DBS Bank makes access to cash easier to drive down costs.

In a bid to maintain the accessibility of cash DBS Bank has added another 60 retailer locations to its cash-back programme in Singapore. Customers can now withdraw up to $200 SGD free of charge, with any purchase at over 880 retail locations.

The POSB cash back locations can be found at convenience stores and the SingPost and are “specifically focused on key shopping stops so customers need not go out of their way to access cash withdrawal services”, DBS said. “The service also benefits retail businesses as it helps reduce their outlets’ cash holdings and, in turn, the effort involved in handling cash.”

A recent report funded by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and performed by KPMG found that cash and cheques accounted for 61% of transaction volume with electronic payments making up the balance.

Mobile payment as a means of fund transfer is still extremely low, despite a mobile penetration of 149%, 186% wireless internet coverage and 96% of the population holding a bank account. Mobile payment mechanisms are expected to increase, but the current attitude of retailers preferring cash, combined with a lack of fast, secure and simple payment mechanisms in retailers means that cash is still the preferred method of transaction. Electronic payments only overtake cash for online purchases of items that are not readily or cheaply available in Singapore (leisure equipment etc).

From the banking side, this high cash usage is extremely expensive. Cash and cheque handling and processing accounts for 0.52% of the GDP of Singapore. By making cash easily available through retail channels, it serves to reduce processing costs and infrastructure costs by eliminating the need for more ATMs and the required staff to service them.

Singapore appears to be following Europe and North American trends, namely, cash remains prevalent despite the easy access of alternative payment technologies; cheques are remarkably persistent; electronic payment as the preferred method of payment will become more popular, but never wholly eliminate cash. There are deeper conclusions that can be inferred from these and other reports, but for now, the convenience of cash trumps all other forms of payment in everyday life.