High-tech cards no match for cold hard cash

High-tech cards no match for cold hard cash

I have no credit cards and I like the feel of cash. You can instantly see how much you've spent and how much you have left while few retailers turn their noses up at loose change.

But here I was, venturing out with a wallet empty save for three cards: An ez-link, a Nets FlashPay and a Citibank Visa PayWave.

I also had a virtual MasterCard PayPass card on my smartphone.

I zipped to Bugis in a cab and asked to pay by FlashPay after spying a Nets sign on the window.

I tapped my card and a receipt popped up in seconds. Easy - much quicker than paying with cash.

Caffeine starts my day. Coffee at my regular joint, Starbucks, was a breeze. I whipped out the phone, opened an app, keyed in a code and tapped it, a process easier than it sounds.

Now for breakfast. I set my mind on kaya toast and that was when things got difficult.

I was waved away from a coffee shop on Liang Seah Street which took only cash. The same thing happened at three other stalls, including one at a hawker centre.

Salivating, I trudged to Bugis Junction thinking that a big-chain outlet would surely take my custom.

At Toast Box, cash only. "Why?" I pleaded in frustration. "Boss' instructions," a member of the staff said.

Two other big chains also left me hungry and in a last-ditch effort, I took the train to Millenia Walk.

I finally got my toast at Koufu foodcourt via FlashPay. It was 12.30pm and I was eating breakfast for lunch.

Next on my agenda was a movie at Shaw Theatres Lido.

I tried my smartphone. The woman at the counter yelled to her colleague: "I never do before. How I know?"

They both left and I stood there for 10 minutes. Then the swat team descended...

Three people appeared at the counter. One leafed through a thick instruction manual, the manager was on the phone to his manager and the woman apologised, saying: "I work here 10 years, no one pay by phone before."

The transaction finally went through, leaving myself and the staff in disbelief. By then, I had been at the box office for 25 minutes.

Determined to shop, I headed to Far East Plaza where most stores accept some form of contactless payment.

I picked up a $3.90 nail file at third-floor Beauty and took out FlashPay. I was told I had to spend at least $30 to use the card.

I could not shop at Sephora and Isetan either. But I finally bought a dress from Warehouse at Ion Orchard.

By that time - 5pm - my patience had thinned. I made a pit stop at Watsons to buy plasters for my blistered feet (PayWave worked), then limped to the taxi stand.

I headed to Clementi to buy contact lens solution and soap but it was cash only at the optician and corner store.

Frustrated, I ez-linked it in a bus to Cold Storage in Jelita to pick up the items there.

I tried to pay with my smartphone but gave up after the fifth attempt. An impatient customer behind me in the queue demanded I switch to a "less-modern" payment method.

I imagined bartering my handbag for the items but instead I tried my PayWave card - and it worked.

Dinner was eaten at Texas Chicken which accepted ez-link.

Without cash, I was forced to go to big-chain stores that had the technology to handle contactless payments. Even then, it wasn't always a smooth ride.

I couldn't shop at the usual vendors in my neighbourhood - small, independent stores that tend to be cash-only. Given that I had to shop at retail giants, I ended up spending more. For now, it seems, cash is king.


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