Are digital currency initiatives a potential game changer in the evolution of money?

A tap of your credit or debit card at the train gantry. A hover of your smartphone over the payment terminal. Just a few taps to transfer your share of the lunch bill to your friend.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen more Singaporeans embrace digital payments, with PayNow transactions doubling in both volume and monetary value from 2019 to 2020. 

By last October, three-quarters of merchants across the island were using the Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR) to accept payment. SGQR is a unified payment QR code launched by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 2018.

Certainly, consumers still use cash, especially in the heartland. But MAS noted in a report last November that cash is “generally incompatible” with the digital economy. The demand for cash as a means of payment is set to decline further.

“As Singapore moves towards a fully digital financial system, we see central bank digital currencies (CBDC) as potentially the next step in the evolution of money,” says Mr Heng Koon How, executive director, head of markets strategy, global economics and markets research, UOB.