The government has been promoting a car-lite society, by improving connectivity between places through new MRT lines, and increasing the frequency as well as number of bus services. Like most developed countries elsewhere, the integrated train and bus networks enable most people to rely on public transport for their daily commute rather than private transportation options. And unlike most other places in the world, the transport fares in Singapore are pretty much lower – take a look at New York, London or Japan for instance. Even so, there are several tips for the general public to optimise your spending on public transport.
1.Enjoy free MRT rides to the city on weekday mornings before 745am
If you happen to work in any of the 18 stations (Bayfront, Bras Basah, Bugis, Chinatown, City Hall, Clarke Quay, Dhoby Ghaut, Downtown, Esplanade, Lavender, Marina Bay, Orchard, Outram Park, Promenade, Raffles Place, Somerset, Tanjong Pagar and Telok Ayer) listed above, then good news if you can reach your destination before 745am as it means your train ride is free! This is especially beneficial for those who live at the ends of the islands where transport fares would be more expensive since we are using a distance-based fare system. If you can’t tap out before 745am because you were unable to hop onto the crowded train, you still get $0.50 off your train fare if you tap out before 8am. One caveat though, those who have to transfer from bus/LRT onto the train will still have to pay the fares for the bus and LRT rides.
Since its inception in 2013, this scheme has been extended 3 times and its latest dateline is 30 Jun 2017, so plenty of time for you to save money if you just realised!
2. Make use of (free) transfers up to 2 hours
Now that we have moved towards a distance-based fare, there is no boarding charge for every service that you change to. For instance, if you take a train from Redhill to Outram Park and change to bus 190, you only need to pay for the total distance travelled which may be just $0.78, rather than $0.78+$0.78.
However, there are some caveats that you need to bear in mind for the free transfer:
- You can only take the MRT once during that journey
- You must board another service within a 45 min transfer limit
- There is a maximum of 2 hours for the entire journey, starting from the time that you first boarded
- There is a maximum of 5 transfers within a journey
- Do not take the same bus service twice
As such, sometimes when you are out running a quick errand or having a short lunch which lasts less than 45 min, consider taking a different bus service, or take the train if you took a bus earlier, as you will benefit from either a free ride back (if it is near enough and within the same distance zone) or top-up a few cents rather than paying a full fare.
3. Sign up for a monthly concession pass if you are a heavy public transport user
Previously, monthly concession passes were reserved for school going children, all the way from Primary to University levels. Now, for adult travellers, there are 2 options:
a. Adult Monthly Travel Pass ($120) – Unlimited rides on basic bus services and trains
b. Off peak pass ($80) – Unlimited rides on basic bus services and trains during off-peak periods (start of service to 6:29am, between 9:01am and 4:59pm, and from 7:31pm on weekdays, and all-day on weekends and public holidays)
This monthly pass may only be suitable for people who travel a lot since it is only worth if you use more than $4/day for the unlimited pass. For the off peak pass, the rider has restrictions on weekdays, so not may be ideal if you need to get into office by a certain time.
In order to get the card above, you need to apply first through this website.
4. Sign up for a rewards programme called Travel Smart Rewards if you take the MRT
Do note that this rewards programme is only for train users on weekdays. Valid for both EZlink and Nets Flashpay users.
You earn points by taking train trips using the CEPAS card (Adult EZlink or Nets Flashpay, University/Polytechnic/ITE/Senior Citizen concession cards) registered in Travel Smart Rewards. You will automatically earn 1 point for every 1 kilometre travelled on the train all day Monday through Friday. Designated decongesting hours earn extra points – see table above! You can earn 3, 4, 5 or 6 points per kilometre in decongesting hours if you are Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum! By default, everyone belongs to the Bronze tier, and you need 3 decongesting trips in a week to hit the next tier Silver. For this program, the start time is taken into consideration, so try to travel during the decongesting period (before 715am – and you get bonus points + free train ride if you are heading for any of the 18 stations)!
5.Sign up for a rewards programme called Perx if you use Ez-link card
If you are holding an ez-link card, then you can sign up for both Perx and Travel Smart Rewards and benefit from both at the same time when you take the train! The steps are really simple, just download the app, link your ezlink card and tap away! Each trip earns you 50 points if you are using Passion, POSB Everyday, Citibank SMRT, DBS Live Fresh, EZlink Fevo or Amex Imagine, SG 50 Ez link card. The generic Ez link card earns only 25 points per trip. Do note that Nets Flashpay is not supported at this point in time. Redeem your points for vouchers and use at the participating shops!
6. Download the Wink+ app and scan QR codes at the stations or advertising boards
Wink+ is an app launched by SMRT Commercial and rewards commuters who ride SMRT or scan WINK+ QR codes island-wide in SMRT Media OOH spaces. Earn WINK+ points to redeem WINK+ rewards at participating WINK+ retailers and partners.
7. Link your EZlink or Nets Flashpay card to a credit card for Auto-Topup (ATU) to enjoy rebates
There are at least 4 credit cards out in the market that offers rebates when you choose to auto top-up your Ez-link or Nets Flashpay when their values run low. The one that offers the best deal is Bank of China Family Card, which has perks fairly similar to the Citibank Cash Back credit card (previously known as Dividend Card) – 7% rebate for dining, 5% for groceries and hospital bills and Auto-Topup for NETS Flashpay (This credit card serves as a NETS Flashpay card as well). However, there is a $0.50 fee per top-up so to maximise it, top up $50 each time, and you still get a net 4% rebate if you hit the $500 every month.
UOB Cards: Now, you can top-up up to $40 at the station without opting for auto top-up function. Currently, there is a promotion where you will receive $1 rebate if you use your UOB card to top-up $40 at the General Ticketing Machine at the MRT station, and $2 rebate when you top up S$40 with your UOB MasterCard/Visa Cards on UOB Mighty/Apple Pay. Do note this promotion is limited to the first 20,000 eligible UOB MasterCard Cardmembers and the first 20,000 eligible UOB Visa Cardmembers and limited to one (1) cash rebate per month per eligible Cardmember. (Updated 1/8/16: Auto top-ups for Ezlink and Nets Flashpay are not eligible for UOB One rebate anymore following the revision of T&C) Nevertheless, make use of this new promotion where you get 4.375% rebate ($2-$0.25 processing fee out of $40) when you topup with your UOB Mighty or Apple Pay every month! [Terms and Conditions here]
OCBC Frank gives 3% rebate but you need to fulfil the $400 offline shopping if not you will get a miserable 0.3% rebate.
However, if you want to keep things simple without any minimum spending, get the
Citibank SMRT (Updated 1/8/16: POSB everydayday card no longer gives 2% rebate for ATU – kinda ashamed that they did not send any information to their cardmembers! Hence it will be a measly 0.3% rebate). For Citibank SMRT, the rebate is 1.7% if you fail to spend $600 per month, otherwise 2% rebate is yours. Both Citibank and DBS/POSB will continue to waive the $0.25 fee for auto-top up for now.