Save up to 50% on Singapore Public Transport Fares Using These Little-Known Tips
It’s 2023 and inflation is even more of a b*tch everywhere in the world. When you’re trying to save as much as you can, these tips can help you save on Singapore public transport fares in direct and indirect ways. This is also great if you are visiting Singapore on a tight budget.
How to use Singapore public transport
For first-time visitors to Singapore and those who are moving there, payment services for the bus, Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) are all managed by a company called Transitlink. It enables you to use a contactless EZ-Link card that is rechargeable or a contactless credit card* to pay public transport fares.
*Credit cards that were issued overseas attract additional charges from 60 cents per day of usage.
To pay the correct fare for adults, tap your card on the reader at the entrance of the bus or the gantry of the station, whereupon the maximum possible fare is deducted. When you alight the bus or exit the station, tap the card on the reader there. Based on the distance that you travelled, you will be refunded the difference.
If you opt to use it, you can buy an EZ-Link card at Changi Airport MRT station when you arrive. It costs $12 and comes pre-loaded with $7. However, you have to maintain a minimum balance of $3 in the card, so in reality you have only $4 to work with. This is clearly not ideal and as we’ll soon see, there is a better alternative.
How to save money on Singapore public transport fares
Use your contactless credit card for cashback and rewards
If you already possess a credit card that can be used for contactless payments AND earns cashback or frequent flyer miles, it’s time to ditch the adult EZ-Link card and say adios to topping it up. With the right cards, you can get as much as 8% of your Singapore public transport fare credited back to your account, or earn up to 7.7 miles/dollar.
No prior registration of your card is necessary; just tap on the reader each time you get on and off the bus, or in and out of the MRT station. If your card can be added to your ApplePay, Samsung Pay or GPay mobile wallet, you do not need to carry your credit card around. Simply enable NFC and tap your phone or smartwatch on the reader. The fare will be reflected in your credit card statement.
Download the SimplyGo app
While I have mentioned that registering a credit card (or EZ-Link card) is not required, you may still want to download the SimplyGo mobile app on Android or iOS. It enables you to keep track of your Singapore public transport fare payments if you enter your card details. It does not function as a mobile wallet but also comes with other useful functions like a calculator that you can use to plan a trip and see how much it costs.
The other way the SimplyGo app can help save money is through allowing you to claim overcharged fares, for example if you forgot to tap off the bus or were carrying multiple cards in your wallet. You then get the difference refunded directly to your card.
Take advantage of transfer rebates
In case you were worried about getting charged for multiple single trips when you need to change buses or from a bus to the MRT, fret not. As mentioned previously, fares are calculated based on the distance travelled. Provided these rules are followed, all the legs of your journey will be considered part of a single trip:
- You can transfer up to five times between the MRT/LRT and buses
- Do not take the same bus service number more than once (Express services are excluded; taking the G/M/W version of the service number doesn’t count as different services either)
- Get into a different MRT station from the one you alighted at within 15 minutes
- Change buses or switch between the bus and train (or vice versa) within 45 minutes
- Start the last leg of the journey within 120 minutes (two hours) of the start of the first leg
If you plan your trip carefully, you can save a lot on Singapore public transport fares by taking advantage of these rules. For example, if I live near Ang Mo Kio MRT station and need to run a quick errand (like meeting a Carousell buyer) in Chinatown, I can take bus service number 166 there, settle my business and tap into the MRT within 45 minutes of alighting that bus. As of Boxing Day 2022, my entire journey would cost $2.11 and not $3.41 for two separate legs ($1.77 +$1.63).
I can stretch this trick further. Need a bit more time to run an errand in Toa Payoh Central before taking the MRT? Take a bus from the interchange to the next stop and walk back in five minutes. You see that I prefer to use the MRT last because I am not at the mercy of the waiting time for the bus.
Take the MRT before 7.45 a.m. on business days
In a bid to reduce the congestion on the trains during peak hours, the Public Transport Council introduced a 50-cent discount on MRT and LRT journeys that start before 7.45 a.m. on working weekdays in 2017. This applies to any station and in practice, there is a 2-minute grace period.
The discount applies only to the leg of the journey that is taken by rail, so in this case, it is more advantageous to start the journey on the MRT. If you take the MRT later in the journey and that leg usually only adds a few cents to your fare, that is all the discount you will get. Play it right, however, and paired with the transfer trick, a very short return journey can cost an adult as little as 49 cents instead of $1.98.
Best of all, this discount is also available to those who use concession cards. The shortest rides on a student card end up being free. Speaking of concessions…
Apply for concessions that you’re eligible for
Here is the full list of the various types of concession cards that are available. Click on each to find out the application process and the discounts and monthly passes that are available.
For seniors and those on workfare, the savings of at least 25% on the Singapore public transport fare for each trip probably outweigh the rewards earned through using a credit card. If you are eligible only for a monthly pass on an adult or undergraduate card, you need to do your sums to figure out if you would save more. It just might work out, especially if you travel long distances and frequently spend more than $5 a day.
If you use an adult or concession EZ-Link card, you can earn points that can be converted to money for your daily commute. What you need to do are the following:
- Download the Healthy 365 app on Android or iOS
- Participate in the Health Promotion Board’s campaigns; for Eat Drink Shop, scan the QR code you receive with the receipt when you buy Healthier Choice items at participating outlets (five points each)
- For the National Steps Challenge, sync the app with your fitness app of choice and earn up to 30 points a day by clocking 5,000 steps and 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise (as measured by your pulse rate)
- Tap on ‘My Healthpoints’ on the home screen, followed by ‘Auto Redemption’, and add your EZ-Link card’s 12-digit CAN ID (etched at the bottom of the card)
When you have accumulated at least 150 points, you can redeem them under ‘Transitlink’. You can use the sliding scale to select how much of these you want to use. Points convert at a rate of 150 points to $1, which then can be used on Singapore public transport fares.
All this is worthwhile if you already use a fitness band that measures your pulse rate and a fitness app that syncs with the Healthy 365 app, or the free device that HPB provides during Steps Challenge campaigns. If you use the public gyms and swimming pools regularly, redeeming the points for ActiveSG credits gets you much better returns (150 points for $3) than on public transport.
I use the bus and MRT daily and travel moderate distances, so some of the tips I use help me save an average of $15 on Singapore public transport fares and earn around 120 miles every month. None of the organisations here sponsored this article and I wrote this out of genuine desire to share what I know to help you save money (and link up some of my other posts).