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Singapore Public Transport Fares Increase: Here Are 5 Ways You Can Save Money on Bus and MRT Fares

profileJoel Koh

Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have heard the news that there will be a public transport fare hike taking effect from 26 December 2021:

Source: Public Transport Council

And frankly, this fare hike is a bummer.

But, if you are like me and would prefer to change things within your internal locus of control and make lemonade with this lemon.

Here are five public transport hacks that will help you save money to consider.


TL;DR: 5 Ways You Can Save Money on Bus and MRT Fares in Singapore

  • Ditch Your EZ-Link Card and Get a Credit Card
  • Get a Monthly Concession Pass (Not For Everyone)
  • Travel Earlier: Tap in Before 7.45am on Weekdays (Excluding Public Holidays)
  • Make Full Use of Transfers
  • Enrol in the Travel Smart Journey: North East Line Scheme
  • Bonus: Get a Bicycle

1. Ditch Your EZ-link Card and Get a Credit Card

At the risk of sounding old, I still remember using coins to pay for my bus fare until the EZ-Link card came along in 2001.

I was glad I didn’t have to fumble around for change anymore.

But, times are changing again. Back in 2019, the Land Transport Authority launched SimplyGo, a new scheme that allowed commuters to simply (excuse the pun) pay for their MRT and bus rides using contactless (PayWave) credit cards.

With SimplyGo, you can keep your wallet lean as you do not have to bring your EZ-Link card with you any longer.

In addition, you will not have to waste time queuing at general ticketing machines to top up your EZ link card.

The best part?

Unlike topping up your EZ-link card at the general ticketing machines, you get to enjoy credit card rewards for your public transport expenditure. 

Credit cards would offer card rewards for public transport rides that are billed via SimplyGo:

 EZ-Link EZ Reload Simply Go
What Is It? The usual EZ-Link card used on buses and MRTs Using an EZ Link card, but this service allows you to automatically top up your EZ Link card when there is insufficient balance. A service where you can link your debit/credit card with the SimplyGo app, and pay for your transport with your credit/debit card.

You can earn credit card rewards such as cashbacks and miles along the way.
Cost EZ-Link card: $5 Non-refundable deposit per card
EZ-Link charm: Varies
NIL NIL
Rewards 1 point per 10 cents spent via EZ-Link.
Varies, depending on what it is linked to. Varies, depending on credit or debit card used.

For me, using SimplyGo with a credit card is a no brainer decision to make if you can get a credit card.

Even if you can’t get a credit card, can consider using something like the GrabPay Card to earn GrabRewards points with your spending.

If you are looking to ditch your EZ-Link card for a credit card, here are some of the best credit cards for MRT/bus rides for you to consider in 2021:

2. Get a Monthly Concession Pass (Not for Everyone)

With the latest fare hikes, it may finally make sense for you to get a monthly concession pass as the fares will increase while there will be no change to the price of the monthly concession passes.

Here is how much they cost:

Singapore Monthly Concession Pass Cost

CardholdersBus*Train**Hybrid***
Primary student$24.00$21.00$43.50
Secondary student$29.00$26.50$54.00
Polytechnic student$29.00$26.50$54.00
University student$55.50$48.00$90.50
Full-time National$55.50$48.00$90.50
Senior Citizen / Persons with Disabilities$64.00
Adult$128.00

*Unlimited bus rides on basic services
**Unlimited train rides
***Unlimited bus (basic bus services only) and train rides

But for most of us, I would think that the monthly Adult Concession Pass, which costs $128 a month, might not be worth it as you will have to travel extensively every day for it to make financial sense.

Not to mention that many workers in Singapore are working from home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

But humour me for a bit.

Let’s illustrate this by using the example of Sarah, an engineer who works at Tuas but live in Pasir Ris.

 

She has to commute from Mondays to Fridays and goes out on the weekends by taking the MRT from Pasir Ris to Dhoby Ghaut to reach town.

As an adult, she will have to pay the adult fare.

Here is how much it will cost her every month:

A round trip from Pasir Ris to Tuas Link after factoring in the fare hike of $0.04 will cost her $4.42 ($2.21 X 2) a day. This adds up to $97.24 ($4.42 X 22 days) a month.

While her weekend round trips to town after factoring in the price hike will cost her $3.76 a day. This adds up to about $31.96 ($3.76 X 8.5 days) a month.

In total, she would be spending $129.20 a month on public transport. Thus, it would make sense for Sarah to get the Adult Concession Pass.

But this is just an estimate.

Land Transport Authority (LTA) Fare Calculator

To estimate how much your public transport is costing you, you can use the Land Transport Authority (LTA) fare calculator to see if it makes sense to buy the monthly concession pass.

3. Travel Earlier: Tap in Before 7.45am on Weekdays (Excluding Public Holidays)

Heard the saying the early bird catches the worm?

Well, this saying applies to taking public transport thanks to the Public Transport Council (PTC) implementing the Morning Pre-Peak Fares scheme on 29 December 2017 to encourage more commuters to travel before the morning peak hours.

 

Source: PTC

To enjoy this discount, you will simply have to tap in at any MRT/LRT station island-wide on weekdays (except Public Holidays) before 7.45am.

Commuters would get to enjoy up to $0.50 in savings if they managed to do so.

Note that the discount quantum is $0.50 or the fare for the train journey of the trip, whichever is lower.

Check out these examples:

Source: PTC

4. Make Full Use of Transfers

For the uninitiated, our current public transport fare system is distance-based.

Source: Giphy | The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Here’s what that means:

According to TransitLink:

bus and train [(Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and/or Light-Rail Transit (LRT)] fares in Singapore are charged according to the total distance travelled in a journey and this is known as the Distance Fares system.

It lets you make transfers without paying a charge each time you board a bus or train during a journey.

One way I spend less on public transport is to make full use of these transfers.

Here is what TransitLink considers a transfer:
  • From the MRT/LRT to a bus service
  • From the MRT/LRT to another MRT/LRT
  • From a bus service to another bus service
  • From a bus service to the MRT/LRT.

And here are the distance fare rules:

  • The maximum duration between the first and last boarding (not alighting) of a bus or train within a journey is two hours
  • A maximum of five transfers can be made within a journey
  • Multiple rail transfers are allowed with no additional boarding charges
  • There is a 45 minutes window for transfers between the rail station and bus service, or between different bus services
  • There is a 15 minutes window for transfers between different rail stations
  • The current bus service must not be the same number as the preceding bus service
  • No exit and re-entry at the same station
    • For Newton, Tampines and Bukit Panjang Stations, you will have to tap out and in within 15 minutes to make a transfer to the other line without incurring a new boarding charge.

Here’s an example of how this works.

Let’s say I needed to send in my power bank to be repaired.

I would take the MRT to the service centre, send in the power bank and take the bus back.

5. Enrol in the Travel Smart Journey: North East Line Scheme

Here’s another public transport hack.

If you happen to take the MRT from Buangkok or Punggol or Sengkang to Parkway Parade, Paya Lebar or MacPherson to work every morning, you are in luck.

TransitLink offers commuters who travel on the North-East Line (NEL) an incentive to switch to taking the bus.

From 10 February 2020 onwards, you can register for the TSJ scheme.

Eligible commuters who qualify, register and take the Go-Ahead Express Bus Service 43e from designated bus stops along the route during morning peak hours from 7am to 9am on weekdays (excludes public holidays) can earn 150 points per trip. This is worth about $1.50 in cashback.

These points can be converted to electronic transport vouchers at the ‘Travel Smart Journey Rewards’ web page and the Rewards tab if you are using the SimplyGo mobile application.

Here are the qualifying criteria for this scheme (via TransitLink):

  1. Register for TSJ via the TransitLink SimplyGo Portal or mobile app 
    1. Commuters have to sign up for a SimplyGo account before registering for “”Travel Smart Journeys”” at the TSJ Settings page (web portal) or TSJ Settings tab (mobile application).
    2. They will also need to nominate their most frequently used travel card, which will determine their eligibility for the scheme and the awarding of points.
  2. Tapped in at least four weekdays (excluding public holidays) between 7.00am to 9.00am at one of the following stations in the past 30 calendar days before the day of registration:
    1. Punggol MRT
    2. Sengkang MRT
    3. Buangkok MRT, or
    4. Any LRT station along the Punggol and Sengkang LRT lines.

For a trip to be qualified, commuters have to:

  • Board at designated bus stops and tap in between 7am to 9am
  • Alight and tap out at designated bus stops, as follows:
Source: TransitLink

Commuters will earn 150 points (worth about $1.50) for every qualified trip taken on Bus Service 43e.

But, do note that Bus Service 43e has been temporarily suspended from Wednesday, 15 September 2021 until further notice as SBS is currently facing a manpower crunch due to COVID-19.

Source: LandTransportGuru

Bonus: Buy a Bicycle

Here is something else for you to consider if you want to save money on public transport.

You can think about investing in a bicycle to get around.

A decent bicycle, helmet and lock will set you back about $200 plus dollars which can be quickly recouped from the savings you will enjoy when you give up public transport.

Not only is cycling environmentally friendly, but it will also keep you healthy and more importantly, help you save money.

Source: Giphy

Granted, this option is not for everyone as you might not want to turn up sweaty to work.

Not to mention that Singaporean drivers are not as kind to cyclists on the road.

But on balance, Singapore has a relatively comprehensive Park Connector Network (PCN) with over 200km of park connectors connecting Singapore. Hence, you have plenty of routes to choose from for your commute.

Hopefully, one day, it may become a norm for Singaporeans to cycle to work.

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About Joel Koh
History student turned writer at Seedly. Before you ask, not a teacher. My time as a history student has equipped me with the skills to evaluate the impact societal development has on financial and nonfinancial events.
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