Tag Archive | credit card

Credit card restrictions: hurting the poor?

First let me say, I think it’s a gr8 thing in principle that the Government is doing something at last to make it more difficult for those who really shouldn’t have a credit card from having one and the banks — whether out of stupidity or greed — from seducing people who shouldn’t go into debt with soft baits aplenty at shopping malls, MRT links or wherever there are crowds.

This said, I wonder if the less well-off will be disadvantaged by the slew of tightening measures announced by the Monetary Authority of Singapore earlier this month and which will kick in over the next 21 months, starting from December this year?

Let me explain, using self as an example.

I have four credit cards, from two banks. I always pay my credit card bills on time. I don’t pay any fees for any of my cards, even though I think it’s a pain to get the annual fee waivers.

I also get points whenever I pay with my cards and that allows me to redeem perks.

I redeem my points for vouchers that allow me to get $20, $30 or $50 off my bills at certain restaurants or shops.

I get to pay less for petrol if I use the stations affiliated with the bank issuers, and I always do.

One of my cards even allows me to eat lunch at three restaurants at the Grand Hyatt at discounts of as much as 50% off the bill, depending on the number of people I have with me.

Given the array of “perks” I always use credit cards where possible. For example, recently when Fairprice was promoting credit cards using the “wave” technology with one free Fairprice housebrand loaf for each shopper who charges at least $30, I got so many loaves over the promotion period that I had to give them away to the condo’s security guards and cleaners!

On top of everything, I get up to about 30 days of free credit on average. If I use my card with a greater eye on the calendar and the billing cycles of the issuers, I might get an even longer stretch. But I think the extra days aren’t worth the trouble of being selective with my cards.

Yet despite using plastic to pay 80+% of my monthly expenditure — would be 100% if mum’s helper will accept her pay via credit card 😆 — I am never anywhere near my credit limit of $22K for my 4 cards.

So earlier this year, I went to one of the banks and did what was considered unheard of: asked for my credit limit to be reduced.

The staff who dealt with me was so flummoxed that she asked me to write my own letter requesting a decrease in credit limit. The bank only has standard forms requesting increases in credit limit 🙄

From my short ramble, it should convince anyone reading this far that credit cards have their obvious privileges. But the not so obvious downside is that the merchants involved in the credit card network would have, must have, priced in the credit card facility into their goods and services.

It wasn’t my meditation on credit card use that gave me the Eureka  moment. Instead it was the Kopitiam store value card which I got some time ago, attracted by the 10% discount offered by the stalls in Kopitiam food courts.

Over the almost 2 years I have had the card, I have enjoyed some $70 worth of discounts (based on 10% of my to-date expenditure which is shown every time I top up) and I don’t even eat at a Kopitiam outlet more often than two or three times a month.

Imagine those who do, especially the lower income? How much such savings would help them to stretch their meagre dollars! 😥

Yet the people I see most often using Kopitiam cards to pay for their meals at the food court are invariably young executives, students and fairly OK-$-wise uncles and aunties, like myself.

Those who pay cash are invariably cleaners, security guards and other menial earner types.

I often wonder whether it’s because they don’t know how to work the store-value top-up machines. Or more worryingly, they can’t afford to pay the cost of the card: can’t remember how much, $2 or $5 every two years that Kopitiam charges to extract the 10% discount from its stall-holders.

Which brings me back to the credit card conundrum. Those who have them enjoy perks that would surely have been priced into the goods and services they buy.

Which is unfair to those who pay cash, especially those who have no choice but to pay cash — because the laws don’t allow them to have even one, let alone several.

Why should those who don’t enjoy the privilege and the convenience of credit and the discounts and perks that come with a credit card not be allowed to enjoy discounts when they pay by cash?

Credit card companies frown on this. Indeed bans its merchant network from giving discounts to those who pay cash instead of using their credit cards.

I think this should change. And if the credit card issuers refuse to undercut their own business by promoting cash payments, then it’s up to the Government to do something to level the paying field for the poor.

Make it mandatory for merchants who take cash and credit cards to give discounts to those who pay in cash. (Of course this won’t apply to those merchants who deal strictly in cash only!)

And if MAS is chary of tackling the powerful banks and other card issuers like American Express and Diners Club, then it could perhaps start with Kopitiam?

After all, those who patronise Kopitiam foodcourts would by and large be less affluent than those who qualify for credit cards, even be4 the more stringent credit rules kick in later this year.

Isn’t it the Government’s job to ensure that the less well-off have as much a level paying field as possible?

So why not tell Kopitiam that it should issue its cards to everyone without charge so that all — especially the less well-off — can enjoy the food discount?

This is a win-win situation for Kopitiam and its card-holders for every time they top up, Kopitiam enjoys a free float till they spend the money on their food.

In addition, the cards enable Kopitiam to manage its food stall tenants better by tracking their takings via the cashless system whereas cash takings are more difficult to track, which makes it attractive for the operator to encourage more to go cashless.

I rest my case. Now over to the new breed of PAP Ministers who all have big hearts for Singaporeans, especially the more disadvantaged!


Co-incidence or super-fast reaction?

Last Thursday, July 7, I was at a conference held at the convention centre of Resorts World Sentosa. The conference closing lunch was held latish and not being a VIP delegate I was left to find my own seat and so inflicted my company between two affable looking men, one of whom was from NTUC Fairprice and the other from ST Microelectronics.

Also at the table were four women, three from AVA and another who seemed to be in the head hunting business (but I’m not sure). Soon, the Fairprice man was joined by a colleague who turned out to be the supermarket chain’s new head for its global expansion ambitions.

Fairprice Int CEO

Mr Laurent Levan joined Fairprice in 2009 as Chief Executive Officer, FairPrice International. His first task is to get Faiprice going in Vietnam where last December, NTUC FairPrice Co-operative inked a joint venture agreement with Saigon Union of Trading Co-operatives Limited to set up a chain of hypermarkets in Vietnam.

Naturally, we peppered the gregarious Mr Levan with comments about our shopping experience at Fairprice outlets, especially me.

I told him inter alia that while I’m delighted with Fairprice’s move to accept payment by credit cards, I’ve one reservation. Which is that we don’t get a copy of our credit card chit. Same sentiment was expressed by one of the ladies from AVA.

Mr Levan countered saying that the Fairprice receipt would show the amount and should be enough as a record. We didn’t press our point and the conversation moved on.

Fast-forward to today when I visited a Fairprice outlet, for which the above is but a preamble to what I experienced after I paid for my purchases. I signed the credit card slip and was given the usual Fairpirce receipt detailing the purchases.

Then I was pleasantly surprised when the cashier asked: “Would you like a copy of  your credit card receipt?”

Natch i said yes.

As I pushed my laden trolley to the car park, i wondered whether it was just a co-incidence that I was offered the receipt.

Yet it seemed too much of a co-incidence, seeing that I’ve been paying by credit card at various Fairprice outlets for the past several weeks and not once was I offered a copy of the credit card receipt.

So, if it wasn’t a co-incidence, then Mr Levan sure takes feedback seriously and word has gone down expeditiously to the rank and file, so that even at Tiong Baru’s Fairprice where the aunties , including moi, usually shop, we are offered the option of being given our credit card receipts!

Too old for UOB product!

I had such a good laugh be4 lunch today and it’s not only because mum’s Picky Siti is returning from her leave thus freeing me after almost a fortnight’s enforced home-stay!

I was at Novena Square to buy lunch for the household when I passed the UOB branch there and noticed a crowd gathered around a young man with a mike asking anyone with a UOB credit card to show it and win a prize.

As your typical freebie fan and also because I do have a UOB credit card, I joined the crowd, showed my card, was given a ball to slot into a frame and lo and behold I won a toiletry bag.

No big deal but since it was free why not?

An eager young woman popped out of the blue and asked kindly whether I would prefer a manicure set instead.

“Let me have a look at both?” I suggested.

The young woman readily agreed and led me into the inner sanctum of the branch where she highly recommended the manicure set.

I allowed myself to be persuaded and remained in good humour even when she asked me to fill in a form.

As I still bank with UOB, I could have said you go check the details. But I decided the form-filling was needed to account for the manicure set. So I kwai-kwai filled in the form.

I thought that was that when she began her pitch, although initially, I didn’t realise it was a pitch.

“Have you heard about our high interest products?”

“You mean the 14-month deposits, izzit?”

“No, it’s something new. Have you heard of deposits that pay 7% (at least that’s what I think she said) compared to 0.1% in your savings account.?”

“I haven’t heard…”

“Before I explain, can I ask you something?”

She seemed a bit embarrassed. Wondered what she wanted to know? My marital status? Whether I was employed? Criminal record?

“Errrhm,” she paused, “can you tell me roughly how old you are?”

Oh, goodness! I’m not at all sensitive about such things.

So I told her.

Her eyes widened. I repeated what I said.

She looked even more embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “You don’t qualify.”

I didn’t know there was an age limit on deposit products. Although I didn’t really want or need any new deposit products to channel my funds to, I was curious, so I asked:

“What’s your cut off age?”

She mentioned a number.

I laughed out loud.

“Wow, I’m out by six years..”

She repeated that she was sorry.

I wasn’t.

I gave a broad smile and we said our good byes, as the young woman was obviously not going to waste more time on a prospect who was out of the running.

If only it’s that easy to get rid of other insurance sales people, after having already taken their bait! Assuming of cos that girl from UOB was selling insurance-linked products and not your vanilla fixed deposit!

DBS credit card: service recovery?

Believe it or not, I got a call around sevenish tonight, from a woman who said she was from DBS. When asked for her name, she said she was Mel, no surname, nothing more as “sorry, we are not allowed to give more identification”.


She offered to upgrade my DBS Gold Visa card that I had been notified would cease to be valid from Dec 1 — as detailed here — to a Platinum card, at no charge and to port over all existing arrangements and benefits from the gold card to the new card.

She asked for my I/C number and date of birth.

Naturally, after I accepted the offer verbally — although grumbling all the while why such an offer couldn’t have been made together with the notice to invalidate the existing card — I was somewhat suspicious.

Could it all be a hoax?

OK, the caller ID on my mobile showed 68786800 but it’s not a number I’m familiar with, tho that doesn’t necessarily make it a fake number of course!

Hence on hearing Mel say she couldn’t give me a more complete name than M-E-L to help me identify her in future should the need arise, I pressed for other identifying marks.

Which department are you from?

She replied: “Funds transfer department.”

Does that deal with the credit card in question?

She replied: “I’m helping the customer service agent.”

I was about to give up when she added this caveat: “You should receive your platinum card no later than February 2011. Meanwhile, you can continue to use your gold card.”

So, great! The card that was going to be invalid on Dec 1 would remain valid till February 2011, unless the new card arrives earlier.

Again, why couldn’t DBS have thought all this thru before shooting off its termination notice?

Still, I really should be thanking DBS on bended knees for remembering to make me this offer, considering that it ends tomorrow. I should consider myself lucky to have gotten on board be4 it ended, n’est pas?

Such great service recovery this!  If I’m ever asked, I shall definitely nominate DBS as Singapore’s best service provider of the year! Only kidding! 😛

Credit card nonsense

This post belongs to the “everything must complain” category. I’ve been encouraged to write about my own experience with the sudden notice from DBS Cards to cancel my Gold Visa (among other cards) starting Dec 1, after reading Boo n Bouquet’s version here.

I was a bit non-plussed on receiving what seemed like a marketing circular that i almost threw away. Just as well I took a closer look.

The circular advised that “as other DBS/POSB Credit Cards bring you market competitive privileges and benefits”, the bank has taken the unilateral decision to close your “DBS Affiinity/Charge Gold Visa/Mastercard credit card XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-7066”.

I hold two DBS cards and at first wondered if the bank meant both since one is what I assume is an “affinity” card (being a National University of Singapore Society card) and the other was once an affinity card too (to Raffles Marina, till some where along the way RM broke off its affinity with DBS and the bank without much ado issued me a new gold Visa card).

Then I took heart. Going by the last four digits provided by the circular, only the ID of my gold card ended with 7066.

And shucks, I’ve got a Giro payment for a small health insurance policy that’s been going on for perhaps 20 years linked to it. With the card gone, my policy may laspe and I don’t want that to happen.

I called the bank’s hotline. I waited for ages b4 I got to speak to a customer service officer and after many more minutes of explanation managed to extract a phone number from him, with the helpful tip on where I might find my policy number in my monthly credit card bill.

No, he could not arrange for the Giro charges to be ported over to my other DBS card. No, he couldn’t do anything. I must contact the insurer and make my own arrangements. And to think I had originally signed up for that insurance package because the card issuer made all the arrangements!

More time wasted with the insurers be4 I got the necessary form to instruct the insurer to instruct the bank to deduct.

I’m not the only DBS credit card holder inconvenienced by the bank’s unusual move to delete a whole slate of cards at one stroke.

Perhaps the 7066 cards are cards which are hardly used by their holders.

If so, DBS should have given card holders a choice: use them more often or give them up. And if you give them up, we will help you move your Giro arrangements to other DBS cards you use. We will also help you to consolidate your reward points rather than force you to consume them be4 Dec 1.

That would have been a lot more customer friendly.

But then, when you are Singapore’s biggest bank, who cares about being customer friendly!

Another debit and waive charade

When I added a comment to old colleague Sia Chong Yew’s website which posted about the habit of banks debiting the annual fee of a credit card and then waiving it after (irate? bemused? tired?) customer calls to complain, I didn’t expect I would have to go thru the charade so soon myself.

But that’s exactly what happened today.  After I received my latest credit card statement from a bank whose name I’ve sworn not to mention again, I saw red initially on discovering that 2,400 loyalty $ had been deducted from my account besides adding $90 to my bill for the month, to cover the annual fee.

Then I sighed. Call the 1800-hotline lah, I told myself and request for a waiver. Get it over with! Why fight these people when I’m too lazy to take my business away once and for all.

Which i did straight away — call the bank, I mean, instead like in previous years, wait till the bill is due, and fume in the meantime.

The person who answered the phone was sacchrinely polite. The deducted points would be restored. The $90 would be removed and I needn’t pay that amount in the bill. Hurray!

When I asked, equally politely why have the annual charade, she first told me it’s because the system couldn’t track which card could enjoy waiver.

I thought that sounded patently nonsensical but locked that word in my mind while out of my mouth came a polite suggestion that she should tell her bosses to program their system to be capable of such tracking.

Then she told me that if I called the 1800-hotline three months be4 the fee is due, and ask for a waiver, it would be given.

When I sighed that means I’ve to do the tracking, she became more helpful. If you have a One Card (whatever that is), and “swiped” it 36 times during the year, you could get an auto fee waiver. Or if you have a Singtel Visa card and use it to pay your Singtel bills, there will be no fees for the card.

Which leaves me wondering what sort of a bottom of the drawer platinum credit card I’ve been issued with that every year I’ve got to go, cap in hand, to say: “Waiver, please!” Tsk, tsk!

Auntie Lucia goes to Marina Bay Sands

Exactly one month after I wrote about making a point to visit Singapore’s new casinos, I did just that.

Today, I made it to Marina Bay Sands (MBS), proving that it’s more accessible than the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) casino. This despite the fact that i hold an Islander card and could travel free to the RWS casino. But to use the card, I have to drive to Vivocity first, park my car and then take the LRT to the casino.

With MBS, it’s just a 15-minute drive, park in its cavernous carpark and voila I am in, not the casino yet, but to take a gander first.

simple cheap meal to start

Bought and ate lunch, which proved the cheapest expenditure for the day at $5.50. That done, I started my hunt for the casino but with conflicting signs, i found myself twice at entrances which didn’t allow entry, with one of them hidden by hoardings, and eerily quiet.

no entry here

It took much determination and a lot of footwork to find the main entrance and there, a series of discoveries quite shocked me –that is, if I’m to believe the Government’s determination to deter Singaporeans from gambling away all their savings.

  • First, i discovered I could pay the $100 entrance levy for Singaporeans and permanent residents either by UOB credit card or Nets, in addition to cash. I naturally chose to pay by credit card and immediately I had $100 extra to gamble with than I intended.
  • Second, contrary to what I thought, I had no need to ensure I carried enough cash to gamble. There at the entrance was a row of three ATMs: UOB, DBS and OCBC. Indeed, there was another row of ATM machines on the floor where food from self-service kiosks was sold. So, even if I had forgotten to bring cash, i could easily access my bank account. While that is very convenient, it is also very dangerous for the incurable gambler on a losing streak. Just tap, tap on his ATM till everything is gone!

Inside the casino, I made another shocking discovery. Smoking is allowed and everywhere were ash and dirty ash trays. It’s been so long since that I’ve encountered smoking in air-conditioned public premises, including private clubs, that it was like stepping back in time. I wonder how MBS managed to get dispensation from the Ministry of Health?

Still these shock discoveries were nothing compared to what I found as I drove out of the carpark after about four hours at MBS, half of them spent wondering around the complex.

My parking fees came up to $24 and wiped out almost half the value of my newly topped up cashcard.

If I make a return trip, I must plan everything better so that I will max out my entrance levy, stretch my gambling $ and take public transport!  What i don’t need to do is visit an ATM be4hand!

kiosk food for low budget gamblers