What a thrill it is to receive your first paycheck! Now, you’re finally an independent, self-sufficient adult. You’re no longer a dependant who needs pocket money anymore. Good on you!
There might be a list of things you’ve been waiting to buy — that Dyson hairdryer or a new Bose sound system — but be careful to not start spending carelessly or you may find your money depleting faster than the Amazon rainforest (sob).
Probably the first thing you should do is to switch out of the savings account with that squirrel passbook that you’ve had since you were a kid. You need a suitable savings account that will help you save smarter. This can be overwhelming, given the myriad of options out there.
Here are 7 factors to help you decide how to pick the best savings account for your needs:
1. What are the realistic interest rates?
The maximum interest rates advertised by banks can be misleading as there are many transactional criteria you need to meet before you are eligible. You probably need to transact high amounts or maintain huge sums in the savings account to earn something like 3.88%.
Rather than go for advertised rates, it’s actually better figure out what actions are within your means and the corresponding interest rate you can achieve with them.
Thankfully, banks have made this easy. If you go to their websites, there are interest calculators that show you how much interest you can earn depending on the criteria.
Some actions can be achieved easily, like crediting your salary, while others like a minimum $500 card spend per month, or having a minimum balance of $10,000 in your account may be demanding for you as a first-jobber.
Let’s assume that you’re a first-jobber who earns $2,500. You spend $500 on your credit card on mainly dining and online shopping. You put at least 1 recurring bill to GIRO — for example, your telco bill.
Here are some calculations of what you will earn based on this realistic financial situation:
|DBS Multiplier account||OCBC 360 account||UOB One account|
|Transaction Categories (per month)|
|Credit Card Spend||$500||$500||$500|
|Home Loan Instalments||N||N||N|
|Interest rate p.a.||1.85%||1.8%||1.85%|
As you can see, you can earn up to 1.85% p.a. if you use one of these savings accounts.
DBS Multiplier savings account: There is no minimum amount required in each category, as long as your total transaction is above $2,000. That reduces a lot of stress on your end. No need to spend on nonsensical things if you don’t meet the credit card minimum spend required by the other two accounts.
OCBC 360 savings account: Crediting salary of at least $2,000 by GIRO gives you 1.2% p.a. and spending at least $500 on OCBC credit cards gives you an additional 0.3%. Although OCBC 360 seems to lose out in the comparison table above, if you are disciplined in increasing your account balance by $500 compared to the previous month, you get an additional 0.3% p.a., which means a total of 1.8% p.a., which is pretty good.
UOB ONE savings account: If your take-home pay is under $2,000, the UOB One still gives you a decent 1.5% interest on your savings if you spend $500 on your credit card. Crediting at least $2,000 and spending at least $500, gets you 1.85% p.a., which is on par with the DBS Multiplier.
2. What are your financial goals?
To save well, you need to set specific financial goals. Are you intending to fund further studies, a wedding ceremony, a dream car or your first BTO?
Aside from these goals, one of the first things you should do as a first-jobber is to build up an emergency fund. This is because you will soon be faced with more responsibilities: Getting married, having a child, and soon, taking care of aged parents. You need to buffer for hypothetical situations where you might lose your job, get injured, fall sick, or when your loved ones go through these difficult situations.
After coming up with your financial goals, it’d be easier to put your plans to work with the right savings account.
An easy way to organise your finances so you don’t forget is to automate. Insurance premiums and telco bills can be set on GIRO payments, while some savings accounts feature automation tools like OCBC Savings Goals.
OCBC Savings Goals auto-deducts a certain savings amount each month, so you can have peace of mind knowing that you are saving without actually doing anything. Your savings will be “locked up” until you decide to release them. This forces you to be disciplined and takes away the temptation of touching your savings until your target amount is reached.
3. What is your financial personality like?
If you are naturally very disciplined with your spending and saving, and have no trouble resisting peer pressure, good for you! You can probably manage quite easily with just the one savings account, though it would help to have a tool like the OCBC Savings Goals.
However, if you have limited self-control when it comes to spending money, you can help yourself by splitting your savings into 2 accounts.
You can use the DBS Multiplier / UOB One / OCBC 360 account for everyday expenditure, but have a second savings account with another bank.
This second “stash” account should be a simple savings account with no hoops to jump through, and ideally be with another bank so as to deter you from accessing the money too easily.
If you’re too old for either account, you can consider opening the CIMB FastSaver or UOB Stash account. Either one will give you 0.8% to 1% p.a. in interest, depending on how much money you put in it.
4. Do you have a favourite credit card?
You may also want to think about a savings account in relation to your favourite credit card.
For example, if you already have a UOB credit card because it rewards you for dining out, spending $500 per month on it will give you an immediate 1.5% on your savings in a UOB One account. Might as well make the most out of your spending and earn some interest, right?
Or perhaps you’re not much of a spender, but you don’t mind earning air miles slowly with your occasional spending. In that case, the DBS Altitude credit card would be a great pair with your DBS Multiplier account. Neither has a minimum spending requirement, but as long as you swipe something on the card every month, you’ll get bonus interest on your savings.
The point is that your current spending habit may already fulfil the criteria required by some savings accounts. Don’t waste it and use it to get a good interest rate on your savings!
5. Do you travel often?
If you are quite a jet-setter, or if your first job requires you to go on frequent business trips, some bank accounts, such as DBS Multiplier, let you save in multiple currencies.
DBS supports 12 major foreign currencies including AUD, JPY, HKD, THB, USD and more. Your account acts like a virtual money changer. For example, if you change 1,000 SGD to AUD today, the resulting AUD is stored as a separate balance in your “multi-currency wallet”. (Note that you will not receive interest payments for most of the foreign currencies.)
You can also pair the DBS Multiplier account with a DBS Visa Debit Card while travelling, so you can swipe for overseas transactions without incurring conversion fees.
6. Is the user interface intuitive?
Many of us perform banking transactions digitally these days, so the accessibility of the bank’s digital platform is important too.
The three largest local banks — DBS/POSB, UOB and OCBC — are quite comparable in terms of their iBanking interface and functions, but the same cannot be said for banks like CIMB. People who have tried CIMB Clicks’ iBanking interface typically feedback that it is not as user-friendly and intuitive.
Also, transferring funds via PayNow is quite important in today’s age. But fret not, there are 9 participating banks using it including Citibank, BOC, DBS/POSB, HSBC, OCBC, Maybank, UOB, SCB and ICBC.
7. Does the bank have a good ATM network?
While digital payment and banking may commonplace these days, there are still places that only take cash.
The best banks with the widest ATM networks are, of course, the 3 local banks: DBS, OCBC and UOB. However, Citibank has a decent presence at many MRT stations these days too.
In times of need, you’d really wish that you didn’t put all your money in a bank like Maybank or CIMB, as it’s highly probable that there will be no ATM in sight.
However, it’s not as bad as it sounds. There is an atm5 network in Singapore that Maybank, Bank of China, Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered and State Bank of India tap on.
If you are a customer of any of these banks, simply look out for the atm5 mark at these banks’ ATMs and you can withdraw cash at no additional transaction cost.
There is also a soCash service to withdraw money at over 1,000 shops.
Fresh out of school? Tell us which savings account you are using below!