The Lowdown On Credit Cards [Chills 35 with CardsPal]
Credit cards – almost everyone has it, with many having multiple cards. Everyone who owns it knows the general function of swipe it now, get your goods/services and worry about payment later when the bill comes. But is that all to it? Many are confused on which card to apply for. Which card is best for a certain occasion? Are they giving you the benefits you seek or are they brewing up a storm in your finances?
In this week’s Chills with TFC, joining us is Saim Yeong Harng, CEO and Board Director of CardsPal to discuss everything related to credit cards, from educating us on the various cards to busting common misconceptions.
Join us as we explore the best cards to use for different occasions and card management to ensure that your cards are working in your favour instead of against you. We even touched on the rarely mentioned credit scores! This is one episode not to be missed!
Download CardsPal here: https://bit.ly/the_financial_coconut_linkedin_CardsPalApp
Andrew: Credit cards can be confusing. So many promotions, terms and conditions… so many cards! Which credit card do I use to get the most value? In this episode, we compare different credit cards and you will hear specific examples of which card you can use for a particular purpose to get the most out of your cards.
But most importantly, we’re here to understand the thinking and the strategies behind it to reap the benefits of credit cards. We address misconceptions. We also talk about credit score and 0% interest instalment plans. Let’s learn how to make credit cards work for you instead of against you!
Expand Full Transcript
Hello, my name is Andrew and welcome to another Chills with TFC session. In this series, we hope to bring on interesting and relevant people to help us learn better from various perspectives. Life is not always about learning from the people you agree with. Different perspectives shape us to be more well-rounded in our thinking.
So in the pursuit of the life we love while managing our finances well, my guest today has been in the banking and FinTech industry for more than 10 years. He was formerly a banker and business analyst. After which, he worked on CardsPal. CardsPal is an app that helps you find the best credit card deals. Today, we’re going to compare credit cards, learn how to get the best deals and we also talk about the future of credit cards. Let’s welcome CEO of CardsPal, Saim.
I want to start off today’s interview with a quick question round. I will be asking Saim, what do you think is the best credit card for a certain purpose, a certain category and off your mind, you’re going to tell me immediately what is the first credit card it comes to your mind. Okay? So what is the best credit card for… We haven’t been able to travel for a while, but what’s the best credit card for air miles?
Saim: I’ll prefer Citi Krisflyer Miles Card.
Andrew: Okay. Cashback!
Saim: Cashback, I think that is a tough one.
Andrew: Okay… off your mind. You can give two if you want to.
Saim: For dining, I would go for HSBC Premier. If it’s for general use, probably I’ll go for UOB Absolute.
Andrew: How about… you mentioned dining. How about dining?
Saim: YOLO. UOB YOLO card. I think that is pretty good as well.
Andrew: How about the best credit card for online shopping?
Saim: Online shopping, I would prefer OCBC FRANK card. Oh, 6%.
Andrew: Okay. Really fast. You really know your cards very well and you mentioned everyday spending. It might be hard to answer, but what’s the best card for everyday spending?
Saim: If I don’t want to use my brain, then I’ll go for UOB Absolute. 1.7% cashback.
Andrew: You are in the supermarket… Just use it.
Saim: Everything is 1.7%. The other thing is that you don’t have to monitor your total spend because I think certain cards, you have to spend minimum $600, $800 in order to get a 6% cashback. I think this unlimited cashback is pretty good, just that the percentage is slightly lower but the good thing is that you don’t need to think about it. You just use and get like 1.5% to 1.7%, depending on which card that you are using.
Andrew: Okay. Yeah. Okay. Then what do you think is the best credit card for accumulating points to get rewards?
Saim: Nowadays, I don’t use reward points or cards… I think either you go for the cashback or you go for miles.
Andrew: How about the best credit card for big ticket purchases?
Saim: I will prefer Standard Chartered Manhattan cards.
Andrew: All right. Cause they’re the other cards that come out after that.
Saim: Yeah, because Manhattan… the good thing is that if let’s say you swipe something, which is $6,000 plus… I think now they reduce it to 3% cashback. Last time, it was 5% cashback.
So you want 3% cashback, if you spend $6,000 plus, you are getting around $200 cashback. But if you use other card, a lot of time, you would just hit the cap. So probably you’ll get much lesser than that.
Andrew: Okay, So if you’re doing renovations, you are buying a TV, for example, that’s the card you can use.
Saim: Yep. I will still prefer Manhattan. If let’s say I can hit $6,000 for a specific month, I’ll go for that.
Andrew: Okay. For reference sake, we’re recording this podcast (on) July 20, 2021. I mean, you know all the credit card promotions and the deals and the rewards and the terms and conditions keep changing. So this is your answer at this point in time. Do you have a strategy on how you manage your credit cards?
Saim: Last time I did pretty manually. So I try to use the Excel to populate all this, but nowadays I didn’t do that anymore because I think it required a lot of time and effort to do that. So I think in the market, they do have some very interesting tools for us to use.
So I think we should go for that, or roughly you would want to see what would be the credit cards you have and also probably in specific merchants, you want to use the best card so that you can max out the benefit.
Andrew: This is the part where you’re putting a disclaimer. So non-financial advice. What else do you want to say? Do your own due diligence.
Saim: Yeah. So it is just based on my experience.
Andrew: All information presented is for informational educational and entertainment purposes only.
Saim: Sharing experiences fine, but not to advise people on how to do the financial planning because I think even when we talk about this credit card saving and stuff… is also considered one of the financial planning as well.
Andrew: Okay and so far, what we’ve been talking about are for those who really believe in credit cards and in using credit cards to maximize value for themselves, but sometimes credit cards have a really bad reputation. So what are some misconceptions of credit cards that you think you need to clear the air?
Saim: Yeah, I think first of all, before we start this conversation, you need to be very sure that we should never use credit card as a debt tool. On monthly basis, you need to clear all the debts, right? Because if you start to use a credit card as a debt tool, then you have to pay a lot of interest. If you want to get a loan, probably you don’t want to look at these credit card as a tool for you to accumulate your debts. So I think that is very, very important.
If let’s say you cleared your credit card bill every month, 100%… I’m not talking about the minimums kind of settlement, right? It’s like 100% clear, then you can consider to use a credit card as a tool that can help you to maximize your benefits.
For example, if let’s say you want to purchase something and you have to pay $100. If you pay in cash, you will have to pay a hundred dollars, but if you pay with credit cards, most probably it can come with the card feature itself. For example, if let’s say we are talking about the cashback 1.5%, then basically after you pay $100, you get back $1.50.
On top of that, sometimes, they have great deals that is associated with the card. For example, let’s say you get like a 10% discount for this specific merchant, rather than paying $100, now you’re paying $90. So there are a lot of very good perks out that are stacking.
Andrew: Yep. So don’t get into debt.
Saim: Yeah. Don’t use credit card to get into debt. Clear every month, 100%. If you use $500 or you charge your cards $500, then you must ensure that you paid $500.
Andrew: Not about paying just the minimum amount, because on top of that, you still have to pay the interest.
Saim: Exactly, so you are not going to pay the interest because once you start paying the interest and the so called benefits of the credit cards is no longer meaningful to you.
Andrew: Yeah. Can I ask how many credit cards do you have?
Saim: I have six credit cards right now.
Saim: Yeah. Last time I have more than 10.
Andrew: What function does each credit card serve?
Saim: Different credit cards serve a different kind of a purpose. I have one credit card for cashback. If let’s say, I do not want to think at all, then I just use it. Another credit card is just for dining, the HSBC. If let’s say you really like to try out a lot of very interesting kind of cuisine and also you want to self-explore, probably you may want to consider that because the one for one deal is really good as well so it helps you to save a lot.
The other one is the OCBC FRANK card, which is the online… so if there is any online purchase, I’ll probably use that card. Manhattan is for big ticket item. To be honest, I seldom use that, but if let’s say I need to purchase a big ticket item, then probably that would be the first card that I will consider to use.
Andrew: I guess you call them every year to waive your annual fee.
Saim: Yes, I do. So I do not pay the annual fee.
Andrew: Some people will be surprised. “Huh you mean you can waive it?” Actually, yeah. Or you can give it a shot. Not all cards do that, but most of the time you just give it a call.
I remember the first time I tried to waive my credit card annual fees, I Googled “negotiation tactics”. I tried it on my local bank. “Press one to waive your annual fee” and that’s it, I don’t even have to talk to someone. That was my first time trying to waive the credit card annual fee. So you can definitely have to do it. If the bank allows it, why not?
So you have different credit cards. You were mentioning that you have more than 10 and then now you streamlined it. Is it because it gets confusing? What is your thinking behind it?
Saim: Yeah. Because some of the cards, I didn’t use it. So there is no so-called strategy behind. Just that too many cards and some cards that I didn’t use, so I would just scrap it.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s so hard to manage, I mean, if you really want to optimize it and especially if we think about… “should I use the air miles card, or should I use the cashback card?” If you’re dining at a restaurant, that’s pretty obvious. Use the card that gives you the promotions. But if you have a random purchase. Let’s say, you are buying vitamins or supplements at the pharmacy. So your strategy is you-don’t-need-to-think card.
Saim: Don’t-need-to-think-card is a cashback card. I think, pre-Covid… sometimes it can be a bit tricky whether I want to go for cashback or I want to go for miles. But for me, I was sort of like enjoying the lifestyle. So I would prefer to use a miles card. That was pre-Covid and I think, especially if let’s say you want to pay something which is in the foreign currency, I think miles cards is always my first option because they always give us more miles per dollar spent if they charge foreign currency.
Andrew: So you have about six cards, but how many cards do you advise we should have? Of course the answer is it depends, but maybe we should set some parameters and use those parameters to talk about how many credit cards should we have.
Saim: I would say probably around four to five, depending on your lifestyle. But four to five should be something which is pretty good for you because I think different cards have a different purpose, so you would be able to fully leverage and also fully optimize all the benefits.
Andrew: So about four to five based on your needs and the usual, the cashback you should have, dining promotions you should have, online shopping you should have. I’m sure someone in your family will need to shop online. And also probably the big ticket items, right?
Saim: Yeah. Just to ensure that when you are purchasing something then at least, you should know that this is the card that I should use. Probably you won’t use it very frequently, but once in a while, if you happen to purchase a big ticket item, for example, laptop, right? So you can use that card, but also that card come into handy as well.
Andrew: When you need it… Yeah. Okay, so we talked about misconceptions in which you have mentioned that we should not use credit cards as a debt tool. On top of that, you can just use four to five different credit cards to maximize your value out of using credit cards and if you do your annual fee waiver, you should be pretty good. It should be a pretty good tool to help you get some cashback, get some rewards or get some promotions.
Saim: On top of that, the benefits that we can get through using the cards is… I think first of all, is a welcome gift. Because I think all banks are pretty generous.
Andrew: Lots of promotions!
Saim: Exactly. If you apply a new card and if you’re new to the bank, probably you can straight away get a hard cash, like $200+. I think that is pretty good.
If you really intend to sign up for a new card, you should definitely Google it because now there are so many different platforms with slightly different promotions and some are better than others, right?
Andrew: You could get cash, like you said, $200, or AirPods.
Andrew: So you just compare. Now we have so many choices as consumers.
Saim: Yes. So welcome gift is one of it, followed by the card deals. I think we talked about it, like for example, 10%, one for one deals. All those are pretty exciting and pretty interesting deals and on top of that, the card feature itself, right? Because some of the cards give a 6% cashback for dining, meaning on top of getting the deals, potentially you can also get cashback as well. So I think it is good. It’s like stacking your benefits.
I think the forefront, which I haven’t mentioned, it’s cashflow. If let’s say you pay cash and you would straight away need to pay $100. For example, if you spend $100 in a specific merchant, but if you pay with cards then probably you only have to settle the bill in the next cycle which happens only next month. But having said that, again what is important… message over here is that never use a card as a debt tool. So when you receive the bill, please go ahead and clear it.
Andrew: Okay. So make sure you can pay it off, but at the same time, it’s like you have one month extension. Now we have this Buy Now, Pay Later, and also you can actually use credit cards to use instalment plans, to make instalment payments for your purhcase and at 0% interest. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Saim: I think this Buy Now, Pay Later, the concept is quite similar to credit card. When we say credit card, probably we may not want to fixate… seeing it as a physical plastic card, right? You should see credit card as a facility line that you were given by the bank in order to purchase something that you can pay at a later date.
On top of that, of course, you just mentioned that a lot of these incentives, for example, 0% instalment, so probably you can spread out the specific big ticket item. For example, if let’s say you are charged with $1,200 for something that you purchase with this specific merchant and you don’t have to pay $1,200 in the following months, right? When you receive the bill, you can split it over one year or two years, depending on the bank facility and probably you pay like $50 a month for the next 24 months, or you pay $100 per month for the next one year.
Andrew: For one or two years, as far as I know, there’ll be interest.
Saim: No, it can be a 0% interest. But the only thing that you are not able to get is the benefits. For example, if let’s say this bank card, they give you a 6% kind of rebate or 6% kind of cashback. But because you signed up for this 0% interest, probably you wouldn’t get any perks out of it.
But I think it is still good because it can help you in terms of the cashflow. It depends on your purpose. If you’re able to settle this straight away, probably you get the 6% cashback. But if let’s say you do not want to get this cashback and you want to have a more healthy cashflow, you can participate in this 0% instalment scheme in which you pay on monthly basis and it is 0%. I think that is also a very good kind of mechanism.
Andrew: You decide what’s important for you. Cashflow is important, you can split it out six months, one year, two years, but at the same time, because you do that, you might not get rewards, whether it’s cashback or whether it’s some other rewards that you’re getting. So if you want the rewards, then just pay it off so you can get cashback or the rewards.
Saim: Yep, exactly. So you have this kind of flexibility.
Andrew: More tools at our disposal to play with. Share with us some other credit card hacks that you know about. My friends always tells me “Oh, if you do these and the bank will give you X amount of interest.”. Do you have a credit card hack that you’re using right now every month?
Saim: Most important… you need to know your spending behavior. I think just now I touched base on this 6% cashback for dining. For example, Citibank Cashback card, I think is giving away 6% for dining, but you need to ensure that at that specific month itself, you are spending $800 which is the minimum spending to be eligible for the 6% cashback. If let’s say you spend lesser than that, then probably you just get 0.5% cashback. So I think if you want to ensure that you get the max from the card, then you would need to do some homework.
Andrew: Knowing how much per month you will be spending, if not, you just won’t meet the minimum requirements and it’s just a waste of the credit card.
Saim: Yep, exactly. You basically need to monitor it. The other example is Standard Chartered Bonus$aver. I think the good thing about this Bonus$aver is that if you spend in Bonus$aver, then probably you get interest from your bonus account. Same thing, you have to monitor it. If let’s say you spend lesser than the quantum or lesser than a minimum spend, probably you get nothing from that. So I think if you want to use these kind of facility or services, then you need to ensure that you know what you are doing.
Andrew: Okay. You mentioned don’t use credit card as a debt tool. So how should we understand credit limit? Should i increase it?
Saim: I think it depends on individual. I think for my case, I never asked for the limit to be increased. Because to be honest, as I never use it as a debt tool, I never hit the limits. I think probably the limit that is given by the bank should be sufficient. If let’s say you want to… your purpose is just to max out your benefit, unless you want to use it as a debt tool, then potentially you may want to increase the limits in order for you to purchase more things.
Andrew: Since we are on this topic, I’ve seen this promotion whereby you can also get a balance transfer using the credit limit. So how should we understand that? Using your credit limit as a form of… it’s not exactly a loan, but what is it? Tell us more about that.
Saim: To be honest, don’t try to understand it. Do not use it because for balance transfer, you still need to pay a certain service charge even though it is like a 0% balance transfer, right? There is a cost associated to that. At the end of the day, when I look at this credit card or these kind of financial facilities, I still look at it from saving perspective, from maximizing the benefit perspective.
What it means is that we ignore all these jargon, we ignore all these complicated concept. Never use it as debt tool and always try our best to pay in full so that we can continue to enjoy the benefits.
Andrew: Because there are other tools if you need a loan… you want to start a business, you can get a business loan or you really need some cashflow, there are other tools for that. Don’t use credit cards because their interest is really high.
Saim: Exactly. You can go for the personal loan. But never use a credit card loan because the interest is just too high, 18% to 24% per annum. I think the number itself is already very scary.
Andrew: That’s right and if compounded, month by month, that’s it. One day, you’re in for a shock.
Saim: Yup yup.
Andrew: How should we think about credit score? I’m not sure about you, but some people might not know their credit score until they need to get a home. So how does credit cards affect our credit score and how should we maintain a good credit score?
Saim: Yep. So I think first of all, if you apply for a credit card and you start using it and you have a very strong discipline, every month you just paid in full, then probably your credit scoring will be good… will not get much impacted. I think it is also very good for you because if you have the credit card and you demonstrated that you have the discipline to pay in full every month without any slippage, then the good thing is that the bank, when they look at all these historical of your spending, on your transactions, then probably the bank will trust you more and your credit scoring will be pretty highly as well. If let’s say you have zero credit card to start with, that can be a bit… worry for the bank as well.
Andrew: No history.
Saim: No history… you’re considered as credit thin or what we call it, it’s like a zero kind of transactions. Nothing to prove that you have this kind of discipline in order to pay back. In fact, that may impact you if let’s say you want to apply for a home loan, for example, or property loan.
Andrew: So while the bank needs to look at your performance in terms of your credit and it needs some history to understand you better as a person like will you default on my loan that I’m going to give out to you. When we talk about loan, most likely we’ll talk about home loan, right?
I mentioned that it’s the first time you think about your credit score. You have to check your credit score with the bank and you realize that, oh, because of a bad credit score, the bank might not give you the amount that you wanted, or might charge you a higher interest.
So, it’s very important to maintain a good credit score. You are saying that it is important to have a credit card. Even if you don’t use it much but you’re paying for it every month, that will give you a good score.
Andrew: Practically speaking. In some articles… I think this is more US-centric, but let’s see how it relates back to Singapore… I’m seeing people are saying that “oh, if you get a credit card and then you cancel the card within a few months and if you don’t use it, that affects your credit score.
Saim: I think probably you don’t do this, right? Because what’s the purpose of you doing that in the first place? Of course we know that it is because of the welcome gift and having said that, if let’s say you do not want to use the card, probably you wait for a year, then you go and terminate it.
Andrew: What if I just want to terminate now? I got the welcome gift already. Some people might think that.
Saim: Yeah, then potentially it can impact your credit score.
Andrew: It can impact your credit score as well, if you cancel it too quickly? Let’s say three months, you go and cancel it.
Andrew: Okay. But what’s this… it’s like a black box. I don’t know how is this credit score calculated.
Saim: It’s like a black box. So basically we don’t exactly know how all these are calculated. But having said that, I think by diligently and also by using this facility or try to hack it a bit here and there, I think that that will be able to help.
Andrew: So even if I paid a minimum sum every month, does it affect my credit score? Because I’m not paying in full.
Saim: It will. It will impact your credit scoring quite badly. But of course, if you paid zero, if you paid nothing, I think that will be even more severe.
Andrew: That’s right.
Saim: So that’s why I mentioned earlier. Pay in full, then you’re safe.
Andrew: Yeah. What do you think are some upcoming trends in credit cards, for example? Well, there’s a crypto credit card nowadays. What other new trends do you see upcoming?
Saim: I think in terms of the trend itself, I think credit card… it’s still pretty famous. A lot of banks still issue new credit cards with a lot of perks, a lot of new features and I think probably one of the interesting trend is that it would be numberless. I think from the security perspective, from the privacy perspective, you are more secured to use a credit card going forward. Crypto cards is also one of the very interesting areas…
Andrew: Before that, numberless… how does it work? How do I make an online purchase, for example? How do I input my details?
Saim: You’ll be issued a virtual card. I think that is a pretty sophisticated topic, but the short answer to that is they will use a tokenization to recognize that this card belongs to you rather than requiring the users to key in the numbers.
Andrew: Is it like through my phone or through an app? What’s the method of verification of my identity then?
Saim: It can be through the phone or either through the app itself. It is like a tokenization concept in which you need to go to the bank. From there, you can push the tokenization to the site, to the online websites that you want to do the purchase and from there, you will do the purchase. Or you can also add the card into your e-wallet or into your Apple Pay, for example and you would use Apple Pay to perform the transactions.
Andrew: They’re the ones that holds your cash to make payments with. So you’re talking about crypto as well. The idea of crypto credit cards is that you can spend using that credit card and then you earn crypto. That’s one way… so called cashback in crypto. What else?
Saim: Yeah, I think probably that is all about it. So I think it already makes the whole credit card industry quite exciting. What is a crypto tokenization, a numberless card and stuff.
Andrew: Yeah. I think numberless itself is very interesting. This is all about increasing security, increasing convenience, and the way we use money in the future. We don’t even know how money looks like in the future. It will be something entirely different.
Can you tell us a bit more about platinum cards? I don’t think you can waive off the annual fee in some way. Anyway, these people don’t need to wave off… tell us about all these premium credit cards. Are they really worth it or is it more for bragging rights? What is the world that they live in it? Tell us a bit more about that.
Saim: If you refer to all those metal cards, that belongs to those wealthy people. I think different people has a different purpose. If let’s say you are really go for all those first class kind of experience, you want to stay in the best hotel, five star, six star hotels, then probably that kind of card will give you a lot of perks. Because when you go to the airport, you can go to the lounge, the first class lounge and after that you can get like a free stay in a six star hotel, five star hotels. So I think it serves a purpose, but that is not really for the mass market kind of consumer. That’s more for the wealthy or the more affluent kind of segments or users.
Andrew: Okay. Is there anything else you would like to add on in terms of credit cards? Anything that you want to reinforce?
Saim: Yeah sure. I just want to reinforce one thing. Credit card is a very good tool for us to maximize our benefits or maximize the perks. But one thing that you must always remember, always pay in full. Never use a credit card as a debt tool then probably you’ll be able to get a lot of perks and a lot of benefits from the credit cards that you are using.
Andrew: Okay. Thank you, Saim. Thank you so much.
Saim: Thank you.
Andrew: I hope you’ve learnt something useful today and I truly appreciate that you took your time off to better your life with The Financial Coconut. Knowledge is much more powerful and interesting when shared, debated and discussed. Join our community Telegram group, follow us on our socials, sign up for our weekly newsletter. Everything is in the description.
If you love us and want to help us grow, definitely share the podcast with your friends and on your socials. For more information, check out TheFinancialCoconut.com. With that, have a great day ahead. Stay tuned next week and remember: personal finance can be chill, clear and sustainable for all.
I have three more questions for you. It’s more of a personal nature. The first question is what is one core life principle that you hold close to?
Saim: Probably… I would say proactiveness. We always want to approach life in a proactive manner, right? Sometimes, you can see the opportunities come and go so if you’re not proactive enough, probably you would just miss the opportunity.
Andrew: Okay, and it reflects in your background because what they call it intrapreneur… acting as an entrepreneur within the organization itself. That’s how CardsPal got started and that’s because you were proactive about it.
Saim: Yep, exactly. I think a lot of time, you really need to step up in order to take the opportunities that come to you. Of course, I think the other way to look at it is that if let’s say you’re not aggressive, you are not proactive enough, probably the opportunity just leave you. So I think that is pretty, pretty important.
Andrew: Okay. Second question: what is one piece of financial advice that you think should be shared more often?
Saim: I think we need to be street smart in a sense that… take advantage of those credit cards that you can apply and you can get it pretty easily. Also, I think all those… even though it can be like a small saving, but when you accumulate it for long enough, it can be something which is not small. Just imagine you compound it and probably you can also use that money that you save to invest so that can also help you in the long run.
Andrew: Make compounding work for you instead of against you. If you’re getting a debt, it works against you. If we invest and invest wisely, then you’re going to get some good results out of that.
Saim: Yep, exactly.
Andrew: My last question for you: what is one area of your life that you are giving additional focus to right now?
Saim: I think it is still my CardsPal venture. We are still at the very beginning of the journey. A lot of work has been done and a lot of work needs to be done as well, so we are just at the very starting point.
Andrew: Because its a young start-up phase.
Saim: Yep, slightly more than 1 year old.
Andrew: Yeah, but I still get a sense that you do know how to take time off because you’ve been using your dining credit cards, promotions… I’m guessing that you venture out to different restaurants to try out with your family or who do you go with?
Saim: Yeah, mainly with the family.
Andrew: Yeah… so still need to enjoy life while working on a start-up which takes up so much of our time and attention.
Saim: Yeah, exactly.
Andrew: Thank you for your time.
Saim: Thank you.
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