Shopback review

Now that I’ve received the first payout from Shopback, I guess I’m qualified to say something about them. The $25 payout consisted of $15 from an Agoda booking and $10 from the bonus given for signing up through Citibank and for updating the personal particulars.

Shopback Payout

The best part of Shopback so far is in getting $15 Cashback for making an Agoda booking. $15 is awarded for any booking that is above $50. If you do the sums, that represents a whopping 30% discount on a $50 hotel booking! With the cashback, it becomes more worthwhile booking a $50 hotel than a $40 one.

agoda

Shopback relies on cookies for tracking purchases made on merchant sites. It has worked every time (for Agoda, Groupon, Redmart purchases) I used Shopback except my latest Agoda bookings. I’m pretty sure I completed the booking within the same window I was redirected to from Shopback, but the cashback wasn’t registered. Thankfully, Shopback actually provides a feedback form for missing cashback. The cashback entry (with incorrect amount at this point of time) appeared in my account within 2 days of submitting my missing cashback request. It’s pretty amazing that Shopback provides this missing cashback form, since I can imagine that it will result a lot of workload, especially when it can be easily abused.

With the $15 cashback offer, the Shopback and Agoda combo is unbeatable. What’s more, Agoda has a tie-up with booking.com and offers some of the hotels on booking.com as well (at the same price) that would have been otherwise not found in Agoda itself. If you factor in the cashback, it is obviously better to book through Agoda than booking.com.

The only downside of Shopback, and most cashback sites, is the long waiting time to receive the actual cash. For Shopback it is typically 60 days after the completion of the transaction (for hotel or flight bookings this means completion of the trip), plus up to a week to process your redemption request.

All in all, i found that Shopback is quite intuitive to use, and it works. Extra cash is always welcome, right?

Update 14/11/2015: Shopback now offers only $10 cashback for Agoda. I noticed that some of the sites i frequently shop on have been added to Shopback’s merchant list, including booking.com ($10 cashback for $50 and above bookings, i,e. matching Agoda’s offer) and ebay (1% cashback). Shopback is making a lot of progress!

Cashback on groceries

Groceries must be one of the main categories of expenditure for any household. Many people should be aware that some credit cards offer a 5% rebate on supermarket transactions, but there is now a better deal if you do groceries shopping online on Redmart.com (Singapore only). They are one of the merchants on the Shopback.sg cashback portal, offering a 10% rebate. If you make payment using a Bank of China Shop! card, you get another 5.5% rebate (awarded for all online payments). So that’s a whopping 15.5% discount on your groceries!

The only problem for me is having to spend $50 or more to get free delivery from Redmart, which is usually not achievable in my case, since my groceries purchase usually consists of fresh produce in small batches. What I resort to doing is to wait for Redmart.com to dangle the $10 discount that they offer to customers who hasn’t done a purchase from them for some time (it seems to be every 4 months). It’s easy to chalk up $50 of groceries spending when I get a 20% discount outright. If I were to calculate the combined discounts and cashback I get, I’m actually paying only $33.04 for $50.10 worth of groceries!

Disclaimer: this article expresses my personal opinion and i am not paid to represent any of the companies mentioned above (the same applies to all my articles).

Update: Shopback no longer offers rebates for redmart.com. I’m guessing that Redmart loses out more than it gains through the cashback advertising mechanism, so they pulled out.

Update 9/10/2015: Redmart is back on Shopback

Update 14/11/2015: Now even Fairprice Online is on Shopback, though it is practically useless, offering only cashback only for S$150 and above spend. Buying through Honestbee might be a better idea since you get 9% cashback on Shopback (not anymore).

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.

wpid-wp-1435905565479.jpg

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.

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

Update 12 Apr 17

CIMB credit cards look pretty good for overseas food and hotel expenses, you get 10% rebate for up to S$600 worth of spending plus zero admin fees! I would use CIMB for the initial $600 worth of food and hotel expenses respectively, then switch to ANZ Optimum or UOB Visa Signature.

Update 16 Nov 18

Well, ANZ has ceased to exist, and both the Citi M1 and UOB Visa Signature cards no longer offer 5% cash rebate. If you pump petrol at SPC then you still get the equivalent of 3.33% rebate from UOB Visa Signature. CIMB Visa Signature credit cards remain the same. Standard Chartered Manhattan offers 3% rebate for above $3000 spending in local or foreign currency. Perhaps the YouTrip card is the better deal now.

ANZ Optimum World credit card test drive results

optimumdollarStandard disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with ANZ bank and what follows is purely my personal opinion.

Finally received the bill from ANZ. This is the very first time the 5% rebate of the Optimum World credit card came into effect, since this is the start of the April – June quarter and they only announced the arrival of this new card in January. I was eager to find out if the 5% rebate really worked, especially for overseas spend. It did.

A quick summary of how this card works: you have to choose a category of spending for which you’ll get 5% rebate, out of the 4 categories comprising of dining & leisure, travel, shopping and groceries. I chose the dining category, because few other cards offer a rebate for dining expenses (furthermore you earn 5% regardless of whether it’s weekdays or weekends).

From the start of April, i spent a total of S$171.49 on food related expenses, including a meal in a restaurant in Malaysia and snacks from a shop selling traditional foodstuff in Malacca. I’m surprised that even the expenditure on the snacks was included for the rebate. These earned me, with rounding factored in, 8 Optimum$ (equivalent to S$8).

The rest of the spending (including that from a supplementary card) came up to a total of S$3078.39. These earned, with rounding factored in, 30 Optimum$ (equivalent to $30). So i got a total of S$38 in rebates, not bad. Though, on hindsight, it would have been better to spend using the Manhattan credit card, which gives 3% of rebates for spending above S$3000, which means i would have gotten S$97.50 of rebates. Alas, it’s difficult to coordinate and anticipate the spending from 2 cards (main and supplementary).

All in all, i’m very satisfied with the cash rebates for this card. I’m going to use it for all my dining expenses on my upcoming trip. At 5%, the rebates will significantly offset the extra fees and unfavourable exchange rates when swiping a credit card overseas.

Further cash rebate on top of credit card cash rebate

ebates

When you’re getting 5.5% – 7% of credit card cash rebate on online transactions, you’re probably folding your arms and telling yourself, “well done”. But wait, there’s more! You can get further cash rebate with Ebates for your online shopping. The merchants include popular online stores, hotel booking (virtually all the hotel chains are there) and car rental, so before you make any online transaction on a US site, it pays (literally) to search if the merchant is on Ebates. You will more likely than not find them there.

A sample of the rebates you can get:

MerchantCash Back
ebayUp to 5%
AmazonUp to 3%
booking.com2%
Agoda3%
hotels.com6%
REI2.5%
Oshkosh B'gosh2.5%
Gap4%
Newegg1%

So how do you get paid? You can choose to be paid via cheque or PayPal. You’ll only get paid every quarter if you have accumulated US$5.01 or more of cash back. I opted to be paid through PayPal since i do use PayPal to pay for online shopping.

In order to receive the cash back, one must first go to ebates.com, search for the merchant and get redirected to the merchant site from there. This is how they link your transaction with the merchant to your Ebates account. You must perform your transaction within that same browser tab in which you were redirected to the merchant site. This presents a problem when the merchant site launches new tabs upon your selection (e.g. this happens on booking.com – when you select a hotel, a new tab is launched to show you the hotel reservation details). To get around this, copy the url in the newly launched tab and paste it back into the original Ebates enabled tab.

Before you get used to using Ebates, i can tell you from experience that you will keep forgetting to activate Ebates first before you do anything else. Ebates provides you a tool to help remind you – the Ebates cash back button, which works on Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

So what are you waiting for? Start using Ebates.

Update 14/11/2015: Shopback is fast becoming my favourite cashback site, now that almost all the online merchants i patronize can be found on Shopback. I’ll likely continue to use ebates for ebay purchases though.

Get S$5 when you sign up for Shopback!

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

UOB One

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.