Catch Singapore trains by tapping your smartphone or credit card

For travellers, Singapore's stored-value EZ-Link card can be a thing of the past: just tap your credit card and you're good to go.

By Chris C., December 2 2019
Catch Singapore trains by tapping your smartphone or credit card

No longer do visitors to Singapore need to get their hands on an EZ-Link pre-paid card to travel around the city by the MRT train or bus: instead, a quick tap of your credit card – or better yet, your smartphone – can get you on your way, fast.

That’s because Singapore’s trains and buses accept contactless cards for payment, much like in Sydney and other global cities like London, where you just tap your credit card or mobile wallet to the public transport reader to pay your fare, and open the ticket barrier.

Whether you’re a regular or infrequent visitor to The Lion City, using a credit card rather than an EZ-Link card means you’ll no longer have to top up before you can travel, won’t need to monitor a pre-paid balance and won’t lose money when your card expires, with one less card to remember when packing for your next business trip.

Just like any other mobile payment, commuters can use a credit card saved to their digital wallet to enter and exit Singapore’s MRT ticket barriers, including at Changi Airport, and to board buses, with fares billed directly to the credit card rather than deducted from a pre-paid balance as with EZ-Link.

The transport system in Singapore supports Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards linked to Apple Pay, Fitbit Pay, Garmin Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, including cards issued in other countries: such as Australia.

Physical (plastic) Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards are also accepted, provided the card has contactless functionality. Other card types like American Express, Diners Club and JCB can’t be used here, although locals can also pay with NETS Contactless, Singtel Dash, and CEPAS/Concession cards.

As above, simply tap your credit card or mobile wallet on the reader any time you ride the train or public bus in Singapore, and you’re good to go – do not pass the EZ-Link top-up machine; do not collect an EZ-Link card!

Your fares will be calculated automatically and later billed to your credit card.

For Visa cardholders, this takes place once per day, with a single credit card charge combining all your fares each calendar day.

Mastercard users will instead notice a single transaction once every five days, or after $15 has been spent on transit fares, whichever is sooner.

As the system supports both mobile wallets and ‘real’ cards, just be mindful to use the same type of payment and device at both the beginning and end of your trip, to ensure the system calculates the correct fare and doesn’t overcharge you.

For example, if you entered the MRT using Apple Pay – that is, scanning your iPhone or Apple Watch at the ticket barriers – you should scan the same credit card on the same device when you exit.

Using the same card but via a different device (for instance, your Apple Watch if you originally used an iPhone), or using a mobile wallet to touch-in and the physical credit card to tap out, may also cause you to be overcharged.

Singapore transport fare prices for mobile wallets, contactless

Whether you use a traditional EZ-Link card, a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay, or tap a physical credit card when you travel, the fare price for each journey is the exactly the same.

The only additional cost is for travellers using an international credit card, where a flat 50c fee is levied for each batch of fares billed to the card.

For Mastercard users, this means an insignificant 50c fee for every five days spent in Singapore or $15 incurred in fares, while for Visa cardholders, it’s 50c per day, given fares are billed daily.

While this could make the usual EZ-Link card seem more appealing, be aware that an EZ-Link card costs $5 just to obtain: an amount that can’t be spent on travel. For that, you also have to top-up.

What’s more, to board a bus or enter a train station, an EZ-Link card needs to hold a balance of $3 or more, even if the fare being charged is less than that – and of course, EZ-Link cards, including any credit loaded onto them, expire after a period of time: making credit cards the easier (and smarter) choice.

Checking your Singapore travel history, including receipts

Singapore’s TransitLink authority allows commuters to register for an account and link their credit card information to keep tabs on how much they’ve been charged and when.

This is an optional step – you can travel on trains and buses without doing so – but registering allows you to generate and download receipts for your travels, either for record-keeping or reimbursement requests.

To register, head to the TransitLink website, create an account using your email address and phone number, and follow the prompts to add the credit card you plan to use into your account. You can add multiple credit cards if needed.

Then, via the My Statements tab, you’ll be able to review your travel history by date, and which can be exported to a PDF by clicking “download”.

For those submitting expense reports after their travels – particularly when using a credit card with a home currency other than Singapore dollars – also take note of the eight-digit reference number.

This number corresponds to each charge made to your credit card, and any trips taken as part of that charge will show the same reference number, to help identify which credit card transaction was for a particular trip or batch of trips:

(In the example, only one trip was taken, which incurred that 50c fee: but of course, when multiple journeys are taken, these will all be charged to your card as a single transaction – meaning only a single 50c fee is charged per batch, not a 50c surcharge for every journey.)

Reconciliation is also made easier because the same reference number will appear as part of the transaction name on your bank’s credit card statement, allowing you to cross-check the transaction cost in your local currency.

To keep track of your fares on the go, you can also download the “TL SimplyGo” app on your mobile from the Apple App Store (for iPhone), or from Google Play (Android).

Login using the same username and password that you created for the TransitLink website, and you’ll be able to see your journey history here too, including those handy reference numbers.

You can also opt-in for push notifications to be alerted to the final fare price every time you complete a journey via your linked credit card. Unlike when using EZ-Link, the fare price isn’t displayed on the screen at the ticket barrier, so enable these to know exactly what you’re being billed.

Once you’re set up, you can then explore Singapore with ease, never having to pack and recharge an EZ-Link card again.

Read: Using your smartphone as an Oyster card in London

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Hi Chris I'm heading over to Singapore this coming Friday 6. 12. 19. So I should be able to use my ANZ Visa Debit Card or HSBC Credit Card that are both attached to Samsung Pay and Google Pay, mind you Samsung pay at the moment does not support HSBC Australia. So I just simply tap either my mobile phone or Android watch.

My other question here is how does this work for pensioners travelling from Australia to Singapore how would they get the pension discount.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 174

I'm pretty sure you have to be a Singapore Resident to get any seniors or pensioners discount ... so you'd pay regular adult fares.

No not true at all andyf, my parents go to Singapore quite often and apparently they've used their pension card from Australia in Singapore for certain discounts, but not sure if it would cover the MRT system

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1023

I'd rather use the local 'IC' cards. Using, as TfL calls it, contactless payment just smells of extra costs and additional forex charges.

I would hope that cities adding this option of using chipped cards don't remove the already existing payment options as a result.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2016

Total posts 57

You have been able to use Mastercard now for some time so great to hear that Visa has now been added.

09 Apr 2017

Total posts 12

Thanks for the article.

I will use my EZ-link card until it runs dry then try my Travel card loaded with Singapore dollars, hopefully avoiding transaction fees.

How do travel inspectors check that you have tapped on if you use your own credit card I wonder?

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2482

If it's anything like London, you just tap the same card or mobile wallet that was used to begin the journey to the inspector's portable transport card reader, and you're done. If you'd already tapped on, the system will see that when fares and taps are later reconciled, and nothing happens. If you hadn't tapped on, the card you tapped on the inspector's device would be charged a penalty fare.

09 Apr 2017

Total posts 12

Thanks for that, Chris. Good to know.

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