Applying Contactless Credit Card Technology to Public Transport

Following the example of London, Singapore is one of the few cities on the globe—and the first in Asia—to look at contactless credit and debit cards in a different way: for public transport. Instead of topping up a rechargeable fare card, the system is streamlined with the use of contactless payments that are easily trackable thanks to a mobile services app.

Here’s how smart cities around the world can follow their lead, and the framework some cities in Europe already have in place for such a project.


Pilot project

Singapore has partnered up with Mastercard to launch a pilot project of an Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) System, where over 100,000 commuters are estimated to register their Singapore-based contactless Mastercard credit or debit card. Those who end up participating in Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) pilot can skip the hassle of having to refill a separate fare card, since rides will be automatically charged to their card in the same style as touch-and-go at a convenience store. Commuters not only can streamline their transportation experience as far as payment goes, they can also use the app to track their trip history and fare payments.

Straying from tradition

As digital payment technology becomes the norm, tickets or fare cards will become obsolete. London has already given commuters the option of switching from the refillable Oyster card to contactless payment that’s as easy as a tap of their smartphone. The UK Cards Association hopes to extend this mentality to the rest of the country, creating a national framework for pay-as-you-go trips. The idea is to make public transport more convenient for the citizens and travelers using it, with a “smart ticketing revolution,” as Transport Minister Andrew Jones calls it.

Three Outcomes of Going Contactless

-Streamlined payment: Single trips are deducted straight from bank accounts linked to the contactless card, meaning a streamlined payment system without the hassle of carrying multiple cards and time spent stopping to purchase credit at machines.

-Tickets take on new form: Similar to purchasing tickets through a transportation app, instead of storing the ticket on your smartphone, the card becomes the ticket itself, as well as a form of identity.

-Lower overhead for transit operators: Issuing thousands of transportation cards a day—plus paying shops to sell them—quickly adds up. Skip the middle man, and put payment directly in the hands of the consumer. In just over a year, the cost of collecting fares has dropped from about 14 percent of revenues to just below 9 percent,

For London, contactless has generated a reputational boost. The convenience and simplicity of the system have encouraged more individuals to use Tranport for London rather than other travel options, while raising user satisfaction scores in the process.