TL;DR: Most people are better off with a typical 2%+ bank account and a 3/5% limited, conditional cashback card. People with really huge purchases, upwards of $10,000+ (even if they’re one-off) may want to consider this.
I got an email from Standard Chartered today about a savings account
that is so new, it isn’t even on their website yet. More details can be found here. The offer is pretty intriguing: with this account, your 1.5% unlimited cashback card becomes a 3% cashback one, with the same hassle-free no cap, no minimum spend conditions. Digging into the terms and conditions even reveals a 5% tier.
Standard Chartered holds a special place in my heart given how they were the first bank account I opened after I started work, and also the bank which granted me my first credit card – the Unlimited Cashback Card which is the incidentally topic of today’s post – but their cards and accounts have been pretty lacklustre so I’ve long gravitated towards other banks.
This caught my attention though, as minimum spend cashback cards are pretty attractive owing to how fuss free they are. Those in the cashback camp would probably find tracking monthly spends one of the more annoying things when it comes to most cashback cards. Unfortunately they typically come with a miserly 1.5% cashback.
Getting 3 and 5% cashback, however, requires a certain balance to be maintained in the account.
In order to hit 3% (or 5%) cashback, one needs to maintain $50,000 (or $100,000) in the Unlimited$aver Account, which generates a paltry 0.1% pa, which is essentially nothing. Given how banks are giving 2 to 2.5% pa on accounts when you credit your salary among other conditions, the opportunity cost of having your money do nothing in the account is pretty hefty.
On a $50,000 balance, you are losing about $83 per month considering an interest rate of 2.1% pa. You’d have to hit $2,777 of spending on this card to get a cashback of $83 with a 3% cashback rate.
On a $100,000 balance, you are losing about $166 per month with the same hypothetical interest rate, which means $3,320 of spending on a 5% cashback rate to break even.
That’s a pretty high amount for a card whose main selling point is no minimum spending. If you can consistently hit $2,000 to $3,000 spending each month, you might be better off with the UOB One account which gives you a more market-pegged interest rate of around 2% depending which criterion you satisfy, PLUS 5% cashback on $2,000 of spend.
Interestingly, I can think of one use case where the other selling point – no cap – may prove to be the saving grace of this account/card combo: when you have a really big ticket purchase to settle.
Have a $50,000 something (I don’t know I’ve seen people who paid for wedding banquets and car down payments with their cards)? Deposit and maintain $100,000 in the account for a month, and charge it to your card. 5% cashback is a cool $2,500 which is well worth giving up 2% pa on a $100,000 deposit for a month (around $167). Even staunch miles chasers would have trouble turning down $2,500 for 84,000 miles (clocked on a 1.4 mpd card since 4 mpd ones have caps).
Given the minimum spending it requires before the loss of bank interest makes sense, one is better off with a typical bank account and a conditional 3-5% cashback card. If you have a huge purchase however, this provides a pretty compelling option should such a situation ever occur and for that I’d give it: