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3 ways to spend less on public transport in Singapore

By Joanne Poh, MoneySmart.sg

If only SMRT’s bus services could be as frequent as their MRT breakdowns. The only thing that seems to be improving year on year is SMRT’s profits. If you’re the sort of person who likes to “pay for quality”, sorry to break it to you but so long as you’re stuck paying for public transport, the best thing you can do is to try to pay as little as possible for what you get. Here are some tips for lowering the cost of taking public transport.

1. Use night buses instead of taking a cab after midnight

Taking taxis costs so much more than bus and MRT rides that it makes sense to avoid them as much as possible. After midnight, you get hit by a surcharge of a whopping 50%. A cab ride from the city centre to a suburban area like Pasir Ris will set you back close to $30. You also have a high chance of being forced into a discussion about local politics with the taxi uncle.

While you can always opt to take the bus and MRT in the day, from about 11pm to 12:30am many bus services stop completely, leaving you with no choice but to hail an expensive cab. One way to avoid taking a cab is to take a Night Rider or Night Owl bus. Surprisingly, many Singaporeans don’t even know these buses exist or have no idea whether there’s a services that goes to their area.

The last of these bus services leaves the terminal at 2am. Even if none of the services goes directly to your home, you can still alight in your area and take a cab home from there, which will probably still be cheaper. A ride costs $4.50 and the buses move very fast since not too many people get on once you leave the city and there’s barely any traffic on the road—they are nowhere near as slow as regular daytime bus services.

2. Use Uber rather than taxis when it’s cheaper

Sometimes you really have no choice but to take a cab. For instance, if you have a huge suitcase or a drunk friend in tow, you really don’t want to even try to take public transport.

While UberX is generally more expensive than regular taxi services, there are some instances where it is actually cheaper. For instance, if you’re looking to take a taxi after midnight, it’s cheaper to get an Uber driver to ferry you instead.

If you have to call a cab to the CBD during the morning rush hour, hitch a ride with an Uber driver instead. You’ll could end up paying less or at least a similar amount, and more importantly will be able to get a cab instead of being put on hold for hours.

3. Pay for public transport with a card that gives you rebates

While our public transport system is relatively inexpensive, all that commuting really adds up, and someone who lives a long distance from their workplace can end up paying over $100 a month even if they don’t take a single cab.

Since you have to top up your EZ-Link card whether you like it or not, it makes sense to use a credit card that offers you rebates for doing so. Most credit cards either require you to sign up for EZ-Reload, a service that automatically tops up your EZ-Link card whenever it runs low, or register for NETS FlashPay, which enables you to use your credit card itself as an EZ-Link card. Here are some of the deals on offer:

  • POSB Everyday Card – Get 2% rebate when you use the credit card as an EZ-Link card.
  • FRANK by OCBC – 3% rebate on your first two NETS FlashPay Auto Top-Ups, which will enable you to use your credit card as an EZ-Link card.
  • EZ-Link Imagine American Express Prepaid Card – While not strictly a credit or debit card, this prepaid card gets you 2% rebate on EZ-Link transactions.

This article was first published at MoneySmart.sg