You might remember the Singapore government handing out cost-of-living relief payments in Jun 2023. About 2.5 million Singaporeans received a one-time payment of up to $400 to help cushion inflationary pressures and the increased (and increasing, come next year!) GST.
But the government isn’t the only body working to ease our cost-of-living pressures. So is Singapore’s biggest bank.
DBS is committing a total of S$40 million this year to help Singaporeans and residents with their everyday expenses, mortgage payments, and savings. You might be thinking, sure, that sounds like a lot of money. But what does it actually mean for me?
Here’s the lowdown on DBS’s S$40 million commitment—why it was pledged, who it’s for, and how much it’ll actually benefit you.
- Why is DBS committing S$40 million to Singaporeans and residents?
- Who benefits from these subsidies DBS is giving out?
- What do I get from the S$40 million that DBS is committing?
- So…what’s next?
1. Why is DBS committing S$40 million to Singaporeans and residents?
DBS knows that the cost of living in Singapore is high—and still getting higher. Between rising inflation and the upcoming GST hike, it’s no wonder Singapore came out on top as the most expensive city in the world in 2022. And to top it off, our salaries are growing disproportionately slower, according to a study by DBS. That means our expenses are outpacing our income growth, making it harder and harder to afford everyday necessities.
Certain groups in Singapore have it harder than others. These include vulnerable and low-income individuals, who face the greatest amount of financial stress. In Singapore, those earning under S$2,500 a month saw their expenses surpassing the growth of their income by 1.2 times, according to a study by DBS. What’s more, their savings could only support them for less than 1.5 months, when the recommendation is usually 3–6 months.
2. Who benefits from these subsidies DBS is giving out?
We just spoke about how vulnerable and low-income individuals in Singapore experience the greatest financial stress. That’s why a fair portion of the S$40 million pledged to cost-of-living measures is aimed at lower income individuals.
Other than this group, gig workers and students also get their own benefits.
If you’re none of the above, don’t sweat it. You haven’t fallen through the cracks. You’ll get to enjoy a food subsidy so long as you use PayLah! at hawker centres or coffee shops.
The final thing you have to take note of is that DBS has pledged this S$40 million sum to help “Singaporeans and residents”. It’s safe to assume, then, that the cost-of-living measures aren’t available to foreigners without PR status.
In the next section, we’ll go into the benefits available to each of the aforementioned groups in more detail.
3. What do I get from the S$40 million that DBS is committing?
There are currently 5 benefits/schemes that DBS has announced under their S$40 million commitment. The slice of the S$40 million pie that you’re eligible for depends on which group(s) you fall under:
- Lower income individuals earning <$2,500 a month
- Gig workers
- Anyone who uses DBS PayLah!
Here’s a quick overview of the benefits that DBS is doling out to different groups of individuals:
|What’s the benefit?||Who benefits?||When did it start?|
|Monthly transport rebate of up to S$20 (limited to first 100,000 who sign up)||Individuals earning less than S$2,500 a month||Aug 2023 (end date unspecified)|
|HDB home loan package with an all-in interest rate of 2.6% p.a.|
|Higher DBS Multiplier interest rate of 1.8% p.a. on higher balances||Lower income and gig workers|
|S$2 weekly allowance subsidy for students (first 15,000 each week)||Students (under 16 years old) who use POSB Smart Buddy||Jun 2023 (ends 30 Nov 2023)|
|S$3 weekly cashback scheme for hawker meals (first 100,000 each week)||Anyone who pays for their meal using DBS PayLah!||Feb 2023 (ends Jan 2024)|
Let’s take a closer look at each cost-of-living measure from DBS.
$20 monthly transport rebate (from Aug 2023)
DBS is giving out a $20 rebate to alleviate transport costs for lower income Singaporeans and residents. It’s only available to those with a monthly income of less than $2,500. Here’s how to get this rebate:
- Be one of the first 100,000 DBS/POSB debit cardholders to sign up for this scheme via DBS PayLah!.
- Using your DBS/POSB debit card, spend at least $80 a month on public transport, groceries and shopping.
- Receive a $20 transport rebate from DBS!
According to DBS, 80% of people who fall in this group already spend over S$80 per month on groceries and shopping. If that’s you, don’t wait! Go sign up for the scheme now on PayLah! to get this rebate.
Enhanced POSB HDB home loan package (from Aug 2023)
Home loan interest rates from banks are offensively high at the moment, ranging from around 3.7% to 5.5% p.a.. Comparatively, the HDB loan interest rate is fixed at 2.6% p.a.. You might think that it’s a no brainer to choose an HDB loan over a bank loan with the current interest rates. But what if we told you that there now exists a POSB home loan with the same interest rate as an HDB loan?
Lower income individuals with a monthly income of less than $2,500 can take an enhanced POSB HDB home loan with an all-in interest rate of 2.6% p.a.. It’s available to both new homeowners as well as those looking to refinance their mortgage for their HDB flat.
In addition to the preferable interest rates, DBS is also taking care of your home insurance for the first year. All successful applicants get a complimentary 1-year fire mortgage insurance from Chubb Insurance.
Enhanced DBS Multiplier savings programme (from Aug 2023)
Admittedly, the DBS Multiplier is not one of the highest yield savings accounts in Singapore—especially when it comes to greater amounts that sit in your account.
The good news for lower income and gig workers is that DBS is tripling your interest rate to 1.8% on higher balances. For gig workers, you’ll likely find this extra useful since your work doesn’t fulfil the usual salary credit requirement DBS imposes to earn higher interest rates.
$2 weekly allowance subsidy for students (from Jun 2023)
$2 can be a fair bit of money when you’re an income-less student surviving on the grace of your parents and the allowance they’re willing to give you.
From Jun 2023, DBS began giving a $2 weekly allowance subsidy to students to offset their everyday expenses. There are some caveats:
- You have to be a student, of course.
- Have POSB Smart Buddy set up. Smart Buddy is a contactless payment system that’s designed for kids. In order to use Smart Buddy:
- The parent must have a DBS/POSB deposit account
- The child must have a DBS/POSB child account, which is only for kids below 16 years old.
- Be among the first 15,000 students per week to spend at least $2.
- That $2 must be spent using your POSB Smart Buddy watch or card.
DBS is running this Smart Buddy Back to School Allowance programme until 30 Nov 2023. That’s a 5-month run, and as of Aug 2023 we’re at about the halfway mark. At this point, DBS reports that over 30% of POSB Smart Buddy users have received the $2 reimbursement. While there’s no income requirement for this benefit, 11% of those who’ve been reimbursed have come from lower income households.
While there’s no income requirement for this benefit, 11% of those who’ve been reimbursed have come from lower income households.
One more thing: If you’re a student reading this and thinking, “shucks, I should have signed up in Jun 2023”, you’ll be happy to stand corrected. You need to be the first 15,000 students each week, so it’s not too late to earn your $2 subsidy.
$3 cashback under 5 Million Hawker Meals scheme (from Feb 2023)
Among all the measures DBS has started to ease cost-of-living pressure, the 5 Million Hawker Meals scheme is the one that’s open to basically anyone. The only eligibility requirement is that you use DBS Paylah! to pay for your hawker meal.
Every Friday, the first 100,000 diners who scan and pay for their hawker meal using PayLah! get $3 cashback. This $3 will be credited instantly back into your PayLah! wallet (I know because I’ve tried it!).
If the 100,000 subsidies have been used up for the day, you’ll see a banner on the top of your PayLah! app homepage informing you so.
There are 11,600 SG-QR enabled hawker stalls, and there’ve been over 2.5 million subsidies granted to date since the initiative started in Feb 2023. Of these, DBS considers almost a third low-income earners or individuals from a low-income household.
Diners aren’t the only ones benefiting from the 5 Million Hawker Meals scheme. According to DBS, participating hawkers have also recorded a 20-25% rise in their earnings each week.
4. So…what’s next?
The S$40 million that DBS has committed this year is actually just the beginning of a decade-long commitment totalling up to S$1 billion.
From 2024, DBS is commiting up to S$100 million a year to defray living expenses for lower income earners in Singapore and other key markets. That’s up to S$100 million, because the actual amount DBS pledges will depend on how well they performed in the year before. DBS says they’ll do this for the next 10 years, making for a total of up to S$1 billion committed by 2034.
What cost-of-living measures will DBS implement next? We’ll have to wait and see. Check back with us on MoneySmart, where we’ll continue to breakdown and highlight what’s important to you.
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