No signing for card buys at more places

SINGAPORE - Retailers and restaurants have been slowly taking up the option of offering signature-free transactions for small credit card purchases - and many of those who have say it is speeding up service.

The Straits Times found that at least 11 merchants - FairPrice, Metro, Takashimaya, Watsons, Han's, Starbucks, Royal Sporting House, Jones the Grocer, Marche, ComfortDelGro and the Dairy Farm Group of supermarkets - have stopped requiring signatures for small purchases. Others like department store Tangs will implement it by the end of this month.

From 2010, credit card companies gave merchants the option to tweak their terminals, allowing them to accept such payments. Visa and MasterCard introduced it in 2010 for purchases of $45 or less.

American Express started giving merchants the option last year for transactions of $100 or less.

Going signature-less helped ComfortDelGro taxis to shave three seconds off their handling times per transaction and the 117-outlet FairPrice calculates time savings of about 10 seconds per transaction.

"Payment processes are about a third shorter than normal credit card transactions," said Mr Gerry Lee, the supermarket chain's managing director of business groups.

He added that the service was rolled out in April last year for purchases of $45 and below - about 70 per cent of their credit card transactions. "It's been well-received but customers were initially concerned about the security of such transactions."

Han's has started rolling out the service for meals that cost $50 or less. The roll-out will be completed at all its 24 outlets by October. The chain's general manager Mr Gan Yee Chin, 40, said: "It saves us a minute per person. That's quite a lot during peak hour when there are long queues."

Watsons did the same for American Express credit cards for purchases of $100 and below from October last year. But Mr Micheas Chan, 33, merchandising director of the 112-outlet chain, said: "It doesn't save that much time."

"Customers are taken aback when they do not have to sign. Some ask why and are worried about security. We end up having to explain so it's not that convenient."

Businessman Chan Chin Hee, 50, is one of those who remain unconvinced about the security of such transactions.

"It's quite dangerous and I don't agree to it," he said. "If I lose my credit card and the bill comes, how can I prove that I didn't use it if there is no signature? It must have signature. It's safer for cardholders."

However, OCBC Bank's group lifestyle financing head Desmond Tan reassured consumers, saying that no-signature transactions do not hamper investigations as banks look at many factors to determine if fraud has occurred.

He added: "The customer will get a full refund.

"But the base conditions are that they must make a report immediately upon discovering that their cards were lost or stolen, and our investigations do not find the customer negligent."

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