Credit Cards

The Best Debit Cards in Singapore (2019)

For many Singaporeans, getting your first debit card as a broke student was a totally exciting experience that meant you could finally buy stuff online without wheedling Mom and Dad.

Apart from unlocking a whole new world of online gaming and quasi-contraband goods, debit cards are convenient too. Most debit cards in Singapore have multiple functions as ATM cards, EZ-Link cards, CashCards and so on.

But, as with credit cards, some debit cards are better than others. Here’s a rundown of the best debit cards in Singapore so you can see how yours stack up.

 

Best debit cards in Singapore (2019)

Debit card Benefits Restrictions
DBS Visa Debit Card 3% cashback on contactless payment
No foreign exchange fee when linked with the DBS Multi-Currency Account (MCA)
Min. spend $400/month + max. cash withdrawal to $400
POSB PAssion Debit Card Free PAssion membership
4% rebate at Giant, Cold Storage, Guardian
5% rebate and 1-for-1 tickets at selected places of attractions 
Min. spend $400/month for 4% rebate
UOB Debit Card / Direct Visa Debit Card Earn SMART$ rebates at local retailers
OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card 4% or 7% rebate at NTUC + discounts at Esso  Min. spend $200 or $500 outside of NTUC
Citibank Debit Mastercard Multi-currency support for 9 currencies Must link to Citibank foreign currency account
Standard Chartered XtraSaver Debit Card 7% cashback on petrol Min. balance $6,000 in XtraSaver account
HSBC Debit Card Free overseas cash withdrawal at HSBC ATMs Free withdrawal only for HSBC Advance / Premier
Maybank Platinum Debit Card Free overseas cash withdrawal at Maybank ATMs in Malaysia & region Maybank ATMs not that easy to find outside Malaysia

 

Best DBS debit card: DBS Visa Debit Card

The DBS Visa Debit Card has my vote for being the one of the best debit cards in Singapore. You get 3% cashback for contactless (e.g. Visa PayWave, Apple Pay) transactions with the following conditions met:

  • Spend at least $400 a month on your debit card
  • Limit cash withdrawals to $400 or less a month (applies to all your DBS/POSB accounts)
  • Cashback is capped at $50 a month

This is great because many supermarkets, restaurants and shops accept PayWave. Offer to pay first for the family’s groceries or group dinners, and you can easily hit the minimum spend. Note, though, that PayWave transactions are capped at $200 per transaction.

The cash withdrawal limitation is a little annoying, but no one’s stopping you from opening an account with another bank.

Alternatively, you can get cash when you make a purchase at supermarkets and convenience stores that are Cash-Points. Those aren’t counted by DBS as cash withdrawals.

Other things to know:

  • Can be used overseas with no foreign transaction fee if paired with a DBS Multi-Currency Account
  • Works as a NETS card (but NETS transactions do not contribute to the $400 minimum spend)
  • Has the SimplyGo function so you can tap the card on buses and trains without having to top-up your card.

 

Best POSB debit card: POSB PAssion Debit Card

Okay, I know this is kinda cheating since DBS and POSB are basically the same bank, but my inner auntie won’t let me get away with not including the POSB PAssion Debit Card.

Reason: This debit card comes with free PAssion membership (U.P. $12 for 5 years). Don’t know what’s so great about that? My friend, you clearly have not read this masterpiece about PAssion card benefits by fellow auntie, Eugenia.

Oh and if you spend at least $400 a month on the POSB PAssion Card, you get 4% rebate at Giant, Cold Storage and Guardian. However, since all these places accept PayWave, the DBS Visa Debit Card gives you a better rebate.

If you have a family, you also get 5% rebate at popular Singapore places of attractions and 1-for-1 tickets on the 10th of every month. This promotion ends 31 December 2019.

Other things to know:

  • 3% cashback on medical and dental bills for POSB Smiley CDA account holders with min. spend $500/month
  • 1% cashback at Takashimaya for all with no minimum spend
  • Works as a NETS card
  • Has the SimplyGo function so you can tap the card on buses and trains without having to top-up your card. 

 

Best UOB debit card: UOB Debit Card / UOB Direct Visa Debit Card

UOB has several debit cards in its stable, but I would urge you to ignore the snazzier-looking ones like the KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card and the UOB Delight Debit Card. Two words: Annual fees.

Yes, believe it or not, UOB charges annual fees on their debit cards – and some are not that easy to waive.

Screenshot from UOB T&Cs

The boring-sounding UOB Debit MasterCard and UOB Direct Visa Debit Card are UOB’s plainer offerings, but their annual fees are waived for 3 years and subsequently take just 12 transactions to waive.

Either card can be paired with the UOB One savings account, which lets you get higher interest if you spend at least $500 a month on your card.

Apart from that, there’s nothing very special about the UOB debit cards. Their best perk is the SMART$ rebates programme, where you earn points at a bunch of participating merchants such as petrol kiosks and supermarkets. The points can be redeemed against your next purchase, effectively giving you a modest rebate.

The UOB Direct Visa Debit Card now has 1% rebate on Grab. But that’s contingent on a minimum spend of $500 on Grab in the month, and the max cashback is $20. I don’t know if this is for salespeople who get to claim their transport costs, but who spends $500 on Grab?!

Other things to know:

  • Works as a NETS card
  • Annual fee of $18 (waived for 3 years)
  • Has the SimplyGo function so you can tap the card on buses and trains without having to top-up your card. 

 

Best OCBC debit card: OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card

For the best OCBC Debit Card, we recommend the OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card, as it was a strong one for people who buys groceries at NTUC Fairprice (practically every Singaporean who’s not on RedMart).

For the OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card, you get a decent 4% rebate at NTUC FairPrice, Unity and Warehouse Club if you spend $200 outside of the “NTUC network” that month. Spend $500, and your rebate goes up to 7%. You also get 3% link points when shopping on FaiPrice On. 

The downside is that the OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card has an annual fee of $24. This is waived for the first year and subsequently takes $1,200 of spending per year (avg. $100 a month) to waive.

Assuming you’re in your early 20s or a student, instead of the OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card, the OCBC YES! Debit Card is a more inclusive card that you can benefit from. You get 1% rebate on “daily Visa spend” with a minimum spend of $400. Take note that that it only applies for transactions from selected merchants, but the annual fee is waved perpetually, so it’s great for younger debit card users (e.g. students).

Other things to know:

  • Annual fee of $24 (waived for 1 year)
  • 4% or 7% rebate at NTUC + discounts at Esso
  • Has the SimplyGo function so you can tap the card on buses and trains without having to top-up your card. 

 

Best Citibank debit card: Citibank Debit Mastercard

Well, this was easy. Citibank only has the one debit card: Citibank Debit Mastercard. Regardless of whether you bank with Citibank regularly, this is a useful debit card for frequent travellers.

This debit card (no annual fee, btw) works as a multi-currency card if you link it to a Citibank Global Foreign Currency Account. Like with the DBS Multi-Currency Account, you can easily convert SGD to 9 foreign currencies: AUD, CAD, EUR, HKD, JPY, NZD, GBP, USD and Swiss Franc.

Specify your preferred currency for the Citibank Debit Mastercard before travelling, and then you can make overseas purchases in local currency and withdraw cash from ATMs overseas without conversion fees or admin charges.

So why pick this instead of the DBS Visa Debit Card? Citibank has the better global ATM network – in certain destinations you won’t find DBS ATMs at all.

Other things to know:

  • Can also be used for ERP payments without any stored value
  • Has the SimplyGo function so you can tap the card on buses and trains without having to top-up your card. 

 

Best Standard Chartered debit card: Standard Chartered XtraSaver Debit Card

Standard Chartered has several debit cards, and the one you’ll get depends on which bank account you choose. If you plan to bank with StanChart, consider the Standard Chartered XtraSaver Debit Card which is linked to the XtraSaver account.

As long as you maintain a minimum balance of $6,000 in that account, you can get a very respectable 7% cashback on petrol (including Malaysia), capped at $40 a month. If you have an account balance of at least $200,000, you can get up to 15% but the cap doesn’t change.

You also get 1% cashback on all other spending charged to your debit card.

However, there’s a $20 annual fee, and Citibank doesn’t tell you how it gets waived.

Other things to know:

  • Works as a NETS card
  • Annual fee of $20

 

Best HSBC debit card: HSBC Debit Card

HSBC has two debit cards, the  one HSBC Debit Card. It has no annual fees – yay.

Like the Citibank debit card, it offers overseas cash withdrawal with no transaction fee at HSBC ATMs. However, this is ONLY for HSBC Advance and Premier account holders. If you do qualify, the good thing is that HSBC has a strong ATM network in countries like Hong Kong.

If you travel a lot, the HSBC Everyday Global Debit Card may actually be more suitable. It’s linked to the multi-currency Everyday Global Account. You get $0 fee in 10 currencies for retail shopping and $0 fee on overseas cash withdrawal across HSBC ATMs worldwide.

Look out also for the limited-time-only promotions. For example, HSBC is now running a 7% to 8% on Agoda bookings and complimentary main courses from different restaurants.

Other things to know:

  • Works as a NETS card
  • Has NETS FlashPay function so you can top up and tap for public transport, you can also link it up with SimplyGo
  • Can be used to withdraw cash from cash points like 7-11, Cold Storage, Guardian and ATMs with “atm5” symbol

 

Best Maybank debit card: Maybank Platinum Debit Card

Maybank offers two debit cards: the Maybank Platinum Debit Card (Mastercard) and the Maybank Manchester United Platinum Visa Debit Card.

But unless you’re a hardcore Man U fan, you probably won’t get much utility out of the latter. Its rewards are mainly for fans, e.g. discounts on soccer jerseys.

For the rest of us, especially those who frequently go to Malaysia, the free Maybank Platinum Debit Card is pretty useful. It lets you withdraw cash from Maybank ATMs with no transaction fees. Bear in mind, however, that foreign exchange rates apply.

The same service is also available at Maybank ATMs in Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei and Cambodia, but those might be harder to locate.

Other things to know:

  • Earn Maybank TREATS rewards points
  • Works as a NETS card
  • Has NETS FlashPay function so you can top up and tap for public transport
  • Can be used to withdraw cash ATMs with “atm5” symbol

 

Best debit card in singapore cheatsheet

 

Debit cards 101: What is a debit card?

These days, banks simply eschew the traditional ATM card (the one you use to withdraw cash) and just issue account-linked debit cards to bank account holders. Generally, debit cards are accepted wherever credit cards are. They work on the same credit card networks, either Visa or Mastercard.

When you charge a purchase to your debit card on Visa or Mastercard, the funds are deducted directly from your bank account. This process might take a few days (so you might not see a dent in your bank balance immediately after making a purchase) but it will happen automatically.

The difference between debit and credit card is that when you use a debit card, the money is directly debited from your savings account. When paying via a credit card, you are using credit, or “future money”, as you will only pay for the purchases at the end of your billing cycle month, when a consolidated credit card monthly statement is sent.

 

Debit card vs credit card – what’s the difference?

Here’s a quick cheat sheet to the difference between credit cards and debit cards:

Debit Card Credit Card
Mechanics Pay directly from bank account Pay with borrowed money from bank
Eligibility Anyone with a bank account Cardholder must meet minimum income requirements and have good credit history
Usage Accepted on credit card network. Many debit cards can also be used as ATM cards (to withdraw cash) and for NETS Accepted on credit card network
Spending limit Daily limit (e.g. $5,000). You’re also limited by your bank account balance Stipulated by bank – typically much higher than monthly income
Payment No bills, no fuss. The amount is directly debited from bank account Monthly billing cycle. Payment must be made by deadline or extra charges and interest will be incurred
Fees & charges Minimal. But watch out for currency conversion fees, transaction fees Many fees to look out for – late payment fees, annual fees, etc. Late payment also incurs high interest rates (around 25%)
Security Once a fraudulent charge is made and auto-debited from your account, it’s very hard to get your money back If you are vigilant with your card charges, you can spot and block fraudulent charges before paying
Benefits Cashback, NETS rebates, rewards programmes. Typically not as good as that of credit cards Cashback, air miles, rewards points and other perks, depending on the credit card

You can pay for the same pair of shoes using a debit card or a credit card. In both cases, you key in the card number and security details (e.g. a CVV2 number). The key difference lies in what happens after that charge is made.

When you use a credit card, you pay with borrowed money from the bank. The bank pays the merchant for your shoes. At the end of the month, the bank will ask you to return the money.

That’s why it’s harder to get a credit card than a debit card – the former usually has some sort of minimum income requirement. The banks want to make sure that you actually have the means to pay them back.

Do you use a debit card or credit card? Tell us why in the comments.

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