Saving More on your Daily Commute by Public Transportation

By The Boy Who Procrastinates - April 19, 2019


I spend approximately $60 to $80 on my daily commute by public transportation on a monthly basis. Even though it does not constitute a significant portion of my expenditure, I have always thought that it will be worthwhile if we are able to earn rebate on such essential expenses.

This is especially more so with the recent fare hike for bus and train from 29 Dec 2018. The minimum transport fare is currently $0.83, which makes short-distance travelling (< 3.2km) less cost effective on a distance-based fare scheme. Familiarising ourselves with the following transfer rules has also become a crucial element to achieve greater savings on our daily transport cost:

  • Maximum of 5 transfers within a single journey, with 45 minutes allowance for transfer between MRT station and bus service or between different bus services, and 15 minutes allowance for transfers between different MRT stations. 
  • Completion of journey must be within 2 hours from the time of initial boarding 
  • Should not board the same bus service number consecutively
  • Should not exit and re-enter at the same MRT station, except for transferring lines at Bukit Panjang, Newton or Tampines MRT interchange stations
However, most financial institutions have excluded the topping up of Ez-Link as qualifying transactions for their credit cards. Other than the traditional method of topping up your Ez-link cards, there are a few other channels to earn rebate when travelling. 



EZ-Reload

It is a service by Ez-Link that automatically tops up a user's registered Ez-Link card when it has insufficient value. Unlike the topping up of Ez-Link card via credit card payment at General Ticketing Machine, most financial institutions consider EZ-Reload charged to your credit cards as eligible retail spends. 

With the removal of the $0.25 convenience fee with every top-up made using MasterCard and Visa credit or debits cards with effect from 1 Aug 2018, it is now plausible to utilise EZ-Reload to top up your Ez-Link card. Here are some of the credit cards with achievable minimum spending requirement which can earn rebates with EZ-Reload. 

  • Citibank SMRT Card
Being the only credit card that ties up with the transport company in Singapore, it awards 2% rebates on EZ-Reload transactions over $30 with a total spend of at least $300 per month; 1.7% rebates for monthly retail purchases less than $300. The rebate comes in the form of SMRT$ which can be redeemed as shopping vouchers or cash rebate. The conversion rate is 1 SMRT$ to $1 worth of voucher/cash rebate.

  • Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Credit Card
With no minimum spending requirement, this credit card awards 1.5% cashback on EZ-Reload transactions. Plain and simple.



Complementary apps that help save money on the go

Besides EZ-Reload, I have personally used the following mobile apps/websites that can help to save money when travelling:

  • Ez-Link App
This is useful to keep track of the Ez-Link cards that you have. It displays the primary information of your cards such as the stored value amount and expiry date. 

Even though this mobile app is able to keep track of your travel history, I personally consider the transaction log to be rather baffling. Instead of displaying the total transaction amount of the trip, it depicts lines of positive and negative amounts from which the fare calculation of a trip can be unintuitive and complicated. 

Undeniably, one of the main features of the app is the reward system. Users are able to earn 1 point with every $0.10 spent with the Ez-Link card. Under the Rewards tab, there are a plethora of products which you can redeem, ranging from $3 off ComfortDelgro taxi fare to 15% off Zalora. 

More often than not, I will redeem a free Curry puff from Old Chang Kee which cost 800 points. To put it into perspective, a Curry-O cost $1.50, translating to a conversion rate of approximately $53 spending on public transport to $1 worth of redemption. It is frankly not an attractive rate but I will still gladly accept it given the inescapable expense on transport. 

  • Travel Smart Rewards (TSR)
It is basically an incentive programme by LTA that allows users to earn points for their travel on board the MRT and/or LRT. For each journey made on weekday, the user can earn 10 points. The conversion rate for cash payout is every 1,000 TSR points to $1. In other words, a user is required to complete 100 trips on rail network before he can redeem $1 cash payout.

Currently, the contactless debit or credit cards are not eligible for TSR and only one travel card is allowed to be associated with one TSR account. 

[Update: The TSR portal will cease operations after 30 June 2019. TSR points will be awarded for train trips taken up to 31 May 2019]



SimplyGo

Launched on 4 April 2019, SimplyGo allows commuters to use their MasterCard contactless bank cards or mobile wallet to pay for their travel on public transport. The main idea is to reduce the need for a separate Ez-Link card in your wallet.

Excited to try out this initiative, I have swept through the credit cards I owned, only to find just one MasterCard — Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Credit Card. LTA has announced that Visa is expected to be part of SimplyGo later this year. 


Enabling Mastercard contactless bank cards for transit

For Mastercard contactless bank cards that come with EZ-Link/NETS FlashPay functionality (with CEPAS logo at the back of the card), the EZ-Link/NETS FlashPay function will be the default payment mode for transit. Commuters will have to use the General Ticketing Machines at any MRT stations to switch to Bank card mode.

If your contactless bank card does not have the aforementioned functionality, you can already use them to pay for bus and train rides.


How would I be billed for transit payments when using the MasterCard contactless card?

When SimplyGo was first launched, this is the only burning question that I have and whether cashback can be earned with SimplyGo.

To my understanding, most financial institutions exclude the topping up of funds to prepaid cards like Ez-Link from their lists of qualifying transactions. However, the concept of SimplyGo differs from the usage of Ez-Link card in the transit payment process. It bypasses Ez-Link as an intermediary and allows the MasterCard contactless cards to pay for transport fare directly.

Fortunately, LTA has clarified that the SimplyGo transactions will be charged with the merchant descriptor name "BUS/MRT". The fare charges will be accumulated for up to 5 days or when a total of $15 is spent on transit fares, whichever is earlier, before it reflects on the credit card statements. 

To validate this, I have checked on Standard Chartered t&c to ensure that transactions with description "BUS/MRT" does not appear in the exclusion list. Furthermore, I have phoned the SC hotline and have received confirmation from the customer service officer that SimplyGo transactions do qualify for cashback. My latest credit card statement has also affirmed the accuracy of LTA's statement. 



Experience with SimplyGo

Up till now, I have used my credit card and Apple Pay for the payment of my transport fare.

My experience with SimplyGo has largely been smooth. Compared to using Ez-Link card, I have noticed that there is a slight delay in reading the bank card at the MRT gantry/bus but it is not so significant that you have to fret over the formation of a snaking queue of impatient commuters glaring at you. 

When using Apple Pay, I would whip out my mobile phone and ensure that I am at the Apple Wallet app before making my fare payment. This method has really eliminated the need to carry a separate Ez-link or credit card. 

Registering a SimplyGo account and downloading the app is optional. Whenever I tap out of the gantry, my mobile device will receive an almost instantaneous notification of the transport cost. Compared to the Ez-Link app, SimplyGo provides a clearer breakdown of the fare.



Current Promotions

Of course, what better way to incentivise Singaporeans to switch to SimplyGo than dangling promotions as carrots.

Issuers
Promotional Benefits
Validity Period
Other Conditions
ICBC
1 April – 20 June
 N/A
OCBC
4 April – 31 May
First 10,000 registrants
UOB
4 April – 31 May
First 10,000 registrants
Citibank
11 April – 11 May
First 1,000 credit card registrants and first 500 debit card registrants
Standard Chartered
4 April – 31 May
First 5,000 registrants
Youtrip
11 April – 14 May
First 2,000 users


Best Transport Credit Card

Beyond the promotional rebate that one can earn from various financial institutions, there are a few MasterCard credit cards which offers appealing cashback rate for daily commute by public transportation. It is highly recommended to read through the respective terms and conditions before applying for any credit cards. 

BOC Qoo10 World MasterCard
This credit card offers a whopping 20% on public transportation category with a minimum qualifying spend of at least $600 in a calendar month. However, instead of cashback, it awards Qmoney, a virtual currency that can be used to make payment on Qoo10. 

CIMB Platinum MasterCard
This credit card offers 10% cashback on the categories of travel, transport/petrol and health/beauty/wellness, and 0.2% cashback on other retail spend. To qualify for the 10% cashback, the cardmember must spend at least $600 in a statement month. 

[Update: With effect from 5 June 2019, the cashback programme for CIMB Platinum MasterCard will be revised.]

Maybank Family & Friends Card
This credit card offers 5% and 8% cashback on bus and train rides with a minimum monthly spending of $500 and $1,000 respectively.

Personally, I am most likely sticking with Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Card since meeting the minimum spending can be an uphill task for me. But of course, everyone has different travelling and spending patterns and it should be a key factor to consider before deciding which travel programme to opt for.



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Disclaimer: Kindly note that this is not a sponsored post. The author is in no way affiliated with the stated financial institutions/SimplyGo/Ez-Link and does not receive any form of remuneration for this post. The Boy who Procrastinates has compiled the information for his own reference, with the hope that it will benefit others as well.

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1 comments

  1. This is really informative and useful piece of writing. Really helpful. Keep sharing such stuff.

    ReplyDelete