You’ve gotten your first month’s salary and now you’re feeling like you have the power to do anything. Except for applying for a credit card, because you’ve heard a bunch of horror stories about people who’ve gotten themselves into credit card debt. No worries, here’s everything you need to know about credit cards.
- Who is eligible for a credit card in Singapore?
- How to choose the best credit card
- How to use your credit card
- Credit card fees and charges – What are they and how do you get them waived?
- Interest-free instalment plans – What your bank isn’t telling you
Who is eligible for a credit card in Singapore?
Before you apply for a credit card, you need to be eligible for one. Anyone can apply for a credit card in Singapore, but Singaporeans and PRs may have different eligibility requirements compared to foreigners.
How old do you have to be and what is the minimum income requirement?
You should be at least 21 years old and earning at least $30,000 a year to apply as a main cardholder. Some credit cards will require you to be earning at least $50,000 a year to qualify.
What is credit limit?
A credit limit refers to the maximum you can charge to your credit cards. No matter how many credit cards you have with single bank, they will all share the same credit limit. Credit limits are typically 2 to 4 times your monthly salary, but it is ultimately the bank’s discretion how much you are assigned.
How do I get a credit limit increase?
To get a permanent credit limit increase, you will need to prove to the bank that your income has increased by providing the necessary income documents.
However, you can also request for a temporary credit limit increase for specific reasons by contacting the bank. These purposes may include travel, medical, wedding (but only paying for the banquet) and, in very rare cases, for large purchases. Usually the temporary credit limit increase is for a month.
Remember to make full payment as soon as possible, though!
What is a secured credit card?
A secured credit card means that instead of an annual income, you use collateral to determine your credit limit. This is usually in the form of a fixed deposit account where the amount you put into the account becomes your secured credit card credit limit. You will not be able to close the account for as long as you hold the secured credit card.
You can apply for a secured credit card by approaching any bank branch with the necessary funds to put inside a fixed deposit account.
How to choose the best credit card in Singapore
There are three things to consider when choosing a credit card: the credit card network, the type of rewards/benefits you get from the card, and your spending habits.
Which credit card network is better?
Note that we are referring to the credit card networks, not the bank that issues the credit card. For example, the Citi Cash Back Card is a Visa card issued by Citibank. The Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Card is a Mastercard credit card issued by Standard Chartered.
Currently in Singapore, Visa seems to be monopolising the credit card market with the most credit cards under its network, but it’s worth considering Mastercard and American Express too.
Visa and Mastercard are extremely close competitors when it comes to fees and charges as well as security and convenience. Both credit card networks provide 2-factor authentication for online transactions, as well as contactless payments.
It is a myth that American Express is not commonly accepted in Singapore, but it is true that there are some merchants which do not accept American Express. However, where American Express truly shines is it has the lowest fees for overseas transactions. This is because American Express does not charge cross-border fees.
Did you know services like Uber, Expedia and Hotels.com all incur cross-border fees because their base is actually overseas? That’s why the Uber transaction in your credit card statement is slightly higher than your Uber fare, even though your trip was in Singapore and in Singapore Dollars.
What type of benefits can you get from credit cards?
Credit cards are generally divided into three main categories:
Air Miles Credit Cards: These are cards that help you earn air miles every time you spend. There is usually no minimum spending requirement, as well as no cap on how many air miles you can earn in a month. Many cards have an enticing sign-up bonus, and you will often earn air miles just by paying annual fees. These cards are ideal for those with high income and high monthly expenditure, though there are exceptions.
Cashback Credit Cards: These are cards that give you a rebate with your spending. Some cards give you significant bonus cashback for some spending categories. Unfortunately there is often a minimum spending requirement if you want to earn bonus cashback. There is also a cashback cap to how much bonus cashback you can earn. These cards are therefore ideal as a first credit card and for those with a lower monthly expenditure.
Rewards Credit Cards: These are cards that earn rewards points every time you spend. Some cards give you up to 10X bonus rewards points for some spending categories. Unfortunately there is often a minimum spending requirement if you want to earn bonus rewards points. There is no usually no minimum spending requirement, but there is a cap to how much bonus rewards points you can earn. Rewards points can be used to redeem a variety of items like vouchers and electronics, but many people use them to redeem air miles. These credit cards are therefore enjoyed by a variety of users.
How much do you spend every month on credit cards and what do you spend on?
There is a credit card for almost anything these days, so you should take the time to compare based on your monthly spending habits. If you find yourself dining out a lot, look out for dining credit cards that give you bonus cashback or rewards points for dining, such as the Citi Cash Back Credit Card or the HSBC Revolution Card.
Other spending categories that qualify for bonus cashback and rewards points include online shopping, groceries, petrol, even paying via Visa payWave and Mastercard contactless, or via Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
Miles credit cards usually earn air miles at a higher rate if you use it for overseas transactions, or to book your flight and hotel.
How to use your credit card
Now that you’ve narrowed down the credit card options, read on to find out how you can actually put that piece of plastic to use.
How do I use my credit card online?
For online transactions, you just need three pieces of information to use your credit card.
- Your credit card number
- Your credit card expiry date
- Your credit card CVV (security code)
A secure website will also use 2-factor authentication (2FA). This means that they will send a code via SMS to your registered mobile phone. Make sure the bank has your latest mobile phone number because it can take up to one working day for the bank to update your mobile phone number. You really don’t want to go “New phone, who dis?” with the bank.
What is the CVV security code?
The CVV is the 3 digit number at the back of your Visa or Mastercard, next to the space where your signature needs to be. For American Express, it’s the smaller 4 digits on the front of the credit card.
It’s the equivalent of your signature for online transactions, so keep it safe and don’t share it with anyone or on unsecure websites.
What is the credit card currency exchange rate?
Each bank has its own currency exchange rate, but it’s even trickier when you’re using a credit card for overseas transactions. This is because you cannot predict what the exchange rate is when you make your transaction.
Depending on the merchant and the bank, the credit card currency exchange rate can be the rate on the same day you did your transaction, or as long as 1 week after you did your transaction. As a result, you just have to cross your fingers and hope that the exchange rate doesn’t increase after you made your transaction.
This also applies to credit card transactions online with websites overseas.
Why was my credit card declined?
There are many reasons why your credit card is declined. The main reason is that you have exceeded your credit limit and therefore cannot charge any more to the card. If you don’t think you should’ve exceeded your credit limit, it might be a good idea to give your bank a call. They will be able to inform you the exact reason, and may be able to flag potentially fraudulent transactions.
Sometimes there is a problem with the credit card chip, or if you’re using it overseas, the magnetic strip. If this is the case, you should be able to ask your bank for a replacement card, usually at no extra cost to you.
How much credit card interest must you pay?
The typical credit card interest rate in Singapore is 25.9% per year. This means that if you don’t pay your credit card bill in full, you will incur credit card interest at over 2% a month.
If you have $1,000 outstanding on your credit card, you have to pay the bank $20 a month in credit card interest. That’s a lot.
Most credit card interest rates in Singapore are the same. Unlike other countries, which may have much lower credit card interest rates, you shouldn’t apply for a credit card in Singapore unless you have the ability to pay your bills in full and on time.
What is monthly statement?
Your monthly credit card statement is a document that comes… surprise, surprise, monthly. You are usually encouraged to receive it online via internet banking, but you can always opt for it to come in the mail. Do note that there may be charges for that though.
Your monthly statement will include all your credit card transactions for that month, as well as some other information including the due date, minimum payment and account balance.
What is the due date?
The due date is the date you need to make your credit card payment by. You should make payment in full to avoid any interest charges (also known as finance charges). If you can’t make payment in full, you should at least make your credit card minimum payment to avoid any late charges.
What is credit card minimum payment?
The typical minimum payment in Singapore is 3% of your outstanding amount, or $50, whichever is greater.
So, if your outstanding amount is $2,000, then your minimum payment is $60 (3% of $2,000).
If your outstanding amount is $500, then your minimum payment is $50 rather than 3% ($15).
You must pay at least the minimum payment by the due date to avoid late charges. But don’t just think life is easy and you only need to pay the minimum payment!
If you have $1,500 outstanding on your card, but you only pay $50 a month, it can take at least 4 years to repay your credit card debt! And this is assuming you don’t buy anything else in the meantime. By this time, you would have paid almost $950 in interest!
How do you make payment?
There are many ways to make payment for your credit card. Here are the most popular:
Internet banking: The easiest and most efficient credit card payment method, especially if you have a savings account with the same bank as your credit cards. Payment made via internet banking is usually reflected on the same day, so you can even make payment on the due date without worry.
GIRO: If you always find yourself making late payments, consider using GIRO to automate payments from your savings account. You can set GIRO to deduct the minimum amount, or the full amount. Do note that GIRO deductions will be earmarked 3-4 working days before the payment due date, so make sure you have sufficient savings in your bank account, or you could be penalised.
AXS: The most convenient bill payment method if you don’t have a savings account with the same bank as your credit cards. You can either make payment at one of the many AXS stations around the island, or online via the AXS e-Station website or the AXS m-Station mobile app. Do note that AXS payments can take 2 working days to reach the bank, so make payment early to avoid late charges.
Cheque: Just in case you still live in the middle ages, you can pay your credit card bills by cheque. Be sure not to postdate your cheque and make sure you send it out at least a week before the due date to avoid late payments. Or join us in the 21st century and switch to Internet Banking.
There are several other payment methods, of course, ranging from the high tech solutions like SMS banking, to the really low tech ones like over the bank counter. The most important factors are your convenience and your ability to pay on time. Nothing else should matter.
Credit card fees and charges – What are they and how do you get them waived?
There are three main credit card fees and charges to take note of. They are: finance charges, late charges and annual fees.
Finance charges are another name for credit card interest. You incur them when you do not pay your bills in full. Thanks to compound interest, these can get very, very expensive so always make it a point to pay your bills in full whenever you can.
Late charges are incurred when you do not make payment on your credit card by the due date on your statement. Interestingly enough, some banks have a one-day grace period, so you will not incur a late charge even when you make payment a day late. This is because some payment methods, such as AXS and cheque, take a while to be processed.
Considering paying at least the minimum sum via GIRO in order to avoid late charges. But be careful! Taking the GIRO route might end up incurring more fees if you have problems with cashflow.
Annual fees are subscription fees for using a card. In Singapore, they’re typically $192.60 (with GST). That’s slightly more than 50 cents a day. Not too bad.
But here’s what you should know – some fees and charges can be waived.
How do I get my credit card fees waived?
For most banks, the credit card fee waiver process is now automated. You just need to call their hotline and follow the steps.
Finance charges are almost impossible to waive, unless they’re incurred due to an accidental missed payment, or a fraudulent transaction. This is because finance charges refer to credit card interest, and credit card interest is how banks earn from you.
Late charges are easier to get a waiver for, but here’s the trick. You have to make your payment in full first before asking for the late charge waiver. If a bank sees that you have already made full payment, they are more willing to give you a late charge waiver. Also, don’t make it a habit. Banks don’t have a reputation for being patient.
The main reason that banks are automating their fee waiver request system is due to the sheer number of annual fee waiver requests they get on a daily basis. Fortunately, this is the easiest fee to waive.
Getting your annual fee waived without saying a word
Thanks to automated fee waiver systems, you don’t even have to speak to a human being to get your fees waived anymore. Here’s how banks decide who gets their annual fee waived and who doesn’t:
Banks typically check on several factors to determine if they’re able to waive your credit card annual fee. The deciding factor is often your card usage – how regularly you use your card and how much you spend on it. Obviously if you are a high spender, banks are definitely more inclined to waive your annual fees.
Another important factor is whether you make payment in full and on time. The bank is like a sensible spouse – if you have trouble paying the bills, they’re going to want to cut ties with you ASAP.
Don’t worry if the automated waiver system is unable to waive the annual fee immediately. Customer service officers will have more authority than the automated system to approve the waiver. Be polite, don’t raise your voice and they’ll be more than happy to get rid of that pesky annual fee.
The bank insists I need to pay the annual fee… how like that?
Don’t give up so easily!
First, you can probably get a waiver if you spend a big amount on the card. Some banks offer waivers if you meet a specific spending requirement for their credit cards. For example, if you spend about $700 a month on the card in the past three months, they will waive your annual fee.
This obviously isn’t public knowledge, and no customer service officer who wants to keep their job will tell you what the exact amount is. but some may be kind enough to suggest how much more you need to spend in order to hit that waiver requirement. If you’ve already spent $500 on the card, then it might be worth to charge another $200 to the card, instead of paying the annual fee.
Alternatively, lodge an appeal to the higher-ups at the bank to have your credit card fee waived. Make sure your appeal comes with valid reasons, of course. You can promise to use the card more often in the coming year, or even threaten to cancel your credit card, for example. You can even insist that you have been a customer of the bank for a long time, but if you’re dealing with DBS/POSB, for example, most Singaporeans are already long-term customers, so it’s not like you deserve special treatment for being one.
My appeal for waiver was rejected. Now what?
If the appeal is unsuccessful, and you’re still not willing to pay the annual fee, then your only option left is to cancel your credit card.
Just remember to redeem all rewards points or cashback rebates, before you cancel the credit card, since you’ll forfeit them once the card account is cancelled. You should also inform any organisations with recurring payments, like your utilities bill, telco bills, insurance premiums, and so on. Make sure that you set up new recurring payment arrangements on one or more of your remaining credit cards.
Lastly, before you cancel your credit card, consider if you’re cancelling a card that you’ve held the longest. A long-term credit history, especially if it’s free from partial payments and late payments do go a long way in giving you a good credit score, if you’re thinking of taking out a major loan, like a home loan, education loan or car loan. Depending on the card, it may be worth paying the annual fee to make sure you don’t sacrifice whatever credit history you have earned.
Interest-free instalment plans – What your bank isn’t telling you
Buying a big-ticket item from Challenger, Harvey Norman or Lazada and think the best solution is to put it on a credit card instalment plan? Here are 5 things your bank hopes you never find out about their interest-free Instalment Payment Plan (IPP)… until it’s too late.
The full amount of your expenditure is still deducted from your credit limit
Your card will be charged the full price of the item, and that affects your credit card credit limit significantly. Although your credit limit will slowly return to its original amount as you make your instalment payments, you’ll find yourself rather inconvenienced for the first few months.
So, if you still want to go ahead with the interest-free Instalment Payment Plan, we recommend charging to a bank that you don’t really utilise. This way you’ll never need to worry about exceeding your credit limit because of the remaining outstanding amount on your credit card account.
You probably won’t get any rewards or cashback from the interest-free Instalment Payment Plan
As one bank puts it, “Due to the cost incurred in stretching your repayment period, we are unable to provide further rewards or rebates to you.” Banks never miss an opportunity to make money off you, and interest-free Instalment Payment Plans are no different. So putting a big-ticket item on an instalment payment plan won’t earn you any rebates or rewards points.
But at least you save on interest… right? Right?
Just because there’s no interest charge, doesn’t mean you don’t pay extra
No bank is stupid enough to convenience you without getting something in return. Several interest-free Instalment Payment Plans come with an “administration fee” that’s a percentage of your purchase. This usually happens when the banks don’t have an existing agreement with the merchant (This is because the merchant pays the bank to give you the convenience of a 0% Interest Instalment Payment Plans).
For example, DBS charges 3-6% if the purchase is made under a non-participating merchant.
You won’t be able to cancel the card until the instalment payment plan is fully paid off
This means that if you’re charged an annual fee on the card with your instalment payment plan, you can’t threaten to cancel the card unless you’re willing to pay the balance of the outstanding amount of the plan.
Also, be wary about what kind of product you’re getting – signing for a long-term gym membership can be risky. If you apply for a gym membership using an interest-free Instalment Payment Plan (IPP), you’re actually paying the bank, not the gym.
Signing an IPP means the bank has already paid the gym the full amount of your membership. Even if your gym closes down before your membership expires, you’re still liable to pay the bank the full amount. The bank is frankly not going to help you with your claim against the merchant. It’s lose-lose for you, and win-win for the bank.
Banks charge a penalty fee for early repayment of interest-free Instalment Payment Plans!
Believe it or not, it will actually COST you to make full repayment of your outstanding amount to the bank. Of course, they’re going to sugar-coat it as an “administration fee” – because you’ve inconvenienced THEM by actually giving them YOUR money EARLY. Such paragons of humanity.
And just to prove how insane it all is, here’s a snapshot: DBS is $150, UOB’s costs $100, OCBC’s is $150.