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TGIF: I Used DBS PayLah! To Get Free Lunches At Hawker Stalls On Fridays

Who says there’s no free lunch.


Hawker food inflation has climbed 8.3% from a year ago in January 2023 – a 14-year high. If we think about it, this means that a $5.00 plate of noodles a year ago will cost around $5.42 today. Adding the usual takeaway fee of $0.20 that is being implemented at many food stalls recently, a packed food for lunch during work will cost $5.62. This means our meals have increased at least 12% all inclusive.

With our wallets shrinking and our salaries certainly not rising 10% every year in tandem to the rise in prices of items, finding ways to get discounts on food is one way to mitigate the rising costs.

So when DBS launched its five million hawker meals initiative and said that it would subsidise hawker meals every Friday from 10 Feb 2023 to 19 Jan 2024 26 July 2024, we cheered at the move, as this would mean some savings in our expenses.

[Update: DBS announced that it will extend the 5 Million Hawker Meals initiative for another 6 months until 26 July 2024.]

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What Is DBS PayLah!

DBS PayLah! is a mobile payment and mobile wallet service offered by DBS Bank. It’s not really like a PayNow as the app does more than transact payments. It also runs discounts, cashback and other promotions that can help you earn some savings.

You make payments with PayLah! by scanning the merchant’s QR code. You can also use PayLah! to transfer money to PayNow accounts, and send or receive money from people who don’t use PayLah.

You don’t need to own a DBS/POSB bank account to use PayLah!

What Is The DBS 5 Million Hawker Meals Initiative & The Steps To Use PayLah! To Get $3 Cashback

This month, DBS announced that it will subsidise five million hawker meals over the next 12 months, as inflationary pressures continue to drive up food prices.

Singaporeans and residents will be able to get a subsidy of $3 when they use DBS PayLah! to scan and pay for their meals – capped at the first 100,000 users every Friday at any of the 11,600 SGQR-enabled hawker stalls islandwide.

Image Credit: Angela Teng

There is no minimum spend to qualify for the subsidy. The subsidy starts from 6am on Fridays.

Here’s how you can start redeeming this deal:

Step 1: Look out for the SGQR code with PayLah! logo or PayLah! sticker at SGQR enabled stalls across 160 hawker centres in the country.

Step 2: Scan to pay for your meal with PayLah!

Step 3: Receive 100% cashback (capped at $3)

Image Credit: DBS

The caveat about this deal is that not every hawker stall is on this initiative. When I visited the coffeeshop near my home to check, some hawkers said they were not aware of this initiative.

Similarly, when I went to the hawker food centre nearby the DollarsAndSense office at Tanjong Pagar, only certain stalls were included in the scheme. I had to check a resource list to see which stalls were on it to get the subsidy.

You can click here to see which stalls provide this cashback before you head out for your meal so that you won’t miss the deal.

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You Can Buy More Than Just Hawker Food With The Subsidy

Most people know that the scheme is for hawker food, but there is a hack that they are unaware of.

You can actually buy fruits, biscuits and flowers from the cashback scheme. When I checked the list of stalls that are on the scheme, it showed that certain market stalls – such as those selling frozen meats and eggs – are also included in the initiative.

Image Credit: Angela Teng

To prove the theory true, I tried purchasing some childhood snacks – gem biscuits – from a biscuit store and was able to get the cashback. So the packet of snacks was free.

When Will You Receive The $3 Cashback

The cashback is almost immediate. After your payment, you will receive an alert on your PayLah! app informing you that you have received a $3 cashback.

Do not panic if the cashback is not reflected immediately. A colleague tried and it took about three minutes before the cashback was reflected on her app.

The cashback amount will be shown on the main display page of the PayLah! app. You can also check the history tab of your app to verify if you received the cashback.

Can You Redeem This Multiple Times A Day?

You can only redeem the subsidy once every Friday. This means that if you purchased a cup of coffee for $2, you will get a cashback of $2. Thereafter, you can’t purchase another item and get further cashback for that day from this scheme.

So it makes sense to purchase items that cost more than $3 so that you can get the maximum savings.


Image Credit: DBS

But the good thing is that this cashback deal restarts every Friday. There should be about 52 Fridays a year and a loyal PayLah! customer can get up to $156 of food savings in total. That’s a decent sum for not doing anything.

How Do You Check For When The Subsidy Is Used Up

There is the expectation that the cap slots of first 100,000 users will be quickly filled up once more people know of this – especially the elderly and retired.

Since the current population in Singapore is 5,971,438 people as of 21 Feb 2023, this subsidy is clearly not enough for everyone. Just the DBS PayLah! users are more than enough to fill up the slots (as of 2021, the mobile app has two million users on the platform).

Image Credit: DBS

To find out when the subsidy is used up on Fridays, you can check the top of your PayLah! homepage to see if there is a fully redeemed “sticker” banner before you order your meal. If the “sticker” is there on your app homepage means you won’t get cashback this round as the slots are full. Well, better luck next time!

Featured Image Credit: Angela Teng

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This article was first published on 24 February 2023 and has been updated to reflect the latest announcement.  

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