It had only been months into 2022 that the international borders with Singapore had opened back up, having been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020. That’s a period of around 2 years – a little more, in fact.
That specific duration is important as that period of inactivity means that a Touch ’n Go card will be deactivated and its balance within forfeited. This is the crunch that Singaporeans are unhappy about, having topped up a healthy balance only to dig up the card again to re-enter Malaysia and find out that it’s now void.
Pre-COVID OK, After COVID TNG Card Mati
According to The Straits Times, it is estimated that if 50% of the car owners in Singapore have driven to Malaysia, there would be some 300,000 holders of now-deactivated TNG cards due to inactivity from the border closure.
It’s also fair to guess that many of them are not aware of this, hitting an impasse at the nearest tolled highway after crossing into Johor.
Should TNG extend the validity of these cards and/or the grace period of the stored value within to maybe 3 years or more? That said, on their official website FAQ page, no mention is made of a 2 year inactivity clause, only citing its 10 year shelf life upon registration.
The obvious response to this predicament is, of course, just to get a new card, especially since it’s the most straightforward way to pay for highway tolls.
Trouble is that getting a hold of Touch ’n Go cards have been a persistent problem since the introduction of the ‘Enhanced’ new generation NFC-enabled cards. Malaysians already face the issue of scarce availability and opportunistic scalpers (Shopee resellers, for example) that drain the supply before most of us hear about a new batch being in stock.
Making matters worse, Singaporeans also seem to be facing a unique issue of the older ‘classic’ TNG cards routinely being sold out at the usual retailers – petrol stations and convenience stores such as 7-Eleven – in areas close to the border on the Malaysian side.
With card holders furious and demanding refunds for monies lost due to an arbitrary and poorly communicated policy, Touch ’n Go’s social media pages have been bombarded by complaints from motorists from both sides of the causeway.
“Refund Being Processed” by TNG
A consistent gripe here that TNG seems unable or unwilling to process those refunds and are unresponsive to enquiries, either through social platforms or email. The Straits Times had also not received reply to their own line of inquiry.
Mr Lai, speaking to the newspaper, said: “They seem to put up a lot of needless procedural barriers in the refund process. I don’t understand why they can’t simply reactivate the dormant cards…”
“What is more disturbing is that Touch ‘n Go allows deactivated cards to be topped up […] It seems devious,” he added, mentioning that 2 of his 5 cards were successfully topped up in April when the borders reopened, but of course were not allowed past the toll booth.
TNG clearly has their work cut out for them here, rectifying the result of neglect at not having a clearly defined/communicated deactivation/refund policy and streamlined process to recover any lost card balance.
The company appears to have been taking a slow case-by-case approach, evidenced by another Singaporean, Ms Y.L Heng, who said: “It took over two months. They kept saying the refund was being processed and when they finally did the refund, there was no e-mail notification,”
“I feel that you have to be persistent. It’s part and parcel of getting things done.” TNG certainly aren’t giving these foreign visitors a positive impression of Malaysian business practices.