As we are nearly a month away from the Lunar New Year on Feb 12, five banks will be implementing an online reservation system for customers to collect new notes, traditionally used for stuffing red packets to be given during the festivities.

For DBS bank, its reservation slots are slated for Jan 18 and 24 to allow customers to book their time slots for the collection of new notes on Jan 25 and Feb 1.

DBS customers can also collect new notes from 61 ATMs across 41 locations islandwide, up from 2020’s 40 ATMs across 20 locations.

Meanwhile, UOB customers will have to reserve new and good-as-new notes through the bank’s online reservation portal between Jan 18 and Feb 5, to make an appointment to collect the notes at their nominated branch between Jan 25 and Feb 10.

From Jan 18, OCBC customers can go online to book a day and select their closest branch to obtain new notes.

Get the latest Singapore corporate news stories for FREE

The bank’s note exchange period falls between Jan 25 and Feb 11.

Maybank and Standard Chartered are also offering the pre-ordering of new notes through their online reservation systems.

SEE: MAS awards digital bank licences to two consortiums, two entities

Sending e-hong baos

On Jan 11, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has encouraged Singaporeans to send e-hong baos during the coming Lunar New Year.

The move is done in a bid to reduce queues for new notes.

E-hong baos are said to be more sustainable for the environment, as it reduces the printing of new notes and, by extension, red packets.

They are also part of a larger shift towards online gifting, that the MAS and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) are promoting.

“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,” says Bernard Wee, MAS’s assistant managing director, finance, risk and currency.

“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,” Wee adds.

The Association of Banks in Singapore says customers sending e-hong baos may do so via PayNow, where they can include Lunar New Year greetings for recipients.

Customers may also include specially-designed festive graphics to accompany the greetings.

DBS has expanded its range of digital offerings for its customers to send digital e-hong baos.

The gifting alternatives include DBS eGift and DBS QR Gift that is hosted on the bank’s PayLah! platform.

This year, the bank is introducing a new customisable expiry feature that allows the sender to choose their preferred expiry date of up to eight weeks from the date of loading.

DBS QR Gift cards that are not redeemed by the date of expiry will not be refunded to the givers thereafter.

To use a DBS QR Gift card, customers simply need to scan its QR code via DBS PayLah! to load their desired cash value, then gift it to a recipient to redeem via PayLah! or PayNow.

The DBS QR Gift cards come in packs of eight featuring two designs. The cards can be collected at all DBS/POSB branches and DBS Treasures Centres.

The DBS QR Gift cards were launched in 2019 as a sustainable option to new notes and red packets, that still allows people to keep to the tradition of exchange red packets.

The bank has also included a series of digital games and experiences for families to participate during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Customers with UOB Bank may also send their red packets digitally through the UOB Mighty app.

SEE: UOB to set up electronic FX pricing and trade engine in Singapore, to launch by 2Q2021

Reduction in physical packets

In a bid to do their part for the environment, UOB Bank and OCBC Bank have announced their efforts to promote environmental sustainability through the reduction of the number of physical red packets.

UOB’s head of group personal financial services, Jacquelyn Tan, says the bank has reduced the number of red packets printed by about 30% as part of its efforts to decrease the consumption of paper.

OCBC’s head of group brand and communications, Koh Ching Ching, adds that the bank has reduced the printing of physical red packets by 20%, and that its red packets in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau and China are printed on environmentally-friendly paper for the second year running.

“We have also done away with the usual single-use plastic holders for red packets, opting for ones made from environmentally-friendly paper,” says Koh.

“Since last year, we have encouraged our customers to recycle their red packets by providing recycling boxes which are made of recycled materials at all our branches in Singapore.”

“This year, customers can again join us in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions by recycling red packets from Feb 15 to 26. Customers can drop both used and excess red packets – not just OCBC ones - into these boxes. These red packets and the recycling boxes will be sent to a recycling plant to be pulped and subsequently used to make cardboard boxes. Last year, we collected 4,000 kg of red packets and these were pulped to make 10,411 cardboard boxes,” she adds.

DBS has also rolled out dedicated red packet recycling bins, which has saved some 12,500 kg worth of red packets, or the equivalent of 210 trees. According to the bank, the bins will be at its branches island-wide, and all-year round.