Thursday, September 15, 2011

Credit card management

Recently, I've been spending big amount of money - swiping here and there, signing here and there. It's all because of the renovation work being done in my resale flat, so there's a lot of one off expenses that I need to settle during this period of time. While the main contract work is paid by cheque (it'll be excellent if they would accept credit, haha), the rest of the fixtures and furnishings are paid for separately by credit or cash. Hence I need to do some background work on which card to utilize in order to maximize the cash rebates or other benefits dished out by the various cards that I have.

It's interesting how not too long ago, I had been complaining that the credit card companies are biased against self employed people like me. But I realised that after you've proved yourself capable of bearing debts, they will be more likely to give you credit. That's the way banks do their business I suppose - giving more credit to people who are already in debt, haha! Anyway, I've the POSB everyday card, SCB's Manhattan card that I've recently received, Citi rewards visa and Citi dividend card and lastly, though not a credit card, SCB's Xtra saver debit card. The main card I'm using is POSB everyday card. I've even tied my ez-link card to it to enjoy the 'cheat code' so that I can save time and get paid  for doing automatic ez-reloading feature.

Usually, because of the low frequency of my spending patterns, I don't bother with the rebates. What's 0.3% or 0.5% if I'm spending like $50? It doesn't really add up much. I don't have a home yet and neither do I drive, so the rebates that really matter (those 5% on groceries and 15% on petrol) do not matter to me. However, since I'm going to be spending perhaps 4 digit figure per swipe of the card for furnishings and furniture, I've to do some credit card management.

Here's a list of the major benefits of each card that I own. I didn't put in the Citi rewards visa because I'm primarily concerned with getting cash benefits instead of points. I also didn't include many finer detail that doesn't concern me at present, specifically like groceries and petrol rebates.

Beary ge recommended me the SCB's Manhattan card, which I've applied and received and maxed out my benefits. It used to be much better, but the last change to the benefit structure removed some of the goodness. Nevertheless, still one of the best cash rebate cards around. Since the cashback cap is $200 per quarter, that means a maximum spending of $4,000 will get you there. I've already maxed that out with a recent purchase of some fixtures, so I won't be using that card anytime soon. I think the Manhattan card is excellent for purchase of big ticket items. You can even do some tricks to get $200 per quarter by doing some advanced payment of certain things. There are blogs that teaches you to do that, just search around.

The one that I'm using as my main credit card - POSB everyday card, is good for purchases of items from Watsons and carrefour, both of which I'm not a big fan of. Thus, the only benefit is the 0.3% rebate under the category of 'all else'. 0.3% rebate means for every $1000, you get $3. This is not going to be a big deal if you spend less than $1k, which is why I don't even bother to find out the various rebates offered by the different credit cards initially. But for the everyday card, it doesn't come with a cap for the rebates, neither do you have to wait for 3 month before the rebate money is sent to you. The cash rebate will be credited to you once you spent the money. Whether I get the rebate now or 3 months later is not a big concern to me though.

I think that I'm under utilizing my Citi dividend card. I realised (today) that they offer a 2% rebate on all restaurants. Not sure if I'm reading this wrongly, but 2% rebate is much better than the 0.3% rebate that I use to pay for restaurants bills using the everyday card. A restaurant bill of say $60 for 2 person will get a rebate of $1.20 using the citi dividend card, whereas it's only $0.18 using everyday card. And that's not including the more places where there's a discount using the citi bank credit cards in the first place. Knowing this, I'm definitely going to swipe the dividend card when dining next time. There's a cap of $800 per year for the cash rebates though and a minimum of $50 per quarter before you can cash the money out.

Lastly, the debit card from SCB's xtra savers account. This is really a wonderful cash rebate card. Depending on the amount of money you have inside the account, you'll have different strata for cash rebates. I'm going to top up my money inside the account to go beyond 50k to enjoy the 3% rebates. There's a monthly cashback limit of $300, so if I have 50k or above inside the account, the maximum I can spend inside there is $10,000. That's a tall task in a normal month, but these few months are not normal at all.

So this is the plan for the purchase of the fixtures and furnishings. For the first $4k spending, I will max out the quarterly cashback for the SCB's Manhattan card to $200. Then for the next $10k spending, it'll be using the Xtra saver debit card, subject to a cashback rebate of $300 per month. If I do not have enough cash to pay straight, I'll use Citi dividend card to get a 0.5% rebate on any amount spend (up to a cap of 160k - amount that is way out of my spending budget). Alternatively, as long as there's a 6k and above balance in the xtra savers account, I should use the xtra savers debit card to get 2% rebate on any spending, up to 15k a month because of the monthly cap of $300. Of course, one would have to know exactly how much had been spent on which card - information that is easily available since I tracked my expenses closely on a per transaction basis.

On more normal months where I do not have such huge expenses, I would probably be using more of the citi dividend card for restaurants instead of everyday card now. If I do not require credit and I have more than 50k in my xtra savers account, I'll use the xtra saver debit card. I doubt in a normal month, I can spend enough to hit the monthly cap or the quarterly cap anyway, haha!

Let me go transfer money into my xtra savers account to reach 50k now.


AK71 said...

Hi LP,

I use my Dividend Card every time I buy petrol (5%) and eat at restaurants (2%) for many years now. Please note that it does not apply to restaurants in hotels.

I receive more than $100 per quarter in the form of a cheque from Citibank. Very nice. :)

I did not know that Citibank caps the total rebate to $800 a year though.

la papillion said...

Hi AK,

Haha, that's fast...the post is barely out of the oven and you've already started 'eating' it :)

Well, I didn't know that there's a 2% rebate on restaurants too, haha :) Next time I'll use this on restaurants instead of getting 0.3% using the posb everyday card. There's a cap of $800 per yr, though I'm not sure how updated the information is. It's really hard to find information about this cos it's not found on the citi bank site. I found it out through other blogs.

Still $800 per yr cap is a lot of spending! I think in a normal quarter, I might have problem hitting the $50 min even! Probably need around 3 quarters to hit that amount, haha

Calvin Yeo said...

Hi LP,

I use the XtraSaver just like you, I think it's the best tool by far, giving back 2-3% every month no matter what you spend on. And the best thing is that since it is a debit card, you don't run the risk of overspending.

Since I don't drive in Singapore, I really don't have any use for the petrol rebates. However, I do have a citibank credit card which I use for online transactions since only credit cards have fraud protection.

Musicwhiz said...

I only use 1 credit card and that's UOB One Card. It gives 3.33% rebate back on your next bill (not in cash).

So far, one card is sufficient for me and has been so for the last 5-6 years.

Anonymous said...


Do take note that for citibank dividend card, if you do not hit the cash cheque of $50 min amount per quarter, the amount that you accumulate for that quarter will be gone and you have to restart again for the next quarter.

It happen to me, and since I do not use cc as often now, I will still stick with posb everyday card, as there is no specific period to hit to entitled the cash back.


Just a mum said...

errr... is it really that hard for self-employed to obtain credit card. Most banks do not dare to offer.. but as long as 1 approve, u soon find urself having many cards... that was hb case..UOB approve his card... then ANZ... then SCB...then..... I stop him from applying anymore!!!

FYI, if u are going to NTUC xtra to buy groceries, Guardian , popular.. pls try the Maybank family and friends again. It has 5% rebate, (used to offset the next bill) I normally shop $200+ worth of groceries at NTUC XTRA every 6-8 months and see a $10+ rebate in the following bill...


la papillion said...

Hi Calvin,

Hmm, for me, overspending isn't a problem. I think credit cards are not all that bad, I actually prefer using credit compared to debit because of the various discounts and rebates offered by the former, plus the fact that I can control my cashflow. That being said, I think xtra saver debit card is one of the best cards around.

Hi mw,

Yup, I've heard of that. My wife had one too, but since I'm not the one tracking it, I didn't put it down. It's one of the best cards in terms of rebate too :) If you've only one card, wouldn't you find situations where there's discounts if you pay the bill by certain cards but you do not have it?

la papillion said...


Wow, I didn't know that :( I researched around, I think they restart the amount chalked up per year instead of every quarter. Still if that's the way, it's not worth it anymore.

Thanks for the warning! Think I'll stick to Manhattan card then, at least for that one during normal times then. At least it'll get me 0.5% which is still better than posb everyday card :)

Hi Kappo, least it was for me :( I don't want to have any more cards already, because as it is, my wallet is getting too thick! Hmm, NTUC? I might have to go there pretty often...I'll think about it, thanks!

hydrogenperoxide said...

MW, for UOB one card, it's only up to max of 3.33% instead of 3.33% for all purchases..
S$ 1,500 above in 1 quarter will get S$150.
S$ 800-1,500 per month in 1 quarter will get S$80.
S$ 300 - 1,5000 per month in 1 quarter will get S$30.
Hence, I think I still prefer the straight cash rebate card like dividend and manhattan..
using Manhattan to pay phone bills upfront for a year is nice :D 5% straight discount :D
FYI, HSBC has 5% rebate on DairyFarm chain of supermarket (Cold Storage, Giant, Guardian etc.)
I always left my card back at home and research what card need to be brought (to avoid full wallet) :D

Musicwhiz said...

Hi H2O2 (Hydrogen Peroxide),

Yes you are right about the rebate. It's not strictly 3.33% unless you spend just the right amount. If you exceed then the remainder is not rebated.

I find it too much of a hassle to apply for cards and collect so many just for specific uses, and just to save a few dollars. I don't really sweat the small stuff as I am already saving 50% of my take-home pay. I guess I like to keep things simple, and since I don't drive, go Carrefour or Giant much, I don't really need those other cards.

Hi LP,

It's not a problem - I subscribe to loyalty programs when I can to enjoy discounts. If there is no discount, then there is no discount. I am not prompted to spend just because there are discounts given for certain outlets. I am afraid I may fall victim to the "Blondie" syndrome. Haha.

la papillion said...

Hi mw,

I see :) I wouldn't go to somewhere because I have credit discounts for it, since I don't spend much. But it's good to be surprised on the upside when told that this and that card gives further discounts. I ever had a card that give 20% discount when I went to a restaurant before :)

What's the blondie syndrome, btw? :)

Musicwhiz said...

Hi LP,

Blondie syndrome is something which my father told me about. He used to read a comics column called "Blondie" in the Sunday Times (I believe it's still there now). It features a woman who will shop for stuff just because it offers discounts - thus implying that one should not buy something just because a discount is offered.

I've noticed that women are more susceptible to this form of marketing - i.e. buying stuff they don't really need just because a discount is offered. My mum and wife are guilty of that.


Createwealth8888 said...

Agreed with MW. The day when we don't sweat on small stuff we have arrived!

Just a mum said...

I usually buy stuff on discount. And I buy them in BULK. More likely are those household groceries like shampoo, shower foam, detergent..... no food.. they expire before we could get to finish.

To add on, the maybank card you can only use in NTUC Xtra... those normal NTUC branch, they only accept the PLUS card. So far the PLUS card only have link points and discount is only applicable to housebrand. Dun say I din inform if you apply for the card ok.


la papillion said...

Hi mw,

Ah, I used to read Blondie too...I was just wondering whether there's some connection between the two :) You're right, I think women are more susceptible to such gimmicks :) If I don't need it, I don't need it - discounts or not, haha :)

Hi bro8888,

I only sweat the small stuff that I'm interested in sweating :) There's a certain perverse pleasure in knowing certain cheat codes in life in beating the system, don't you think?

Hi Kappo,

Ookie, no worries! Then if like that, most likely won't get it (firstly they rejected me in the past...grr) since there are other similar gourmet supermarket like cold storage, which one of my cards gives good discounts on. Can't remember whether it's posb or citi, haha

AK71 said...

I love cheat codes when they are legal. hehehehe... ;)

Sometimes, we get cheated. So, must get even. That is life. ;p

AK71 said...

Oh, NTUC Fairprice accepts all VISA and Mastercards now. It does not matter anymore.

I have been using the Citibank Dividend Card at NTUC Fairprice Killiney Road and Bukit Merah for a few months now. ;)

Just a mum said...

The NTUC near my house refuse to accept other visa except PLUS card lor.... I had to buy from them as did not want to travel too far to buy milk powder... 5% rebate is good lor

AK71 said...

Hi Glayz,

You might want to feedback to NTUC Fairprice head office.

It was in the news that all branches would accept all credit cards (VISA/Mastercard) w.e.f. a few months ago. Cannot remember exact date.

AhJohn said...

For petroleum, I use ocbc card to get 11% discount at Caltex, is it good?

la papillion said...

Hi AK,

I love cheat codes too ;)

Hi Ah John,

I'm sorry, I don't drive, so I'm not in the best position to tell you if the 11% discount is good. Perhaps there are others who would like to answer to this?

Derek said...

Hi LP,

I'm not sure if you are already aware of this. Instead of having one XtraSaver account of $50K for 3% rebate, open eight XtraSaver accounts for 2% rebate each.

Hint: Joint Account.


la papillion said...

Hi derek,

Don't quite get your point on splitting into 8 different accounts to get 2% rebates. I can understand the need to split up so as not to exceed the cap on the amt of cash rebates you can earn from one account (capped at $300/mth), but one would have to spend a lot to even hit the cap.

So isn't 3% rebates on one account better than 2% rebates for multiple accounts, provided you don't exceed the cap on the cash rebate? Did I miss out anything?

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