The company announced Tuesday the mobile payment service has gone live here, becoming the sixth country after the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and China to have it. Amex confirmed in October last year it will follow with Hong Kong and Spain to roll out Apple Pay there within the year.
For now, only American Express-issued cards will work, and American Express cards from other banks like DBS Bank, UOB and Standard Chartered will start getting accepted “soon,” says Apple’s site.
Users can also expect Visa to be onboarded, but Apple wouldn’t say exactly when this would be.
Apple Pay works with the Apple Watch, iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro and iPad Mini 3, and is compatible with existing contactless payment terminals in stores.
Like other tap-to-pay modes such as Visa PayWave and MasterCard’s PayPass, Apple Pay transactions are capped at S$100 ($75) each.
The Apple Pay service first debuted in the U.S. in October 2014.
Is Amex-only crippling the service?
Apple Pay’s Amex-only debut in Singapore echoes its operations in Australia, where it only works on Amex, and with none of Australia’s big four banks.
Avoiding that, Apple went a much broader route in China for its February debut in the important market, which is the world’s largest smartphone base. It tied up with the country’s sole interbank network, China UnionPay, allowing access to the vast majority of cards in the country.
It worked; the first day of Apple Pay in China proved so popular that the service couldn’t accommodate everyone jumping on, and Apple said it had to stagger the number of sign-ons. According to Apple, 3 million cards were added in the first 72 hours of the service going live in the country.
Given that Amex has a far lower penetration rate in here compared with Visa and MasterCard, it’s not likely that Singapore will experience anything close to that rush of sign-ups.
According to data from research firm IDC Asia-Pacific, Amex is estimated to be on fewer than 5% of the total credit and debit cards in circulation in Singapore. Merchants are generally less keen to support Amex as well, because its fees are known to be higher than that of the competition.
Chris Anderson, head of mobility at research firm IDC Asia-Pacific, told Mashable: “I’m not convinced (the Amex launch) will lead to an influx of applications for Amex cards in Singapore, since customers know that other options will be available soon.”
Clement Teo, a senior researcher at Forrester, pointed out that Android mobile payments aren’t big locally yet because of “limited” support, so Apple Pay will be a strong contender.
Apple’s biggest competitor here, Samsung, recently launched its tap-to-pay service in Singapore, although Samsung Pay is just limited to a handful of chain stores and mostly public transportation. It rolled out the service two weeks ago simultaneously in China, where it accepts most credit cards, and in Singapore, on the EZ-Link payment network that is mostly used for subway trains and buses.
There are only a few Android models that support EZ-Link payments, such as Samsung’s newer phones and LG’s Optimus G and Sony Xperia Z smartphones. But until Android payments can be accepted at a broader swathe of stores, Apple has managed to get a jump on the competition — for now.