EZ-Link is just like GST. We don't know how it works exactly, but it's always there, slowly but surely sucking away our hard-earned money in small, painless increments.
It's time to change that.
… Uh, sorry, I didn't mean the part about being leeched. I meant the part about knowing how EZ-Link works.
Being aware of the… unique intricacies of EZ-Link can not only enrich your daily public transport commute, but also potentially help you save a bit of time and/or money.
Are you ready? Let's dive into the world of EZ-Link with these 7 fun (and sometimes useful) facts.
1. YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE EZ-LINK APP TO CHECK BALANCE & TOP UP ONLINE
I'd start this article off with an explanation of how EZ-Link works, but I could not understand either the official EZ-Link website or the NLB encyclopedia entry.
All I know is that it's a prepaid stored-value card with some kind of verification system, so you can't hack your EZ-Link card and make it believe its balance is always $50.
Apparently, there are EZ-Link nerds who are so into it that they buy actual EZ-Link readers to check their own card balance and transaction history, but for the rest of us, it should be sufficient to download and use the EZ-Link app.
The EZ-Link mobile app is a pretty easy way for you to manage your EZ-Link card (or cards, you baller).
You need to register for an account with your NRIC and then add your EZ-Link cards to it by entering their 16-digit CAN number on the back. Cards that are linked to your NRIC should simply appear on the screen too.
Then you can do the following:
- Perform a quick EZ-Link balance check
- Check the transaction history of each EZ-Link card
- Disable a lost EZ-Link card
- Enable EZ-Link auto top up i.e. EZ-Reload
- [Only for NFC-enabled phones] Top up your EZ-Link card
But the best feature of the app is….
2. EVERY $80 SPENT ON YOUR EZ-LINK LETS YOU REDEEM 1 FREE CURRY PUFF
Unless you already have the EZ-Link app installed, you probably didn't realise that you can actually earn rewards points every time you tap your EZ-Link card.
Link your EZ-Link card on the app to earn 1 point for every 10 cents spent. This includes non-transport spending too, like when you use your EZ-Link card to pay for ERP or Koi bubble tea (yes it's accepted).
After you've accumulated enough points, you can redeem them for rewards. These are always rotating and some are kinda crap, but there are usually a few good ones.
Here's a few I picked that are now available:
If you're a Circles.Life user, you can also link your phone number to your EZ-Link account to get extra data. First you get a one-off 500MB data bonus for registering, then you can earn 50MB data for every 10 rides you take for the next 3 months. That's at least 200MB for free, just for your weekday commutes.
3. NEED TO TOP UP YOUR EZ-LINK CARD URGENTLY? YOU MIGHT BE SLAPPED WITH A "CONVENIENCE FEE"
While MRT commuters can simply top up their cards at the MRT station's general ticketing machines, running out of money is a real headache for those of us who take the bus.
It means you have dash to the nearest 7-11 or ATM and top it up, otherwise you'll be stuck with no way to get to work the next day. But convenience comes with a price tag of $0.20 to $0.50 per top up.
To prevent such charges, you should familiarise yourself with the different ways to top up your EZ-Link card and know which ones are free:
The most fuss-free way to top up your EZ-Link card is to register for EZ-Reload auto top up, where you link your EZ-Link card to a credit or debit card.
It used to cost $0.25 per top up, but in late 2018 EZ-Link finally decided to make it free for Visa, Mastercard and all debit cards. (You'll still get charged if you use an Amex or Diners card, or if you link it via GIRO to your bank account.)
You need to download the EZ-Link app in order to apply for EZ-Reload. You'll get an activation which you'll need to manually punch in at a General Ticketing Machine, after which your stored value will automatically replenish and be charged to your card.
4. APART FROM AN EZ-LINK CARD, YOU CAN ALSO USE EZ-LINK CHARMS OR AN NFC-ENABLED PHONE
Picture this: It's Monday. You wake up tired, angry and hungry. You drag your sorry a** to the MRT station and attempt astral projection for the next 45 minutes while you stand cheek-to-jowl an unsavoury mouth-breather who is also alighting at Tanjong Pagar.
As you inch infinitesimally towards the MRT gantry, the crowd halts en masse as the gantry repeatedly screams "Beep-beep-beep-beep-BEEP! Beep-beep-beep-beep-BEEP!" while someone frantically fumbles with her wallet.
Horrible, isn't it? The world would be a less homicidal place if EZ-Link cards didn't exist, or if people thought to fish our their travel cards from their overstuffed wallets.
If you're blushing because you're a chronic card fumbler, consider switching to an attractive EZ-Link charm instead.
EZ-Link charms function in exactly the same way as an EZ-Link card (including top ups and all), only you hang it from your bag/phone/septum piercing so as not to confuse the EZ-Link machines with the 37 loyalty and credit cards in your purse.
Unfortunately they're not available all the time - you have to check EZ-Link's Instagram to stay on top of the limited edition charms. They also cost a fair bit too - anything from $16.90 (Tokidoki) to $29.90 (Hello Kitty) - and there's no load value.
Another way to to avoid the EZ-Link card problem is with an NFC-enabled mobile phone.
You need to make sure you have one of these supported mobile phones, and request a NFC SIM card from your telco (usually $37.45, but you can try asking for it to replace your "lost" SIM card). Once you put your fancy NFC SIM card in your phone, you can tap your phone and use it as an EZ-Link card.
Unfortunately for iPhone users, this whole NFC thing is only for Android phones. But… Nothing's stopping you from putting your EZ-Link card in your phone case.
5. CONCESSION CARDS CAN ONLY BE PURCHASED FROM TRANSITLINK DIRECTLY
Umm, I totally neglected to mention that all of the above only applies to you if you're a regular adult EZ-Link card holder.
If you want to apply for or replace a bus/MRT concession card, you'll have to go through TransitLink directly - either their website, app, or a TransitLink ticket office. You can't buy or manage your concession card through the EZ-Link app.
For the uninitiated, concession cards function in much the same way as the usual EZ-Link cards, except they give you discounted fares. You can only get them if you're a student, NSF, senior citizen, person with disabilities, or lower-income worker under the Workfare Transport scheme.
You can also buy monthly passes that give you unlimited rides on all MRTs and basic bus services. The adult pass isn't really worth it, though.
6. EZ-LINK CARDS DO EXPIRE OR GET LOST. HERE'S HOW TO GET A REFUND
All EZ-Link cards expire after 5 years. You can bring your expiring/expired EZ-Link card to any TransitLink Ticket Office by 31 Dec 2019 to get a 1-for-1 replacement for $3. They'll also refund any leftover value inside the expired EZ-Link card.
To avoid having to pay $3 for absolutely nothing, you can try this hack from Redditor jieqint - apply for one of these credit or debit cards with an integrated EZ-Link function:
- POSB PAssion Debit Card
- POSB Everyday Card
- DBS Live Fresh Card
- Citibank SMRT Card
- Standard Chartered Unlimited Card
- ICBC EZ-Link Card
The bank should send you a replacement card before the EZ-Link expires, even if you haven't gotten to the credit card's expiry date yet.
You can also get a refund for unexpired EZ-Link cards at MRT station Passenger Service Centres and TransitLink Ticketing Offices.
On to lost EZ-Link cards. When you lose your EZ-Link card, whoever picked it up can use your stored value on a big McNuggets spree at McDonald's or whatever, because there's no verification needed to tap the card.
So if you lose the card, you should block it immediately on the EZ-Link app or call 64968300 (8am to 6pm) to report it. This is especially important if you've enabled EZ-reload! You can claim up to $15 in unauthorised transactions after the card is reported as lost.
7. YES, THERE ARE ACTUALLY ALTERNATIVES TO EZ-LINK: NETS FLASHPAY AND TRANSITLINK ABT
If you're completely sick and tired of EZ-Link's buggy app and the fact that you can't use your EZ-Link anywhere other than on public transport and at a few merchants - unlike the ubiquitous Octopus card in Hong Kong, for example - you might wonder if there are any alternatives to this stored value behemoth.
Well, there's NETS FlashPay, of course, which has always tried to sell itself as an alternative to EZ-Link.
But it's not really an improvement. Like EZ-Link, it's a stored value system, so it has the same risks. In fact it's a little worse than EZ-Link because you can't even earn rewards points when you spend on it!
The only way it seems slightly better is that you can use it in your IU to pay ERP and some carpark fees, but actually EZ-Link also has a pilot for EZ-Pay which lets you do the same. (Tip: Put your EZ-Link card in your IU if your CashCard runs out.)
Alternative #2 is TransitLink's ABT (Account Based Ticketing) system, which bypasses any stored value system and links straight to your credit card, no top ups needed. Just tap and go as per normal and you'll be billed for your transport spending at the end of the month.
ABT is great if you want to earn credit card rebates, rewards or miles, hit your minimum spend to get bonus cashback, etc. It's now available for Mastercard and Visa.
… And that's it. For all the talk about Smart Nation initiatives, we're still really far behind from places like Japan and the UK, where paying for public transport by Apple Pay or Google Pay is pretty much normal.
BONUS: 5 BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT REBATES
While petrol credit cards are a dime a dozen, it seems that banks in Singapore aren't so interested in offering benefits for those who are too poor to drive.
Here are the credit cards that let you get some kind of rebate on your public transport spending:
If you sign up for Account Based Ticketing, however, you can theoretically put your spending towards any cash rebates or points your credit card offers. Just read the bank's T&Cs to make sure that they haven't excluded ABT transactions from the list of eligible expenditures.
This article was first published in MoneySmart. Permission required for reproduction.