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.
|Debit card||Benefits||Things to note|
|DBS Visa Debit Card (best linked to DBS Multi-Currency Account)||5% Visa payWave cashback
Pay in 11 foreign currencies
Free overseas cash withdrawal
|$400 cash withdrawal limit to qualify for cashback
Min. spend $400
Cashback cap of $50
|UOB Direct Visa Debit Card (best linked to UOB One Account)||Qualify for bonus interest on UOB One
Free cash withdrawal in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand
|Foreign exchange rates apply for overseas cash withdrawal|
|NTUC / OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card||8 to 12% off at NTUC (NTUC members)
4 to 7% off at NTUC (non-members)
|Min. spend of $200 outside NTUC to qualify for lowest discount tier|
|Citibank Debit Mastercard (best linked to Citibank Global Foreign Currency Account)||$8.50 (Mon-Thu) and $11 (Fri-Sun) movies at Cathay Cineplexes
Pay in 9 foreign currencies
Free overseas cash withdrawal
|Multi-currency features require careful setup|
|Standard Chartered XtraSaver Debit Card (best linked to Standard Chartered XtraSaver Account)||7% cashback on petrol
1% cashback on all other spend
|Minimum balance $6,000
Cashback cap of $200
|HSBC Debit Card||8% off Hotels.com
7% off Agoda
Free overseas cash withdrawal
|Overseas cash withdrawal ONLY for HSBC Advance and Premier customers|
|Maybank Platinum Debit Card||Free cash withdrawal in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines||Foreign exchange rates apply for overseas cash withdrawal|
Bet you didn’t think debit cards actually had these benefits right? (Well, at least I didn’t.) Read on for more details on the best debit cards in Singapore.
Best DBS/POSB debit card: DBS Visa Debit Card
The overwhelming majority of Singaporean youths bank with DBS/POSB, so chances are you already have a card or two with them. Our pick for the best DBS/POSB debit card is the DBS Visa Debit Card.
Benefits of DBS Visa Debit Card
5% cashback debit card for Visa payWave: The best thing about the DBS Visa Debit Card is its 5% cashback for Visa payWave transactions. There’s
no minimum spend, but there’s a cap of $200 per transaction and a cashback cap of $50 per month (i.e. don’t spend more than $1,000 on Visa payWave). Also, there’s no cashback for online purchases or on conventional (signature-based) Visa payment.
[Update: As of 17 Mar 2018, you need to spend a minimum of $400 a month to get rebates.]
Here’s the catch, and it’s a big one. To qualify for the 5% cashback, you must avoid withdrawing cash. You can only withdraw cash max. 3 times a month, AND you can only withdraw max. $400 a month. Yes, that applies to ALL your DBS/POSB accounts and ATM and branch withdrawals alike.
To work your way around this rather strange criteria, you can open a separate bank account (with another bank) for your cash needs.
Multi-currency debit card for 11 foreign currencies: If you’re a frequent traveller, you would get more bang for your buck with a good credit card, but you might want to have this card on standby as it can be quite useful overseas when combined with a DBS Multi-Currency Account.
When linked to your DBS MCA, you can charge overseas purchases to this card with no foreign exchange fees for 11 supported currencies.
Before you charge, you have to convert your Singapore dollars to one of the foreign currencies – Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Chinese Renminbi, Euro, Hong Kong Dollar, Japanese Yen, New Zealand Dollar, Norwegian Kroner, Sterling Pound, Swedish Kroner and Thai Baht. This is easy to do with iBanking and their mobile app.
In certain countries you can even withdraw local currency from DBS ATMs free of charge. When I lived in Hong Kong for 6 months, I used this card to access my Singapore funds by withdrawing HKD from local DBS ATMs.
DBS Visa Debit Card eligibility
- Minimum 16 years old
- Link the card to your POSB Savings, DBS Savings Plus, DBS Autosave or DBS Current account
- Minimum balance varies
For DBS Multi-Currency Account, minimum age is 18 years old. From 18 to 29 years old, the fall-below fee is waived, but if you’re 30 or above you’ll need to maintain $3,000 in your account.
Other popular DBS/POSB debit cards
PAssion POSB Debit Card: replaces the once-popular, now-discontinued POSB Go! Debit Card, requires PAssion membership ($12 for 5 years) which gets you discounts for PA programmes (e.g. rock climbing courses) and upsized National Library membership
SAFRA DBS Debit Card: free with SAFRA membership, gets you 2% SAFRA$ rebates on contactless payment, 1% on online spend and 0.3% on everything else with minimum spend $400
Best UOB debit card: UOB Direct Visa Debit Card
Even though UOB has 5 different debit cards in its stable – some of which sound pretty exciting – our vote is for the rather boring-looking UOB Direct Visa Debit Card.
Benefits of UOB Direct Visa Debit Card
Pair with UOB One Account to get more interest: This debit card can be quite powerful if combined with the UOB One Account, which purportedly offers up to 3.33% interest p.a. To maximize your gains, (1) spend at least $500 on your UOB Direct Visa Debit Card and (2) either credit your salary of at least $2,000 OR pay 3 bills by GIRO every month.
Since insurance premiums charged to your card count towards the $500, these conditions are quite easy to meet. But do note the tiered interest system – it’s not as simple as a straight 3.33%.
ATM withdrawal in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand: For budget travellers or those with family in neighbouring countries, these 3 countries surely rank as some of your most frequently visited countries. With the UOB Direct Visa Debit Card, you can withdraw cash from UOB ATMs in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand with no transaction fee. That’s pretty useful as all 3 are predominantly cash-based economies.
However, unlike the DBS Multi-Currency Account, you can’t store up Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian Rupiah or Thai Baht in your account. Therefore, foreign exchange rates prevail.
Another caveat is that UOB ATMs may not be readily available everywhere in these 3 countries, so check the country’s UOB website before you travel.
Rebates under SMART$ Privileges: UOB has a rebates programme called SMART$ which offers varying rebates at participating merchants, e.g. 4% at Shell. It isn’t very exciting as most deals are set up so you only earn SMART$ instead of actual cashback – and you can only redeem the SMART$ at participating merchants.
Eligibility for UOB Direct Visa Debit Card
- Minimum 16 years old
- Link the debit card to your UOB Savings or Current account
- Minimum balances vary but start from $500 for the more basic accounts
Other popular UOB debit cards
KrisFlyer UOB Debit Card: earn air miles when paired with KrisFlyer UOB Account, but loads of terms & conditions to consider
UOB Lady’s Debit Card: women’s card for free parking at malls (with minimum spend) and not much else
Best OCBC debit card: NTUC / OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card
Benefits of NTUC or OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card
Get 12% (with NTUC membership) or 7% discount (without) at NTUC: If you have the NTUC Plus! Visa Debit Card you can enjoy 8% or 12% off FairPrice, Unity and Warehouse Club with a minimum spend of $200 or $400 (respectively) elsewhere. Note that expenses like telco bills, town council bills, insurance and EZ-Link card top-ups count towards the minimum spend.
If you’re not an NTUC member, the OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card offers lower discounts of 4% or 7% off FairPrice, Unity and Warehouse Club with a minimum spend of $200 or $500 (respectively) elsewhere.
For both cards, there’s also a discount if you shop on FairPrice Online but it’s a little lower.
Eligibility for NTUC / OCBC Plus! Visa Debit Card
- Minimum 16 years old
- Sign up as NTUC member (membership fees apply) to get the NTUC Plus! Card for free
- Or you can get the OCBC Plus! Card if you’re not an NTUC member
- OCBC Plus! has an annual fee of $24 but it is waived for the first year and is easily waived subsequently
Other OCBC debit cards
OCBC FRANK Debit Card: 1% cashback at selected merchants (e.g. iHerb, Zalora, ASOS, Grab, 7-11, Cheers) with minimum spend of $400 a month
OCBC YES! Debit Card: same as above
Best Citibank debit card: Citibank Debit Mastercard
Well, this was easy. Citibank only has the one debit card – the Citibank Debit Mastercard.
Benefits of Citibank Debit Mastercard
Multi-currency debit card for 9 foreign currencies: The set-up is similar to that of the DBS Visa Debit Card and DBS Multi-Currency Account. You’ll need to open and link the debit card to a Citibank Global Foreign Currency Account. It lets you convert Singapore dollars to 9 foreign currencies – Australian Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Euro, Hong Kong Dollar, Japanese Yen, New Zealand Dollar, Sterling Pound, Swiss Franc and US dollar – using the iBanking or the Citi Mobile app.
Then there’s an extra step where you have to specify your preferred currency for the Citibank Debit Mastercard. If you don’t, you might end up being charged in SGD. Only then can 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 or even the UOB debit cards? Citibank has a better global ATM network than the other two. In certain destinations you won’t find DBS or UOB ATMs at all.
Discounted movie tickets at Cathay: Among the perks that the Citibank Debit Mastercard offers, this one seemed the most interesting. Use this card to buy movie tickets at Cathay at $8.50 (Mon-Thu) or $11 (Fri-Sun).
Eligibility for Citibank Debit Mastercard
- Minimum 18 years old
- Can be linked to a Citi MaxiGain Savings, Citibank Interest Plus, Citibank MaxiSave or CItibank Tap & Save Account
- To use the multi-currency feature, you also have to open a Citibank Global Foreign Currency Account
- Citibank isn’t very transparent about the minimum balance and fall-below fees, so the onus is on you to check with a bank rep before you sign up
Best Standard Chartered debit card: Standard Chartered XtraSaver Debit Card
Standard Chartered has distinct debit cards for most of its bank accounts, the key selling point of which are the relatively high interest rates. If you plan to bank with SCB, consider the Standard Chartered XtraSaver Debit Card. However, fees apply.
Benefits of SCB SuperSalary Debit Card
7% cashback on petrol: Including Malaysia, capped at $40.
1% cashback on all other spend: Capped at $200.
Eligibility for SCB SuperSalary Debit Card
- Minimum 18 years old
- Sign up for a Standard Chartered XtraSaver account
- Minimum balance $6,000
Other Standard Chartered debit cards
Standard Chartered MyWay Debit Card: lifestyle card aimed at seniors (55 years old and up) with discounts at medical centres, golf courses, etc.
Best HSBC debit card: HSBC Debit Card
As with Citibank, HSBC only has the one HSBC Debit Card.
Benefits of HSBC Debit Card
Overseas cash withdrawal for HSBC Advance & Premier customers: Like the UOB card, the HSBC Debit Card offers overseas cash withdrawal with no transaction fee at HSBC ATMs. But it’s ONLY for HSBC Advance and Premier account holders. Still, if you do qualify, the good thing is that HSBC has a strong ATM network in countries like Hong Kong.
Hotels.com & Agoda promotions: For those who use your debit card for online hotel booking, you can get 8% off Hotels.com and 7% off Agoda with your HSBC Debit Card. The discounts with Hertz and Avis might also come in handy if you like self-drive holidays, but we would read the terms & conditions very thoroughly before committing.
Eligibility for HSBC Debit Card
- Link to HSBC Flexi, Savings, Current, Premier or Advance Account
- Minimum age 16 (for savings account) or 18 (current account)
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. Unless you’re a hardcore Man U fan who can make full use of their discounts and rewards for fans, we strongly recommend the Maybank Platinum Debit Card.
Benefits of Maybank Platinum Debit Card
ATM withdrawal in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines: If you frequently visit these 5 countries, you might appreciate the ability to withdraw cash from Maybank ATMs without incurring transaction fees. Bear in mind, however, that foreign exchange rates apply.
Eligibility for Maybank Platinum Debit Card
- Minimum 16 years old
- Link the debit card to your Maybank Savings or Current account
- Minimum balances vary but start from $500
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.
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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