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What you need to know about digital wallets and why they are useful

For consumers in Singapore, cash and cards have long been the main way to pay for anything from hawker centre meals to new smartphones.

What you need to know about digital wallets and why they are useful
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For consumers in Singapore, cash and cards have long been the main way to pay for anything from hawker centre meals to new smartphones.

Now, many mobile applications and digital wallets offer an alternative for instant payments locally and globally. Going digital can deliver a heap of new benefits.


Ever since 2014 when OCBC bank launched Pay Anyone and DBS bank launched PayLah!, the number of mobile payment apps has been growing, and technology has expanded to include digital wallets as well.

Those digital wallets enable you to store credit cards, debit cards and sometimes even loyalty or other cards in the cloud and access them from your phone, laptop or tablet.

The advent of PayNow in 2017 made those digital services even better, since it enables consumers to send and receive money almost instantly through Fast And Secure Transfers (Fast), an electronic funds transfer service, with just the recipient’s mobile or Singapore national registration identity card number. 

Users who have accounts with one of nine banks — DBS/POSB, OCBC, UOB, Maybank, HSBC, Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Bank of China and ICBC — can transfer cash in Singapore dollars to anyone else who has an account with one of the nine banks.

Today, there are more than a dozen apps and digital wallets in Singapore. Bank versions include PayLah!, Pay Anyone and UOB’s Mighty.

There is also an increasing number of independent apps and wallets, including GrabPay, Alipay, WeChat Pay, Singtel Dash, FavePay, YouTrip and Revolut.

A majority — 77 per cent — of Singaporeans already use digital wallets, consulting firm McKinsey found. 

Those digital wallets, sitting on a smartphone, are just like a regular wallet, only better.

They can be used to send or receive money, tap to pay for purchases at merchants or pay with an account number online, and store Singapore dollars or foreign currencies.

Along with allowing you to store credit and debit cards, some wallets offer extra value by tracking merchant discounts or rewards.


A survey by e-commerce aggregator iPrice Group and app analytics firm App Annie Intelligence found that the wallet with the most active users and most downloads here is GrabPay.

Grab says that consumers use GrabPay for about 77 per cent of transactions on its app.

Paylah! is the second most popular, the survey showed, and DBS is the only bank in the top five.

Fave ranked third in being most actively used and fourth in most downloads, EZ-Link was fourth as most actively used and third in downloads, and Alipay rounded out the top five for most used while Singtel Dash was fifth in downloads.


If you already have credit or debit cards and don’t use a digital wallet or only use it sporadically, you may wonder how getting one might be helpful.

E-wallets can offer a fast, easy-to-use, safe and seamless payment experience, as financial technology newswire Finextra explains it.

Moreover, they are more secure than cards since data on the digital wallet is encrypted and they have security features such as payments alerts and personal account monitoring.

Consumers can receive offers, rewards, and discounts through some digital wallets as well as integrated features such as restaurant reservations and food ordering, or splitting bills with friends.

GrabPay, for instance, allows you to pay with a debit or credit card, use the money in your Grab wallet, get instant payment notifications, receive discounts, use your Grab Rewards points, and link to rides or food delivery.

One of the newer players is Revolut, which is technically classified as a remittance firm. You can open an account online quickly, make payments, tap your phone overseas for payments at close to the interbank exchange rate, send money to friends or even abroad for free, get cash from ATMs, and manage your budget.

And the competition is heating up. DBS says that it will integrate its Lifestyle rewards into PayLah!, for example, as well as expand acceptance and increase partnerships with merchants including fast-food chain KFC and event ticketing firm Sistic.

Consumers may also use Paylah! to buy travel insurance or movie tickets and look for entertainment or dining offers.


There are plenty of digital wallets available and more on the way, so it is important to choose one well.

It should be easy to use, whether you tap to pay, use it online or send a payment to a merchant or to friends.

Another key criterion is the transaction fees.

While most transactions locally are free, you can save money if you get a digital wallet that you can use to spend overseas or send money abroad with little or no mark-up above the interbank exchange rate and with no transfer fees.

Digital wallets that store foreign currencies can help you manage exchange rates and reduce your costs for buying online or travelling overseas.

If your digital wallet alerts you to deals or discounts with points, memberships, VIP status or cards you have loaded onto the wallet, you will be better off with an e-wallet than with cash or a card.

Getting alerts about each transaction can help you make sure your money is safe, and transaction tracking or budgeting can help you manage your money better.  

While digital wallets may not have offered much more than credit cards in the past, they are offering lots more these days and can be more secure, so it is worth considering getting one now.

Related topics

e-wallet digital payment banks money consumer

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