Hongbao go digital
Banks in Singapore are rolling out digital red packets, or hongbao, in full force this Chinese New Year (CNY) in response to social distancing requirements amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Just like physical red packets, these e-hongbao come in different designs, albeit digital ones, with customisable greetings or graphics, depending on the bank.
All funds are sent via the instant transfer service PayNow, which maps people’s bank accounts to either their NRIC or mobile number.
All the major banks – DBS, OCBC, UOB, Citibank, Standard Chartered and Maybank – will offer e-hongbao by early next month. The first day of CNY this year falls on Feb 12.
The e-hongbao drive is part of a larger shift towards e-gifting by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which last week encouraged people to go digital to reduce physical queues for new bank notes.
The authority is also promoting e-gifting to avoid crowding at banks as people queue up to exchange their old notes for new ones, a CNY practice.
The drive could further accelerate the adoption of CNY e-gifting, which has already been on an upward trend in recent years.
For instance, the volume and value of PayNow transactions processed by UOB during last year’s 15-day CNY period from Jan 25 to Feb 8 roughly doubled compared with the same period in 2019.
“Millennials were the biggest users of PayNow during the CNY period in the last two years,” a UOB spokesman said. Almost three-quarters of PayNow transactions during CNY last year were made by UOB customers aged between 21 and 40, he added.
Millennials were the biggest users of PayNow during the CNY period in the last two years.
But he expects PayNow to gain popularity among older customers as a mode of gifting money during this festive period because of social distancing concerns.
We may not be able to visit all our family and friends this Chinese New Year… (but) with digital gifting alternatives, we can bridge the physical distance and still send them our well-wishes, which are especially precious during these trying times.
The average amount sent by DBS users via the bank’s eGift function during CNY also increased from $36 in 2019 to $47 last year, while OCBC Pay Anyone transactions during CNY last year were double the average daily amount.
“We may not be able to visit all our family and friends this Chinese New Year… (but) with digital gifting alternatives, we can bridge the physical distance and still send them our well-wishes, which are especially precious during these trying times,” said DBS head of consumer banking Jeremy Soo.
DBS customers can also make use of QR Gift, a hybrid option which involves giving out physical gift cards with QR codes printed on them, and that can then be scanned by recipients to receive the loaded amount.
DBS is introducing a complimentary QR Gift delivery service for customers who prefer not to collect the gift cards at a DBS branch.
Homemaker Jelyn Chew, 44, began using QR Gift two years ago, when the initiative was launched.
“We were worried during the first year that (QR Gift) wouldn’t be well-received and only gave (the gift cards) to younger ones who are more tech-savvy,” she said. “But I think (e-gifting) is less taboo now… so we are going to give out more this year and maybe even teach my parents to do so.”
Meanwhile, those who still want to give physical notes for CNY will have to make an appointment via their bank’s online reservation system before visiting the branches.
A DBS spokesman said all collection slots for Jan 25-29 were snapped up yesterday morning, with the number of customers that logged into the bank’s platform to reserve new notes four times that of last year. More slots for days after Jan 29 will be available for reservation starting from Jan 24.
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