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Who owns the transit cash float?

Week 16, 2008

In other places, operators are struggling to manage the cash associated with public transport. In Singapore, the NETS (Network for Electronic Transfers Singapore) CashCard is one of the very few successful electronic purses in the world. Owned by a local bank consortium, the NETS CashCard has been launched in 1996, and since then, more than 6 million cards have been issued. The flagship application for the NETS CashCard is Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing System (ERP), the toll payment system to access the central business district. NETS is also accepted as a means of payment for parking lots, and for retail purchases at more than 35,000 locations in Singapore, although non-ERP represent less than 10% of total NETS CashCard transactions.

Later on, in 2002, the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA), launched the EZ-Link card, a FeliCa based contactless card used to pay for Singapore extensive mass transit system. Things started to get blurred when the EZ-Link card started to be accepted as a payment means at kiosks, fast food outlets, convenience stores, etc… (cf. SI #06-49)The latest announcement, during Cards Asia Conference, last week in Singapore was that the NETS CashCard is to be accepted as a means of payment on the public mass transit system, getting in direct competition with the EZ-Link card. This move will mean the readers used in the Mass Transit system will have to be upgraded to support other cards besides FeliCa.  Singaporean authorities are currently working on a national standard for cards that will allow several technologies to coexist,

LTA was quick to come with a response: it will launch a new multi-use card by the end of this year. The new card compliant with the new Singapore-wide standards will allow a wider diversity of usages. For instance, it will be a means of payment for the ERP, getting in a face-to-face competition with NETS CashCard. Then, it could have basic banking features - ATM withdrawals, for instance - as well as the capability to be a credit card.

We will see in the future the outcome of NETS CashCard vs. LTA EZ-Link struggle. What is at stake is the control of the enormous float generated by prepayment systems, be it for the payment of the ERP or the mass transit.

Thierry Spanjaard
Chief Editor
Smart Insights