in a statement.
“The linkage also offers MAS and BNM a valuable opportunity to incorporate the use of distributed ledger and smart contract technologies in the wholesale cross-border payments space.”