Is There A Point To DBS QR gift cards banner

Is There A Point To DBS QR Gift Cards?

DBS QR Gift was officially launched in 2019. It allows people to scan a physical QR Gift card to send or receive an e-angpow. It can be seen as a middle ground between physical and e-angpows.

You may wonder, isn’t DBS QR gifts like giving angpow with extra steps? The DBS QR gift still gets printed on paper, right? So, what is the point?

QR gift meme

Source: imgflip

In this post, we will not talk about whether physical Angpows should exist. This has been briefly discussed here. Instead, we will discuss whether QR gifts are necessary.

Ease Of Using DBS QR Gift

First, we will take a look at whether DBS QR gifts are user friendly.

I specially requested for a set of DBS QR gifts when I helped my mother order physical notes. The purpose is to try out the DBS QR gifts and see how they work. I would also like to see how easy is the recycling process. You can find out more on DBS QR Gift Cards here.

DBS QR Gift envelope front back

This is the front and back of the envelope, each consisting of 8 QR gift cards. They have the instructions printed on the back of the envelope.

DBS QR Gift outside

This is what the DBS QR gift card looks like on the outside.

DBS QR Gift inside

The DBS QR gift card looks like this on the inside. There is an alphanumeric code for you to differentiate between different cards.

DBS QR gift cards look

This is how it looks like when you present it to the recipient.

DBS paylah keep track QR gifts

You can keep track of all the QR gift cards by the code number that are loaded and whether they are claimed or not. There is also a Tap lah! Game that will allow senders and receivers a chance to win up to S$888.

DBS Recycling Point

These recycling boxes are available at all DBS and POSB branches to collect used QR gift cards and physical red packets.

Thoughts On DBS QR Gift Cards

I believe the goal of the QR gift is to get more people to get used to scanning QR codes and using mobile payments. This can probably help some people to get used to QR and mobile payments.

I have tried loading the DBS QR gifts and it is quite straightforward to use. Just scan the QR code and select the amount you would like to load. They also have a code number on each card for you to keep track of.
Loading of the DBS QR gift cards can only be done on the PayLah! App while redemption can be done via both the PayLah! App and QR code scanning.

Without using the DBS paylah app, it is significantly harder for the recipient to claim. They will need to scan, log in using their SingPass, then collect the money.
An improvement to the DBS QR gift cards would be to allow the naming of each QR gift on the PayLah app so that we do not need to keep track of it via the codes.

However, for next year, I will just use the eGift function and send my angpows electronically instead. The gesture of giving out a physical item is not important to me.

Adoption of DBS QR Gifts Cards

In 2020, the number of DBS QR Gift cards that were adopted during the festive season tripled from 2019. The total amount loaded on these cards almost doubled to S$2.8 million in 2020.

The DBS spokesperson mentioned that they also expect the usage of DBS QR Gift and DBS eGift to increase as Singaporeans are not only remaining but also shifting to their mobile devices and online platforms for everyday payment and banking needs.

Comparison of Physical Angpows VS DBS QR gifts Cards

The DBS QR gift cards are made of environmentally-friendly, FSC-certified paper. FSC certified paper is paper that is responsibly harvested. Although FSC certified paper often contains recycled paper, it is not a requirement for it to be certified.

As mentioned in my post on e-angpows, the production of new notes each Chinese New Year creates 330 tonnes of carbon emissions. This is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 180 four-room HDB households.

Therefore, giving out DBS QR gifts are an improvement over the physical angpow environmentally.

Additionally, with recycling points available at all DBS and POSB branches all year round, DBS QR gifts would hopefully have a higher recycling rate.

Eventually, I think that the DBS QR gift cards should be phased out once the goal of education has been attained. We should focus on moving towards electronic payments after a majority of Singaporeans are comfortable with paying digitally.

Are QR Gifts A Necessary Evil?

Why do we need QR gifts as an intermediate step before moving towards mobile payments? Can’t we just move from card payments to mobile payments?

Contactless Payments – Cards

Contactless card payments started as early as 1997. In the 2000s, two of the biggest payment processing networks started introducing contactless payments. Visa introduced Visa payWave in 2007 while Mastercard introduced Paypass (now rebranded to Mastercard Contactless) in 2012.

It allows them to tap on their existing customer base and include the contactless payment functionality to all new cards issued.

singapore payments pie chart 2020

Source: PPRO

According to a study done by PPRO, Singaporeans still overwhelmingly prefer card payments as compared to mobile payments. But it is positive news that Singaporeans are moving away from cash and embracing cashless options.

When we already have a viable and convenient payment option, there will be some friction in adopting mobile payments.

Contactless Payments – Mobile

Google Wallet was released in 2011 and rebranded into Google Pay in 2018. Apple Pay was launched in 2014. Samsung Pay was pushed out in 2015.

In Singapore, 56 per cent of consumers in 2019 are using mobile contactless payments according to Visa’s Consumer Payment Attitudes Study. This is an increase of 12 per cent compared to 2018. The increase in adoption is also likely due to popular mobile payment options such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay, being made available to Singaporeans recently.

Mobile Payments in China

China is a special case whereby it managed to leapfrog from cash payments directly to mobile payments due to the poor infrastructure for card payments. This has enabled China to have the top mobile payment adoption rate in the world.

World Mobile Payment Penetration

Source: Statista

Over the last few years, mobile payments are a daily affair in China. According to a survey, in 2018, 92% of people in China’s largest cities use Wechat Pay or Alipay as their main payment mode.

Why Should We Move To Mobile Payments?

Although contactless card payment options are really convenient, mobile payments will still be better.

No More Physical Cards

When we lose our cards, apply for a new card or when they expire, a card needs to be delivered to us. There is the physical waste of the card created and also the waste created via logistics when it is sent to us.

Security Of Funds

It is also more secure as our phones can be locked with biometrics and passcodes. Even if we lose our phones, it is secure and we can reapply for the cards digitally and it can be approved and received more quickly than physical cards.

Tracking a lost phone is also much easier than a lost wallet.

A Smaller Wallet

We just bring our ID and phone and we are set. No more cash and physical cards in our wallets. Once we can have some digital identity via biometric identification, we will no longer need to bring our ID.

Any vouchers or coupons can be potentially implemented digitally and we can just keep them in our digital wallets and use them as and when we need to.

Pitfalls Of Mobile Payments

Mobile payments are the current ideal method of payment but there are some disadvantages too.


When it is that easy to pay, it can lead to us overspending. When we do not feel the cash in our hands when paying, we might not feel a direct correlation to spending. We need to be conscious of this fact and take note of and evaluate our spending based on our needs and budget.

If the application allows for a budget, we can also set a periodic budget so that we do not exceed them.

Limited By Internet and Mobile Phone Access

When everything is tied to our mobile phones, if we lose them or have a bad internet connection, we will not be able to make any transactions until we get a replacement or connection.


In 2018, 600 tonnes of mobile phones are disposed of in Singapore alone. The average consumer replaces their mobile phones before the lifespan is up. Phones built should be more durable, last longer and easily repairable. Their parts should also be easily recycled.

ALBA is recently appointed as an e-waste producer responsibility scheme operator. They will set up a variety of e-waste collection avenues for easy drop-off. ALBA will also organise outreach programmes to raise public awareness of the need to manage e-waste responsibly and to promote a culture of e-waste recycling. NEA has also set some e-waste collection targets that ALBA will be required to fulfill.


We need to make sure that most if not all of the population have access to a mobile phone with an internet connection before we fully phase out cash. We should not exclude people from commerce just because they do not have access to mobile payments.


DBS QR gift cards are a good stepping stone to allow people to get more comfortable with mobile payments. DBS QR gift cards are more environmentally friendly than physical red packets. Singapore’s adoption of mobile payments is slowed down by our access to contactless card payments. Mobile payment is currently the best payment mode environmentally and we should move adoption towards it.

Icons made by Freepik and from Flaticon



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