Ez-link card

The ez-link card is a contactless multi-purpose stored value card that is mainly used for transit payments on public buses and on the mass rapid transit (MRT) and light rail transit (LRT) networks in Singapore. It is also used for non-transit purposes such as making payments at retail shops and for Electronic Road Pricing (ERP). It was introduced in 2002 and more than 17 million cards have been issued.1

The idea of a contactless smart card that could speed up passenger flow on buses and at MRT fare gates was first explored by TransitLink in 1994.2 Trials started in 1996 with 500 tertiary students using the card on selected buses and MRT stations.3 In 2000, this contactless smart card was officially named the ez-link card.4 Separate trials of the card on the MRT and LRT networks and on selected bus routes were also held that year.5

On 8 January 2002, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) established a subsidiary, EZ-Link Pte Ltd, to manage the sale and distribution of ez-link cards and to process the clearing and settlement of ez-link card transactions.6 In that same month, 45,000 commuters were invited for a six-week trial of the card on the MRT network and selected bus routes.7 The card went on sale to the public on 13 April 2002 and it ran concurrently with the old magnetic farecard until a complete switchover was made on 1 December 2002.8

The use of the ez-link card soon expanded beyond transit purposes. The card has been accepted as a mode of payment in many places in Singapore including retail shops, food beverage outlets, cinemas, schools, government services, community services, and so on.9

In a move to be Contactless e-Purse Application (CEPAS) compliant, a new ez-link card was developed. The LTA conducted a trial from August to October 2008 for 10,000 public transport users to test the new card. The CEPAS compliant ez-link card would now enable consumers to use it for electronic road pricing (ERP) and carpark payments, as well as goods and services at places with payment systems that support CEPAS.10

The new ez-link cards went on sale on 29 December 2008.11 On 9 January 2009, the LTA started a mass one-for-one exchange of the old ez-link card with the CEPAS-compliant ez-link card. Commuters had until end September 2009 to exchange their existing ez-link cards with the new cards. After September 2009, only CEPAS-compliant ez-link cards could be used for travel on public transport.12

The ez-link card is embedded with a chip microprocessor and antenna that enables it to communicate with the card reader via wireless communication.13 In the past, commuters used a magnetic farecard that required them to slot it into a ticket validator on the bus or at the MRT fare gate.14 With the ez-link card, all the commuters have to do is to tap the card on an electronic card reader, which will deduct the fare automatically.15

The ez-link card can be used to pay for public transport fares and purchases at selected shops.16 With the new ez-link CEPAS compliant card, it could also be used to pay for ERP charges and EPS carpark fees. The maximum stored value for the new card is S$500, up from S$100, and no longer require a S$3 travel deposit. As such, the balance reflected in the card is the actual stored value.17

Value can be added to the ez-link card through various channels. Manual top-ups can be done at manned counters and general ticketing machines at bus interchanges and MRT stations, ATMs, and selected convenience stores. Top-ups can also be made from the home or office via EZ-Online, a service that enables users to top up the value in their cards online with the help of a special contactless card reader. In addition, there are automatic top-up services like EZ-Reload, which allows a pre-selected amount to be added to the card once it registers an insufficient value at any MRT fare gate or bus card reader.18

2000: The contactless smart card was officially named the ez-link card.19
8 Jan 2002: EZ-Link Pte Ltd was formally incorporated.20
13 Apr 2002: The ez-link cards went on sale to the public at MRT stations and bus interchanges.21
1 Dec 2002: Magnetic farecards were phased out completely; switchover to ez-link cards was completed.22
29 Dec 2008 Public sale commenced for ez-link cards that adhere to CEPAS.23
9 Jan 2009: One-for-one mass replacement of the old ez-link cards with the new CEPAS-compliant ez-link cards started.24


Shereen Tay

1. “About,” EZ-Link, accessed 28 April 2016.
2. Rav Dhaliwal, “Smart Card for MRT, Bus?” Straits Times, 14 July 1994, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Geraldine Yeo, “Undergrads to Test “Contactless” Smart Card for Bus, MRT Fares,” Straits Times, 25 June 1996, 19. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “LTA to Launch Contactless Smart Card,” Straits Times, 27 June 2000, 32. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Karamjit Kaur, “100,000 Commuters Needed for Smart Card Test,” Straits Times, 25 January 2000, 33; “Try Out Contactless Farecard on Buses,” Straits Times, 10 September 2000, 51. (From NewspaperSG)
6. EZ-Link, “About.”
7. “Start Tapping Ez-Link Cards from Month-End,” Straits Times, 6 March 2002, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “Ez-Link Cards Go on Sale to Public from April 13,” Channel NewsAsia, 8 April 2002; “Ez-Link Cards Replace Farecards from Dec 1,” Channel NewsAsia, 1 December 2002. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website) 
9. EZ-Link, “About”; “Schools Find Novel Ways to Use Card,” Straits Times, 17 June 2003, 6; “EZ Way to Buy Tix,” Straits Times, 9 September 2003, 20; “Ez-Link Will Pay for Haircut and a Meal,” Straits Times, 3 June 2004, 4; Wong Fei Wan, “7-Eleven Outlets Add Ez-Link Facilities,” Today, 22 December 2004, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
10. “10,000 to Trial New Ez-Link Card,” Today, 27 August 2008, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Tan Weizhen, “New Ez-Link Cards Let You Do More,” Straits Times, 27 December 2008, 38 (From NewspaperSG); EZ-Link Pte. Ltd, “Commencement of Sales of the New CEPAS-Compliant Ez-Link Card,” press release, 26 December 2008.
12. EZ-Link Pte. Ltd, “Mass Ez-Link Card Replacement Begins,” press release, 8 January 2009.
13. Chong Chee Seng, Smart Card Technology (Singapore: Prentice Hall, 2006), 1–3. (Call no. RSING 332.76 CHO)
14. Dhaliwal, “Smart Card for MRT, Bus?
15. Kaur, “100,000 Commuters Needed for Smart Card Test.”
16. EZ-Link, “About.”
17. Tan, “New Ez-Link Cards Let You Do More”; “10,000 to Trial New Ez-Link Card.”
18. “Top-Up and Refund,” EZ-Link, accessed 28 April 2016.
19. “LTA to Launch Contactless Smart Card.”
20. EZ-Link, “About.”
21. “Ez-Link Cards Go on Sale to Public.”
22. “Ez-Link Cards Replace Farecards.”
23. EZ-Link Pte. Ltd, “Commencement of Sales of the New CEPAS-Compliant Ez-Link Card.”
24. EZ-Link Pte. Ltd, “Mass Ez-Link Card Replacement Begins.”

The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Stored-value cards--Singapore
Smart cards--Singapore