According to a cost of living survey published by global human resources consulting firm Mercer in 2018, Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Public transport, in particular, MRT fares in Singapore (“MRT SG fare”) contributes to this high cost of living as well.
Nonetheless, there are ways to reduce the MRT SG fare and thereby lower your cost of living.
1. Concessions and Ride Discounts
As a normal working adult, you are unfortunately not entitled to any special concessions. Thus, you would have to pay the normal adult MRT SG fare.
This MRT SG fare is calculated based on distance travelled. The good thing about this is that you will not be charged for transfers to other MRT lines during your journey.
However, you will still be charged a boarding fee for exiting and re-entering the same station. This boarding charge is a standard 77 cents, even without any travel. Therefore, you should keep this in mind if you want to save money on your MRT SG fare.
Student School Smartcard
Being a student brings with it many benefits, with transport being one of them.
Students with the School Smartcards are entitled to 50% off the adult MRT SG fares and reduced bus rates. This applies to primary, secondary and junior college students. Junior college students should extend the validity of their cards after secondary school to enjoy the MRT concessionary rates.
Nonetheless, student concessionary rates do not apply to diploma and undergraduate students, who will pay the normal adult MRT SG fares. They can only benefit from discounted rates by buying the monthly student passes, as elaborated below.
On reaching your 60th birthday, you will be eligible for the PAssion Silver concession card. This allows you to enjoy 25% off the adult MRT SG fares when taking the train.
2. Monthly Subscription for MRT SG Fare
Adult Monthly Pass
One way you can reduce your MRT SG fare is to buy the adult monthly travel pass. This pass gives passholders unlimited rides on the MRT and bus for $120 a month.
$120 is not cheap. In fact, many of us may not spend more than half of that every month on transport. Therefore, this is more applicable to someone who travels a lot, such as for work. For instance, some insurance agents commute frequently to meet clients and can incur a monthly MRT SG fare of up to $300. In such cases, buying the adult monthly pass would actually save money.
So how do you apply for it?
You can simply do so online via the TransitLink Mobile Services App or head down to one of the TransitLink Ticket Offices. Upon successful application, you would have to pay $128.10, which includes the $120 monthly fee, and a non-refundable $5 card cost and $3.10 personalisation fee.
In addition to the discounts for each ride, students can take advantage of the monthly concession passes available. However, the amount of concessions for the monthly plan will vary according to your level of schooling. For example, primary school students will receive the most concessions while undergraduate students have the least.
As an aside, full-time National Servicemen (NSF) can also enjoy the same monthly concession rates as undergraduate students.
Senior Citizen Card
As a senior citizen, you can also make use of the monthly concession pass to get unlimited rides on the MRT and bus for just $60. The same privilege applies to people with disabilities as well.
Here is a summary table of the different types of monthly subscription passes available:
Cardholder Unlimited MRT Rides Unlimited Bus Rides Unlimited Train + Bus Rides Adult - - $120.00 Senior Citizen / Persons with Disabilities - - $60.00 University Student / NSF $45.00 $52.00 $85.00 Secondary / JC / Polytechnic Student $25.00 $27.50 $51.00 Primary Student $20.00 $22.50 $41.00
3. Choose Non-Peak Times for MRT SG Fares
Discount before 7.45am on weekdays
Traveling at non-peak times enables you to benefit from lower MRT SG fares. The purpose of this is to encourage commuters to change their traveling habits to travel more during the morning pre-peak hours.
If you tap into an MRT station before 7.45am on weekdays, you can receive a discount of up to 50 cents. If your journey costs less than 50 cents, then you would get a free ride.
On top of that, if you are a student enjoying concessionary rates, you would not have to pay anything if you start your MRT ride before 7.45 am on a working day.
Hence, if you want cheaper MRT fares (and possibly emptier trains), you can start your travels before 7.45 am on a weekday.
Past vs Present
Previously, the pre-peak travel was free if you exited from certain MRT stations in the City area before 7.45am on weekdays. On the other hand, the current scheme enables you to enjoy a discount based on the time you tap into the MRT station, rather than the time of exit.
Thus, under the previous scheme, if the MRT were to breakdown or be delayed, thereby delaying your exit, your non-peak MRT ride will not be free due to no fault of your own.
Another positive development in the current scheme is that the non-peak benefits applies to entry from all stations. This is unlike the previous scheme which limited the free rides to certain MRT stations in the City.
Travel Smart Reward Scheme
To further encourage commuters to travel during non-peak hours on weekdays, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has introduced the Travel Smart Rewards (TSR) programme. Under this initiative, LTA tracks your daily travel patterns and recommend a customised travel plan for you. Through this, LTA seeks to spread out peak hour traffic and help reduce congestion at the MRTs.
How will does LTA come up with your individual travel plan?
Upon signing up for the TSR, LTA will begin tracking the day, time and station locations of your trips. Then, if you are deemed to be contribute to the congestion at the MRTs, you will receive messages to shift your tap-in timings earlier or later.
What’s in it for you? You may ask.
Well, you can earn TSR points which you can then redeem for cash rewards.
For each trip you take during non-peak timings, you can earn 10 points. Every 1,000 points you accumulate translates to $1. While this does not seem like a lot, you stand to win other prizes under the TSR programme.
For instance, there is a monthly lucky draw where you stand to win up to $1,500. Your chances of winning the top prize increases with the more off-peak trips you take. Furthermore, you can win up to $200 on the TSR’s game called “The Ride One”. In this game, you win rewards by helping the main character to a vacant MRT seat while giving way to the elderly and pregnant.
4. Credit Card Rebates
You can also sign up for credit cards for your EZ-link transactions.
While not reducing your MRT SG fare directly, you can stand to receive cashback or rewards from using your credit card as an EZ-link card.
For example, the Citibank SMRT Platinum credit card provides you with a 2% cash rebate with every EZ-Link reload top up. What’s more, you are saved from the hassle of waiting in line to top up your EZ-link card. In fact, you get to enjoy an auto top-up when your EZ-Link value is insufficient.
5. SMRT Rewards
What is WINK+?
WINK+ is a rewards app by SMRT that allows you to accumulate WINK+ points via two methods. Firstly, the simple act of tapping in and tapping out of MRT stations adds points to your WINK+ account. Secondly, you can scan a QR code at MRT stations using the WINK+ app.
Some people have tried to game the system by taking photos of the QR codes and scanning them at home to get the points. This does not work as the QR codes are location-based. If the system detects that you are not scanning the codes at the proper locations, your account would likely be suspended.
After accumulating WINK+ points the legitimate way, the points can be used to redeem e-vouchers. These e-vouchers can in turn be used at various participating food & beverage and shopping outlets.
However, a caveat is that it takes a long time to collect a significant amount of WINK+. This is because each tap/scan merely gives you approximately 1 point. 50 points amounts to 1 WINK+, which is in turn worth $0.50.
Using simple arithmetic, you can see that relying on the WINK+ app alone is not going present much cost savings. Neither is it the best way of getting rewards. Nevertheless, it is one way of getting some exercise while earning rebates on your fares. Thus, you can still consider downloading the WINK+ app and using it.
There are various ways to reduce your MRT SG fare. Through these methods, you can potentially get cashback, concessions or even rewards. While you may only save a little each trip, these numbers add up. In fact, a $0.50 saving on your MRT SG fare every weekday can allow you to save $50 after just 100 days of MRT rides. The amount of possible savings can be significant. Hence, to reduce your MRT fares, you should be aware of the options available and make use of them where applicable.