Save serious money on hotel bookings

I have just received S$166.16 in cashback for the hotel bookings of my recent trip, no kidding! Here’s how i did it.

Earn cashback through ShopbackSimple as that. Hotel booking websites take an average of 15% in commission from the hotel/accommodation provider for every booking done through their websites. Yes, that’s an awful lot of money! They’re willing to give you back 6% of that commission, so you better grab it! You can get this cashback if you do your hotel bookings through cashback websites, like Shopback.

Continue reading Save serious money on hotel bookings

Thank you Bank of China

All things too good to be true must come to an end, and so it did. Bank of China has finally clamped down on their “charity program” that dishes out 5% rebate on all online transactions, including payments to government services. Here is the official announcement.

I will no longer enjoy a 5% rebate for my HDB season parking payment, but the terms and conditions did not specifically mention about payments to Telcos (according to my credit card bill it seems the payment made to Telcos still count towards the 5% rebate), though there is the overarching clause that the benefits can be revoked at any time at their sole discretion.

Also, it is mentioned that the 5% rebate promotion applies from April to June 2016, which means it may be terminated completely after June. Moreover, the 5% rebate is now capped at S$30 (was S$50).

Well, i’ve enjoyed the very generous rebates for more than a year, and i must say Thank you, Bank of China!

UOB Visa Signature test drive result

Got hold of the UOB Visa Signature card only recently and took it for test drive immediately. The requirement to earn 5% rebate is to spend a minimum of S$1000 of foreign currency equivalent within a statement period. It is stated in the terms and conditions that the regular 1X UNI$ (0.5% rebate) is reflected in the current statement period, and the remaining 9X (4.5% rebate) will only be given in the next statement period.

To be able to make a redemption, however, you need to accumulate at least S$2000 worth of foreign currency spending to earn the UNI$4000 required for redemption. This means you either spend S$2000 one-shot in a single statement period, or S$1000 each in two statement periods.

visasignature1 visasignature2

Continue reading UOB Visa Signature test drive result

Visa ♥ Shopback

Not wanting to be left out, Visa now partners with Shopback and dishes out more cashback if you go through the Visa promo page. However, they can’t actually force you to make payment with a Visa credit/debit card on the actual merchant’s site. All you have to do is to fill in the first 6 digits of a Visa credit/debit card to gain access to the extra cashback. On the other hand, MasterCard has already been running a similar deal with Qoo10 for a year or more, and they do enforce making payments with a MasterCard.

I seriously can’t figure out how such deals can make a difference to Visa or MasterCard. Does anyone decide on which credit card to use based on whether it is a Visa or MasterCard? I really doubt so. I guess it is just a general brand marketing campaign. The Qoo10 MasterCard promotion does give you very good discounts (more than 20%), almost unbelievable.


For one day only (1 April 2016), Visa is giving up to 20% cashback through Shopback. Redmart is one of the merchants, and i wasted no time to grab this deal. I happen to have on hand a $5 coupon code as well for answering a questionnaire from Redmart, so no better time than to utilize it than now.

Redmart checkout
20% cashback as promised
20% cashback from Shopback as promised

Since i made payment with BOC Shop! card, i do get another 5% rebate. All in, i got $16.78 of discount for $49.10 worth of purchase, which is a whopping 34% discount!

There was also a 20% cashback for Groupon, and i bought a $60 dining voucher for $34.90. With the $6.98 cashback and 5% rebate from BOC Shop! card factored in, it is an overall discount of 56%, which is not bad. The 20% cashback promotion for Groupon lasts until 5 Apr 2016, so you might still have a chance to grab something worthwhile.

If you haven’t signed up with Shopback, why not?

Survey of Singapore credit cards

I’ve written about the best credit cards for overseas spend (one of the more popular posts on this site) and also about credit cards that earn you the most cash rebate (it is slightly outdated already). Here’s my personal take on all the credit cards in the market. Note that corporate credit cards and cards aimed at specific demographic or special-interests or tied to specific merchants are generally excluded (e.g. high rollers, students, golfers, petrol, departmental store etc.). Cards for accumulating air miles are also excluded. Let me be honest about this – i don’t believe in accumulating air miles, since i am never insistent on sticking with any particular airline for flights. Even when you use your miles, you will still be paying taxes and levies, which can sometimes amount to as much as the price of a discounted flight ticket. Continue reading Survey of Singapore credit cards

The best credit cards for overseas travel spending

Note: this post is specific to Singapore. Feel free to browse my other articles if you’re a visitor from the other corners of the world 🙂 

For all my past trips, I have been using the Manhattan credit card for overseas spending, the reason being it rewarded 5% cashback. Subsequently, it was cut to 3%, and I continued using it for overseas spending since I was lazy to find out if there was a better alternative.

Things have changed with the introduction of the ANZ optimum card. It rewards 5% cashback on dining and hotel spending. Before I continue, let me state the disclaimer again that, other than being a regular customer, I am in no way affiliated with any bank mentioned in this article.

Alright, let’s first discuss the transaction fees involved in cross-border transactions. As of now (July 2015), the published cross-border transaction fee for the ANZ optimum card is 2.5%, comprising of 1.5% that ANZ charges and 1% that MasterCard charges. For the SCB Manhattan card, it is 2.5% plus a variable rate of 0.2% to 1% that SCB claims MasterCard charges. It looks like ANZ fixes the MasterCard fee at 1% even though in actual fact it could be a variable rate that is possibly lower than 1%. Nevertheless, the fee charged by ANZ is obviously still the lower of the two. If you consider the cash rebate, the 3% you get from Manhattan is not even enough to cover the transaction fee which is 2.7-3.5%. On the other hand, the 5% you get from ANZ covers the 2.5% fee, and leaves you with another 2.5% to offset the currency exchange premium. Clearly the ANZ optimum card is far better.

Before embarking on my trip, i called up ANZ to find out if paying for hotel stays qualify for the 5% cash rebate. The answer was affirmative. With that, i was set on using the ANZ optimum card for the trip. Afterall, the major expenses incurred while travelling are on hotel stays and meals.


Towards the end of my trip, a statement cycle had lapsed and i received the bill from ANZ. I earned $258 in cashback, not bad! The Manhattan card has a cap of $200 in cashback per quarter, whereas there is no cap for the ANZ card.

The other major category of spending on an overseas trip is of course shopping. The card I chose to use for shopping was the M1 Citibank card. This card offers a 5% cash rebate if you chalk up over S$3000 of retail purchase in foreign currency within one statement cycle, capped at S$200 (i.e. up to S$4000 spending). That is easy to achieve when you visit Japan (cosmetics), USA (outlet branded goods) or Europe (branded goods). Otherwise, if your spending is under S$3000, you only get a 1% rebate. The rebate comes in the form of Citi Rebate, which you can only redeem by spending at participating merchant stores. Well, the merchants do include supermarkets such as Cold Storage, Giant and Sheng Siong, so it’s as good as cash. By the way, you don’t have to be an M1 customer to apply for the M1 Citibank card.

Update 19/11/15: There is another card that bests the M1 Citibank card – UOB Visa Signature card. You earn 5% rebate with just a minimum of S$1000 worth of foreign currency spend, INCLUDING online spending in foreign currency! The cashback is capped at $100 per month, which allows one to spend up to the equivalent of S$2000 in foreign currency per month. In fact, you have to accumulate S$2000 worth of spending in order to do a cash credit redemption (UNI$4000). It is easy to spend S$2000 when overseas. Just charge the shopping, admission tickets and rental car etc. to the card. If these don’t make up S$2000, then charge your hotel bills and meals too. Here’s a tip: if you use Agoda for hotel booking, then you should definitely use the UOB Visa Signature for payment to get 5% rebate (be careful to choose USD or better still, the original foreign currency of the country of destination for the payment when you do the booking!). Online payments for hotel doesn’t count towards getting 5% cashback from the ANZ Optimum card.

Be sure to read my article on tips to save money on hotel bookings.

Update 15 Apr 15: UOB Visa Signature test drive result.

Update 29 Nov 2016

The competition heats up with POSB and Maybank offering similar deals, albeit for a limited time only.

Get 5% rebate on overseas spend with POSB Everyday card with minimum S$1000 spent. Valid till 28 Feb 2017.

Get 7% rebate on overseas spend with Maybank credit cards with minimum S$1000 spent. Valid till 31 Dec 2016.

A guide to maximising cash rebates from credit cards

What makes you decide on using a credit card over another? it’s the benefits you get out of the card right? Don’t know about you, but the one thing I want from a credit card is cash rebate. Fanciful marketing does nothing to move me and i believe this is also true for most people. I’m sure banks noticed that, as there are now more cards that give you high cash rebate (>0.5%) than ever before. So the next question is, which credit cards give you the most cash rebate?

Before I continue, standard disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated to any company mentioned in this article and opinions expressed are solely my own. The accuracy of the content below is subject to change and is on a best effort basis. Alright, let’s get straight to the point – i use Bank of China’s (BOC) Shop!, Standard Chartered’s (SCB) Manhattan, Maybank’s Family and Friends and POSB’s Everyday cards. I did a search to see what others have to say about the best credit cards with high cash rebate in the market and found a few other popular cards – OCBC’s Frank, Citibank’s SMRT, Standard Chartered’s SingPost and UOB’s One. There is also another recently introduced card that looks promising – ANZ Optimum. Now, that’s 9 credit cards to compare and consider. (Update 28 Jan 2016: please see my survey of Singapore credit cards for a more updated review on the best credit cards)

These cards can be divided into two general groups – blanket (all spending count towards the high cash rebate) and category specific (only one or two categories of spending, such as online purchases, groceries, dining etc. give you the high cash rebate). The SCB Manhattan and UOB One fall under the ‘blanket’ group. Here’s how they compare:

SCB Manhattan

Maximum rebate of $200 per quarter
3% rebate provided you spend more than $3000 in a single month, otherwise 1% for above $1000 spend and 0.5% for above $500
Cash rebates also awarded on payment of recurring charges (e.g. insurance installment)
Pros: $200 per quarter is the highest rebate amount available in the market
Cons: Only useful when you know you are going to spend above $3000 (up to $6667) in a particular month to earn the 3% rebate, otherwise getting 1% or 0.5% rebate is not attractive


Maximum rebate of $150 per quarter
3.33% rebate. Either $150, $80 or $30 rebate provided you spend $1500, $800 or $300 respectively per month for 3 months consecutively
Minimum 3 transactions per month
Cash rebates also awarded on payment of recurring charges (e.g. insurance installment)
Additional 2% awarded on foreign currency spending overseas (spending capped at $5000 per year)
Pros: Decent rebates for $300 spending per month which should be easy to hit for most people especially when recurring charges are allowed.
Cons: All spending above $300 (or $800 or $1500) does not earn you any further rebate, so you have to switch to using another card once you exceed $300 (or $800 or $1500).

Winner: It depends on how much you spend. UOB One is good for recurring charges while SCB Manhattan is good for the occasional over $3000 spending.

Under the ‘category specific’ group, for online transactions we have

BOC Shop!

Maximum rebate of $50 per month with 5.5% rebate for the first $1000 spent on online transactions or Departmental store transactions, thereafter 1%
Minimum spending of $500 per month required
0.5% rebate for other spend
Pros: No restriction on type of online transaction which makes it easy to hit the $500 minimum spending (e.g. telco bills paid online, HDB parking)
Cons: None

Update 29 July 2016: The cashback associated with online transaction is revoked with effect from 1 Aug 2016.

OCBC Frank

Maximum rebate of $60 per month with 6% rebate on online transactions
Minimum spending of $500 per month required
3% rebate on entertainment spending (5% during weekends)
Also awards 3% rebate (capped at $6) on first two NETS Flashpay Auto Top up transactions
0.3% rebate for other spend
Pros: 0.5% higher rebate compared to BOC Shop! card
Cons: Long list of online transactions that do not earn you rebate, quoted from OCBC Frank’s terms and conditions – (a) Payments made via telephone or mail order; (b) Subscription and recurring payments; (c) Payments to government institutions; (d) Payments to financial institutions (including banks and brokerages); (e) Payments to insurance companies; (f) Utility bill payments; (g) Donations; h) Payment of funds to prepaid accounts and merchants who are categorised as “payment service providers”; (i) Payments to schools, hospitals, professional services providers and payments for parking lots (j) Payments of membership fees to clubs and associations; (k) Payments made via online banking;

SCB SingPost

Maximum rebate of $60 per month with 7% rebate on online transactions
Minimum spending $600 required
Also rewards 2% on Supermarket transactions (as good as useless)
0.25% rebate for other spend
Pros: Highest rebate for online transactions
Cons: Excludes insurance premium payments, utilities, EZ-link transactions and online bill payment

Winner: OCBC Frank is likely to be more useful with the rebates given on entertainment.

For groceries, we have

Maybank Family and Friends

Maximum rebate of $600 per year
Minimum spending of $500 per month required
5% rebate at Fairprice and Cold Storage, plus leading petrol stations and hypermarts in Malaysia
0.3% rebate for other spend
Additional 3% rebate if $1000 spent in that month
Pros: Cash rebate is automatically credited into the account, no need to do redemption. Good for occasional trips to Malaysia for those who drive. Maximum rebate calculated on a per year basis which is better than on a per month basis. Additional 3% rebate is actually useful for those months you have to spend on items that don’t otherwise give you any rebate (e.g. medical bill).
Cons: No rebate if $500 minimum requirement not met

Citibank SMRT

Maximum rebate of $280 per year
Minimum spending of $600 per month required, otherwise rebate will be 0.3% less
5% rebate at FairPrice, Giant and Sheng Siong, 5% for Town Council conservancy charge, 2% for EZ Reload Auto Top-up, 15% at selected Coffee joints, 1% for telco and selected insurance bills
0.3% rebate for other spend
Pros: If the $600 minimum spend is not met, the rebate is merely 0.3% less, which is insignificant, so one need not bother about it
Cons: You might easily hit the $280 annual cap on rebates without knowing it. If you do the math, you can only spend $466 per month! The “minimum spend of $600 to get the full rebate” clause is really just a psychological trick. Also, you need to do redemption of vouchers which is a hassle, and there’s always the risk that you forget to do the redemption or use the vouchers before their expiry.

Winner: If you are able to chalk up $500 of spending every month, Maybank Family and Friends seems to be the better deal. Plus, it gives you the flexibility earn additional 3% rebate when you spend more than $1000. Otherwise, you “fall back” on Citibank SMRT.

Next we have 2 other cards that are each unique in it’s own right:

POSB Everyday

The only card that allows you to make recurring payments to SP Services (i.e. utilities bills) and earn 1% rebate at the same time. There is also 5% rebate (capped at $50 per month) at Sheng Siong with no minimum monthly spend required.

ANZ Optimum

5% rebate on dining (restaurants, hotels, bars and cinemas), travel (airlines, travel agencies, and online travel portals), Shopping (fashion boutiques and online fashion stores) or groceries (supermarkets). 1% on all other spend (as a comparison, you have to spend a minimum of $1000 in a month on SCB Manhattan to get 1%). There is no limit on your cash rebate earnings, but there is a maximum of 30 Optimum$ (each equivalent to S$1 currently) awarded per transaction, which allows spending up to $600 per transaction (may not be enough when buying flight tickets for example). No minimum spend is required, which is a good thing. Note that the cash rebate isn’t credited into your account automatically and you have to make a minimum redemption of $50 each time (which can take some time to accumulate). As with all rewards redemption programme, there is an expiry date on the accumulated cash rebate, which is 3 years from account opening. In case you are not able to accumulate $50 worth of rebate before the expiry date, you will lose it all. There is another catch (they’re a bank afterall.. all out for your money): in order to receive the 5% rebate, you are supposed to select your preferred category before the start of every calendar quarter (i.e. Jan, Apr, Jul, Oct), failing which you will not get the 5% rebate (just 1% instead) for the whole quarter. There is also a nasty clause in the terms and conditions that states that the Optimum$ accumulated may be deducted automatically to offset the annual fee. Even with all these conditions in place, i think the careful consumer still stands to benefit from this card.

Here’s the strategy that works for me:

Accumulate $500 worth of online transactions in a month (telco bills and HDB parking payment help, especially when you can pay for a few months of HDB parking at one go to make up for the shortfall to $500) and pay them using BOC Shop! card.

Accumulate >$350 worth of recurring payments in a month (insurance premium payment) and pay them with Maybank Family and Friends card. Usually the groceries spending in a month will be more than $150 and that will take me beyond the $500 minimum required to get the 5% rebate on groceries at FairPrice.

Pay recurring SP Services bill through POSB Everyday card. i also use this card to pump petrol at SPC stations.

Use the newly launched ANZ Optimum card for rebates on dining. This used to be the only category of spending i don’t get much rebates on. Also, use this card for all other spend to get 1% rebate (including online transactions).

If i know i am going to spend more than $3000 in a month (excluding dining), then i will use the SCB Manhattan to get 3% rebate.

I guess everyone has a different pattern of spending, but i’m sure you’ll be able to formulate a winning combination using some of the above mentioned cards.

Update: please see the follow up post ANZ Optimum World credit card test drive results for more on the 5% cash rebate.