The Best and Worst of 2020, and What Comes Next

I guess we are finally done with 2020, and like most people at the end of each year, I am wont to reminisce about the year’s happenings. This year passed by so quickly it feels as brief as it was incredibly eventful. Here are some things I found notable, both the good and the bad, and where I think we would go from here.

Bad: bank deposit rates falling all over

This year has seen interest rates drop like a proverbial rock, and there were a flurry of nerfing and rate revisions happening all year round. There’s little to say about this; banks gotta bank, and the low rate environment probably left them no choice.

Great: insurance savings accounts

This naturally brings us to insurance savings accounts, possibly one of the greatest trends to pick up popularity in 2020 in tandem with bank accounts cutting their rates. In fact, I think it was a worthy trade: I no longer have to worry about meeting card spend or fulfilling some annoying category to get a reasonable rate on my savings.

Insurance savings accounts are of course not immune to rate drops, but they have so far held up pretty well, and I hope we see more such products moving into 2021.

Bad: GrabPay being nerfed on all fronts

For the uninitiated, GrabPay was simply an excellent way to get high cashback or miles without too much fuss. Conditional cards often get you to do things like transact online or spend on transport for a high earn rate, and Grab provided a workaround that obviated such pesky requirements.

Many people, yours truly included of course, simply topped up their GrabPay Wallets before spending it on virtually anything to earn a high rate of reward. Good old days, those wereemphasis on the past tense.

Now, only Amex True Cashback survives as an official way to get rewards on Grab top-ups.

Great: everyone is releasing a prepaid card!

Thankfully, Grab isn’t the only game in town. Everyone wants to be a fintech company now, and we have Razer Card to step in Grab’s place. Even AirAsia is getting into the game with BigPay, and they’re all currently very useful in the game of chasing card rewards.

Bad: Singtel stops Dash top-ups via Singtel bill

This only affects Dash users who also use Singtel, but that probably constitutes quite a significant number within the community of people chasing card rewards. The change has already happened, and the Singtel bill option is totally gone. It’s really unfortunate, and I suspect Dash’s usage will plummet.

Great: lots of great promos this year

The year was also marked with lots of great promos. Banks gave good sign-up deals, tossing free wireless earphones and bundles of cash to new-to-bank customers. It wasn’t too long ago when I signed up for a card and got about $100 of vouchers, thinking it was the most amazing thing ever. If only I waited for 2020.

We also had various wallet apps offering sign-up bonuses and rewards for using them. Search giant Google even launched their own app here, basically bribing everyone into using their app for paying their friends.

One of my favourite promos didn’t even come from a bank or fintech company… Harry’s, a restaurant chain of all things, launched their ill-fated promotion with OCBC only to pull it a week later. They offered everyone who downloaded their app $10 worth of points… and then were surprised that people chose to redeem them for supermarket vouchers instead of restaurant credits. Each referral also netted the referrer $5. Truly my favourite restaurant chain that I’ve never been to.

Predictions and hopes for 2021

Insurance savings plans
Interest rates are likely to remain low over the next year, so it’d be awesome if more providers would introduce insurance savings accounts. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this would happen; insurance companies are after all also affected by the low interest rate environment.

Already, Singlife has stopped publicly accepting all applications, instead putting applicants on a waitlist. Etiqa, the most prolific provider behind Elastiq, Gigantiq, and Dash EasyEarn, is now the sole provider of such plans. It might be too much to hope for someone else to offer something competitive. Hopefully I’m mistaken on this.

Digital banks
Digital banks may also provide compelling products to woo consumers. With theoretically lower overheads as digital banks, here’s hoping that Grab-Singtel and Sea Ltd, the two entities awarded digital banking licenses, can offer competitive rival over their traditional counterparts.

They are expected to open for business in 2022, and I’m eagerly anticipating them to start a little earlier than that, throwing venture money at us with great promos and deals.

Wallet apps & prepaid cards
An increasingly saturated space, wallet apps and prepaid cards are dime a dozen, and people like me who chase rewards love them. I wonder if we’d start to see people dropping out of the race and who would be the next to step into this competition.

This year, a telco which is not Singtel had plans to introduce its own card, and those plans have since been shelved. I imagine this is an extremely difficult market with non-existent margins, so I reckon we might see fewer rather than more competitors over the next year or so.

What’s your favourite moments of 2020, and what do you think 2021 would bring?

As usual, let us know in the comments or Telegram group!

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