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Forget RFID...When Can We Pay For Parking With TNG eWallet?


Forget RFID...When Can We Pay For Parking With TNG eWallet?

While the RFID fiasco gathers the ire of Malaysians, it does cloud a larger issue that might be effecting just as many motorists and causing equal, or more, daily frustration and inconvenience: Parking.

The debate continues to rage about whether RFID payments at toll booths are a good thing or a technology that doesn’t actually fix the core problem. So far, the attempted rollout and superseding of SmarTAG at major highways nationwide has been a disaster, and while RFID lanes were commonplace in the Klang Valley, rarely did users remark about it being a marked improvement.


Regardless of what route was used to our destination, the chances are that we will need to park our vehicle. And especially if you’re living in a densely urban area such as the Klang Valley, that’s gonna cost you. However, the majority of parking operators are moving away from physical tickets and ‘autopay’ machines in favour of a touch-less, cash-less alternative.

In fact, a lot of them have switched to accepting payment via Touch n’Go. This change has definitely not made parking any less costly to the end-user, but at least it presents added convenience….right?

Broken, Disjointed, Inconvenient

Actually, much like RFID, and as of early 2022, this has not been the case. While Touch n’Go parking is becoming the norm in most parking facilities such as major office buildings and shopping centres, you’re out of luck if your card just doesn’t have enough balance in it.

In fact, some lots will not let you enter (allowing you to reload a sufficient amount before exiting) without a minimum balance of RM20 or even RM40, leaving you to do some mathematics to figure out if you’ll have enough left after having gone through the gauntlet of toll booths dotted along your commute. That’s fun.

TNG eWallet + Card

Reloading the card balance itself has become more frustrating with the removal of the TNG card top-up feature being removed from ATM machines. You're left to run (or drive) around finding a petrol station, sundry shop, pharmacy, or the very sparsely distributed TNG self-service kiosks to get your balance up to snuff which, ironically, is done by converting cash into temporary digital currency. Not quite the cashless utopia we were promised, is it?

And if you think you could reload your Touch n’Go balance via the eWallet app or that you’ll be granted entry because you have more than enough balance already, think again. The majority of parking lots that accept TnG payments only read the value loaded into the physical card, not the eWallet.

TNG PayDirect Parking

More accurately, with the exception of a very very brief list of exceptions, nearly all parking lots do not support PayDirect, the feature that allows a Touch n’Go card user to pass through tolls but have his or her eWallet balance deducted instead of having to worry about how much balance is in the physical card itself.

It’s a great if rather obvious idea, but since the feature rollout in March 2021, this writer has not seen this in real life besides two known locations that were promoted by Touch n’Go themselves during the launch ceremony: Gurney Paragon in Penang and The Curve in Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.


Think about it, with a huge chunk of the population in Peninsular Malaysia concentrated in the Klang Valley where RFID lanes have become more commonplace (or at the very least TnG lanes with PayDirect enabled), the majority of road users here still have to manage at least two sets of concurrent balances: eWallet and their physical card(s). It’s a mess.

Sure, RFID is flawed, but at least we’ve learned to live with it for the most part - it can even be a pretty seamless experience on those rare occasions. However, putting so many Malaysians through an additional hassle through a poorly executed parking system with the hollow promise of “going cashless!” seems like a step backwards.  

RFID Pilot Phase

Uphill Battle

Shockingly, it’s not all the fault of Touch n’Go. To enable PayDirect, parking operators will have to fork out additional expenses to be able to plug into the eWallet backend infrastructure to authenticate payments in real-time, requiring them to invest in additional hardware, monthly expenses, and maybe even training.

However, perhaps the single largest contributing factor that keeps parking operators away from implementing the feature is the (literal and implied) heavier, long term reliance on Touch n’Go Sdn Bhd, who have so far proven how greedy they can be by charging Malaysians RM35 for a piece of tape with metallic inserts that literally costs pennies. In fact, it's something they provided and installed FOR FREE to pilot testers of the RFID toll booths years ago.

MyDebit Parking

A New Challenger Appears

Further proof of the underhanded spat between parking operators (generally speaking) and Touch n’Go is the rise of MyDebit, which has started to pop up more and more frequently at urban centres and business hubs as another way of paying for parking without physical tickets.

Instead of using your TnG card, you can just pay using your debit or credit card. The system uses the same PayWave (EMV standard) technology that merchants use for contactless payments, making it instantly familiar to most people by now. Most importantly, one never has to worry (well...for the most part) about having sufficient balance in your credit/debit card.

Carlist TNG Card

Besides having to dig out your debit/credit card before approaching the entrance to a parking lot, it seems like a great solution to the implementation of PayDirect that has seemed to have stagnated.

However, there are concerns about the security and potential dangers of swiping your debit/credit card so often and haphazardly, especially for tiny amounts at a time like this. The chances of the information being stolen, intercepted, misappropriated, or incorrectly processed are small, but cannot be brushed aside.


Compromising Security For Contactless?

As unnecessary as eWallets might seem, be it from Touch n’Go or otherwise, they do provide a safer extra layer of security that’s removed from the majority of the funds at your disposal.

That being said, in typical fashion, the government also seems reticent to get involved, being ignorant of the small struggles that become significant to everyday Malaysians purely on the basis of how frequently and incessantly they inconvenience us. It was only after the larger nationwide planned rollout of RFID toll lanes in mid-January 2022 and the mass backlash that followed that Putrajaya started to take notice.

Perhaps, for the ongoing shambolic state of touchless/cashless parking, they should be proactive and tackle the issue before it gets out of hand.

NFC Payment

NFC Cards

Of course, TNG Digital's solution to this seems to be the long-awaited launch of a new generation of physical Touch n'Go cards - ones that integrate NFC (Near Field Communication) technology - that will require Malaysians to repurchase/upgrade.

Since it's built into most brand new smartphones, the NFC protocol is being used in numerous ways, from facilitating contactless payments to easily pairing Bluetooth accessories with just a touch. In the context of Touch n'Go, the idea being here is to bypass the cumbersome and inconvenient 'reload' locations and allow users to top up their card balance directly via the eWallet app itself.

While this does remove one barrier, a layer of unnecessary complexity still exists as we still have to maintain two separate balances - that of the eWallet and the physical TNG card despite being able to 'top up' the latter ourselves. If Touch n'Go thinks this is a solution, unfortunately, they're only half right.

Jim Kem

Jim Kem

Content Producer

There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.

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