Monday, October 5, 2009

In Singapore without a Dollar

Yeah, I'd like to see that happen.

This commercial has been played at the beginning of every movie Aaron and I have seen for the past six months. It is false advertisement at it's best. I'd love to see ANYONE try to travel to Singapore with only their credit card.

It is impossible. I know this for a fact because a great majority of my time in Singapore has been spent searching for an ATM.

In fact, I'm sure Aaron and I could tell you where the ATM is in every mall/eating place in Singapore.

I'm not trying to offend anyone with this statement, but I've got to say it:

Singapore, you people are way behind in modern forms of payment.

And it's beyond frustrating.

Aaron and I never used to carry cash before we came here. We never ever needed cash either. We always used our debit card (for you Singaporeans, a debit card is the American version of a NETS card, but they accept it everywhere that they accept credit cards).

We even tried to be like the Singaporeans and get a NETS card. When in Rome...

However, we quickly discovered that most places won't even accept that.

I once tried to buy $8 worth of grocery items at a Fair Price Xtra (a big grocery store here) and was told that I was not allowed to use my NETS card unless I spent $10.

Are you friggin' kidding me?! Is it really going to kill your profits to run a transaction for $8? I'm pretty sure that 30 minute queue I just stood in, more than paid the amount it costs to make the transaction.

So I had to set down my things, leave the store, search AMK Hub for fifteen minutes for my bank's ATM and zip out cash. Then return back to the store, find my items (that had since been restocked), wait in line again and pay.

Really. Really?

Then, last night we went out for a movie and decided to get a snack beforehand. The place we went to not only would not accept credit cards, they wouldn't even accept NETS unless our bill was $20.

People. I used to use my debit card in the States to buy a 99 cent pack of gum. Do you think Walmart shed any tears over that?

This is just getting ridiculous and I've seen that friggin' dancing man commercial one time too many.

Get with the times. Accept credit.

And somebody please stop that man from dancing.


FISH said...

I haven't experienced the same level of frustration with credit cards here. Mine is with checks. Some poor soul at the bank literally must verify every signature. Since my signature isn't that consistent, all of my checks bounce back. I ended up making a master signature on a piece of paper in my wallet (after refiling my signature at the bank) and now I trace that signature on all my checks. What a pain. I miss my scribble signature in the US. Not that I need checks all that often, but still a bother.

As for the guy in the Visa spot. His name is Matt. He had a fun video back in 2006 and got sponsored by a gum company to travel the world doing his dance. I'm jealous.

I remember reading an interview he did in a marketing pub shortly after shooting the Visa spots. It was really funny. He essentially ripped on them for paying him to travel around some more and putting him up in 5* hotels just to do a stupid dance.

mae said...

Sorry you have to go through that :/

It irks me too when in supermarkets. But then as with everything else(for me at least), we get used to it here i guess. If i'm not wrong, every nets transaction is at least $3 out of the establishment's pocket. So if your purchase is 8 bucks, then they'd be earning only 5. I suppose that's why they make a big deal out of it being more than $20 purchase.

But when eating out in coffeeshops, well you know how the old folks are with technology...

cw said...

In contrast, the Singapore government has long recognized the benefit of electronic payment and has embraced it. Every single car in Singapore is equipped with a device to deduct toll fees from a "CashCard" when commuters drive through the gantry. And they do so without requiring the car to stop or even slow down! In this case, no amount is too small - even 50 cent is accepted!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Singapore.
Yes, the government said one thing but ironically it is also them whom refused to open out market for more NET player. There is ONLY one company (know as NETS) being appointed to provide the electronic payment service and this company is 100% owned by the government.

So, maximizing profit is the key objective.

Megan said...

Greg, that's really interesting. I guess I would like his dance more if he were dancing about something else. I'll go check out your link.

CW, call me crazy, but I don't ever consider myself lucky to be "able" to pay to drive on public roads. I know it's a necessary evil (even one we have in Kansas), but that will never be a plus in my book. Thanks for pointing out the modernized technology factor though. Now if we can just apply it to shops and restaurants....

You all are giving some great insight. Thanks for your comments.

TC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Megan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason said...

It may be wise to take a step back and see what pays for the kind of convenience Americans are used to -- mountains of credit card debt and high charges from overdrafting off debit cards.

Perhaps Singapore should not adopt the kind of easy and cheap debt culture of the Americans, which could be part of the reason why you've had the financial turmoil over the past year. A little less convenient, yes, but we'll live with it.

BTW debit cards do exist in Singapore (they became common a few years back) and these are different from NETS cards. Like in the US, debit cards are accepted at any place that accepts credit cards.

Brad Farless said...

I'm going to have to agree with you. In the US there are ATMs damn near everywhere. I've even found ATMS in laundromats before... not that you can use bills in the machines, but I'm just sayin'.

Here in Singapore it's damn near impossible to get by without cash. Also, depending on what bank you use you may have even more issues. With Citibank you can't use your card at all at a Shop N Save. At least not the one near where we live. On top of that, the hawker centers and food courts don't accept cards at all. A lot of businesses are cash only.

This is slightly unrelated, but I had trouble using my debit card from the US in Singapore. I could use my credit card, but the debit card often wouldn't work. I could only use it as an ATM card here.

Also, mae, this is from a story. It's from June, 2007 so I'm sure there's been some increase but have a look:

"NETS now charge businesses between 0.35 and 0.55 per cent of the amount of each transaction.

Starting July, this will be increased gradually to between 1.5 and 1.8 per cent of purchases."

3 SGD on an 8 SGD bill is 37.5%.

From everything I'm reading about NETS transactions, the amount charged to businesses is roughly equivalent to, or less than, that charged by credit card companies. And, if that rate is standard, I can't imagine Wal Mart letting people pay by card for a 99 cent pack of gum at a 37.5% rate, or a flat 3 SGD.

Megan, I was just like you before moving here. I rarely, if ever, carried cash. I think the reason for that was that if I had cash in my hand I felt compelled to spend it. Not keeping cash on me kept me from breaking my budget. Here I have to use a mix of cards and cash. It's annoying, especially when Singapore obviously hast he capacity for being completely cashless, much more than the US does even.

the Provident Woman said...

Not only that, but really, who would do such a stupid little dance whereever they go? Really, at least they could have made it a funny goofy dance.

Brad Farless said...

By the way Megan, I noticed that your article was featured on Singapore Surf:


Brad Farless said...

@Jason: I'm not sure how debit cards work in Singapore, but in the US if you don't have funds in your account, the debit card is declined. I can't argue with you about the problem of debt in the US, but I hear there is also a problem with debt in Singapore, so perhaps in that respect we're not all that different from each other?

Oh and... I had that advertisement!

mae said...

Hi Brad, thanks for the highlight. I wasn't too sure on the percentages so i was just taking a guess. The real reasons why they won't accept nets for below-a-certain-amount purchase, only they would know. Haha. I wonder if anyone's ever actually asked before.

Brad Farless said...

It might have to do with the percentage and the fee compared to the profit but different stores set different minimum amounts so I think it's more a way for them to force people into buying more. That way they can increase their profit margin. For example they probably think the average person will just grab a candy or something else in the register area to increase their purchase so they can use NETS. I notice that some stores like to keep items that are on sale for a small amount near the registers. It's all a scam.

Jason said...


Debit cards work the same in Singapore as in the US - if you don't have funds in your account, you can often overdraft without even realizing it, but an OD "fee" will show up in your statement afterwards.

It used to be that with debit cards if your account runs out, that's it, but in recent years banks have found all sorts of ways to push loans...

Credit card debt in Singapore has gotten worse over time. That's in part got to do with the competition that Citibank and others have brought to Singapore. In other words, we are importing American practices like giving credit cards to freshmen undergrads. That being said, there are certainly several other ways in both countries to get yourself in debt.

Brad Farless said...

Jason: Well, all I can say is that my American credit card never has and still won't let me overdraft my account. I've accidentally embarrassed myself in line enough times to know that.

Credit cards for freshmen undergrads? Well, at least they're not issuing credit cards to pets here yet. We actually received a credit card offer for the family dog one time. The worst part is that the dog's credit limit offer was higher than mine at the time.