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Hongbao this Chinese New Year goes electronic

The Monetary Authority of Singapore is promoting the use of e-hongbaos or red packets as they will help reduce queues for physical notes and are more environmentally friendly

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Singapore – It’s about a month before the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 12 this year. In a move to reduce queues at physical stores and limit paper usage, Singaporeans are encouraged to give electronic hongbaos in 2021.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released a statement on Monday (Jan 11) promoting the use of e-hongbaos or red packets during the coming Lunar New Year “as they will help reduce queues for physical notes and are more environmentally friendly.”

As household and public gatherings are limited to groups of eight in accordance with phase 3 of exiting the circuit breaker period, remote gift-giving will become the norm this year.

E-hongbaos will complement remote gifting across various visitation practices, including virtual gatherings during the Chinese New Year. “Giving e-hongbaos instead of physical notes is also environmentally more sustainable as it reduces the printing and subsequent wastage of new notes that are returned by the public to banks after each Lunar New Year,” added MAS.

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According to the media release, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) will also actively promote e-gifting for the festive season.

The move to go paperless during hongbao giving is a part of a larger shift towards e-gifting that MAS and ABS are promoting.

“MAS also encourages FinTech firms to develop e-gifting solutions for different purposes, including gifting during festive periods. The most innovative FinTech e-gifting solution will receive special recognition at the Singapore FinTech Festival in November,” said MAS to spur interest among firms on the initiative.

One way to send e-hongbaos this year is through PayNow. “PayNow enables the tradition of giving hongbao to continue, digitally and safely. Customers may contact their bank for more information on how to send hongbao digitally with PayNow,” said ABS in a separate statement. 

Physical notes but through a reservation

“For those who prefer giving new physical notes, five banks will implement an online reservation system for such notes. This initiative will complement safe management measures currently in place due to Covid-19,” said MAS.

Members of the public, except those aged 60 and above and persons with disabilities, are required to make an appointment through their respective local bank’s online reservation system before visiting the branches to collect the new notes. MAS mentioned DBS, OCBC, UOB, Maybank, and Standard Chartered as the local and international banks offering online reservations.

New notes can also be withdrawn without a prior booking at pop-up ATMs offered by DBS, noted MAS.

“The pre-order period for new and good-as-new notes will start from Jan 18, 2021. The collection for online orders, walk-in option for elderly aged 60 and above and persons with disabilities, and withdrawal at DBS’ pop-up ATMs will start from Jan 25.”

“The adoption of e-payments grew significantly this past year as it is more convenient than cash. The coming Lunar New Year offers an opportunity for us to build on this momentum, to spread the benefits of e-gifting, and to forge new traditions with our families and friends,” said MAS’ Assistant Managing Director, Finance, Risk & Currency, Mr Bernard Wee.

“E-gifting helps to reduce the queues at banks, and also helps to reduce the carbon emissions generated by the production of new notes for each Lunar New Year, estimated to be about 330 tonnes currently. This is equivalent to emissions from charging 5.7 million smartphones or one smartphone for every Singaporean resident for five days.”

Traditionally, children and young adults receive these red envelopes as gifts on Chinese New Year from older relatives, friends of the family, and even neighbours. In general, older people can give hongbaos to younger members of the family.

The packets are red in colour, which symbolises good fortune and prosperity. It is also believed to ward off evil spirits.

Read related: How the practice of ‘hongbao’—giving red packets on Chinese New Year—has evolved with the tech times

How the practice of ‘hongbao’—giving red packets on Chinese New Year—has evolved with the tech times

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