I’m not talking about extra points, or 0% interest, or piddly crap like that. I’m talking about rewards that make it worth immediately sending an application. Banks budget for give-aways all year round; but only one or two such promos are big ones. But with over a dozen banks in Singapore, there’s should be one going on right now. Try to get these sign-up rewards as and when you see them:
Why are Sign-Up Rewards More Awesome Than Rewards?
Because they don’t take time to accumulate, and they’re immediately applicable.
Reward points require you to spend the annual income of the Royal Family before you see the smallest perk. You get something pathetic, like free movie tickets, after blowing $10,000. But a sign-up reward kicks in the minute you send the application. And because few credit cards have a cancellation fee, you can hit-and-run with impunity.
You can sign up, grab the rewards, then cancel the card when you’re finished. The next time you walk past a credit card promotion, keep an eye out for these freebies:
1. Immediate Cashback
I know at least five people who trawl bank sites weekly, looking for instant cashback. They’ll also stop at every promo stand they see, hoping to get some free money.
How instant cashback works is pretty straightforward: You apply for the card, then activate it. Once it’s processed, there’s $30 or $80 credit in the account. And you can spend that money any way you like. The last one to feature this was the Standard Chartered Visa cards.
Jonathan Sim, who might be the closest thing to a professional freeloader, confesses:
“I don’t want the card, I just apply for the instant cashback. After I spend it, I’ll cancel the card. Most of them are not applicable to me anyway, I don’t really use their discounts. But if you give me $80, I’ll take it.”
If you’re too lazy to check banks sites for promos, try using card comparison sites like MoneySmart.sg.
2. Sign-Up Reward Vouchers
There are two types of sign-up reward vouchers:
The first kind arrives with the card. These tend to work only if you make purchases with that specific card (e.g. 50% off at Fish Pit if you pay with your XYZ card). These aren’t as good, because they’re loaded with terms and conditions.
The second type of voucher is handed out at promo counters, like a door prize. The moment you hand in your application, you get free movie tickets, a $10 voucher, etc. These don’t have to be used with the card in question, and they’re light on terms and conditions.
Whenever you see a credit card promo booth, ask the sales staff for the latter. Gerald Koon, who used to promote credit cards, says:
“Even if you change your mind later, you can still use the voucher. Quite often, we already gave out the voucher, then we found out the person was not qualified for some reason, or that he cancelled. We never asked for the voucher back.”
3. Immediate Event Promos
Most of us want credit cards that meet long term needs. So we’re thinking about a card for petrol, a card for travel, etc. But don’t forget one-off events.
Sometimes, banks link sign-up rewards with big events. This is when a sign-up reward includes discounts on event tickets, or on items sold at the event. And if you need event tickets, the rewards usually include priority booking.
For example, UOB recently did a credit card tie-in with COMEX 2012. Their card holders had access to special deals during the expo. Other typical events include culinary festivals, the Great Singapore Sale, or concerts.
Freeloader Jonathan does this fairly often:
“Just Google the event, see if there are any immediate promos. Usually if it’s a big event, you’ll find three or four credit cards that tie-in to it. Just get those cards for the event. Later, to avoid temptation or annual fees, cancel the cards when it’s over.”
4. Referral Rewards
Look out for referral rewards, where you get money for having friends sign up. Banks tend to do these once or twice a year, when they’re on a recruitment drive for cardholders.
I usually team up with friends on this. Whenever one of us would get a reward, the rest of us will sign up for the card. Sometimes, the rewards are cumulative: For example, you might get a $10 voucher for every friend who signs up. Since we form a network of about a dozen people, we can make a decent bit of money this way.
Again, there’s no cost to apply for the card, and usually no cancellation fee. So do your friends a favour, and they’ll return it when you need them to sign up.
Don’t Keep All Those Cards
If you keep all these cards, your house is going to fill up with more plastic than a Jurong landfill. So get the rewards, then call and cancel them.
If that makes you feel bad (the banks count on it), then use the card two or three times. That’ll give the bank some money. Then pay it off and get rid of it. Avoid using multiple credit cards, because you’ll start missing due dates.
What are your favourite sign-up promotions? Comment and let us know!
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Tags: Credit Cards