Last updated: 1st November 2021
So you’ve just started working, or perhaps have been working for a few years, and are now looking to get serious on your personal finances. Here is the second post of a multi-part guide to being a financially prudent working adult. In this part, we discuss how to play the credit card game.
This is one part of the Working Adult Starter Park! See other parts:
- Savings and Emergency Funds
- Spending and Credit Cards
- More to come (subscribe to Telegram for updates)
What you need
You need at least $30,000 in annual income as mandated by the powers that be. Anything else are requirements set forth by the bank, such as high SES cards that demand a higher income, or even gender requirements. Some banks are stricter than others, and then you have DBS who allows people to get the DBS Woman’s World Card even if you don’t meet the $80,000 income requirement, nor are a woman to begin with.
Don’t try don’t know is the mantra to live by here.
This is the easy part of the credit card game. Simply sign up for cards, and you tend to receive pretty generous rewards. Typically, banks offer the best deals to new customers, usually in the form of cashback, straight-up cash transferred to your bank, or cool stuff that you can either use or sell for a tidy sum of money.
Existing customers usually get relatively less rewards, but they add up, and it’s very little effort. For instance, you could sign up for your first Citibank card for the generous new-to-Citi sign up gift, and then get $30 per subsequent card. You manage all of them with one online account anyway, so five cards with a single bank has roughly the same amount of hassle as just one card.
Of credit score, and annual fees
Some may worry about credit score, but I have twenty over active cards, a mortgage, and a balance transfer loan, while still maintaining a double-A rating which ultimately means very little. Credit score fluctuates when you apply for credit, and ultimately just trends upwards when you do the responsible thing of paying your bills on time.
Annual fees are usually waived for the first one or two years, and even when you’re charged, you can easily get a waiver or cancel the card for the fee to be reversed.
Cashback vs Miles
It’s an age old question, and one that I’ve explored in previous articles, but I think it’s quite safe to declare cashback the default option for most working adults for the following reasons:
- Flights are grounded for the foreseeable future
- Most people wouldn’t pay a high price for business class ticket anyway
- Cashback cards have been beating mile cards for a while
- Most people don’t spend that much to justify miles
- Miles are just more troublesome
You could read the linked articles if you want, or do your own research, or even leave an angry (but hopefully with reasons at least) comment below, but I’m going to move past this debate for now. I still love my miles and wish to fly again one day, but cash is king, and cashback is the next best thing.
Strategising your monthly spend
You would definitely want a high cashback card for your spending. Cards with high earn rates tend to require a minimum spending amount, and usually specify certain spending conditions. You have to find a card (or two) that fits your spending habits so that it is more or less fulfilled naturally each month, otherwise it’s just going to be a monthly headache on how to clock your card spending.
I can use roughly $600 to $800 on contactless payment per month, so I use a mixture of UOB EVOL, OCBC FRANK, and DBS LiveFresh (particularly when it has promos). I meet the online spending requirement by paying for my telco bills online.
For groceries, I use Citi Cash Back card to purchase supermarket vouchers to easily clock the minimum spending required without much fuss, then rationing the vouchers over a few months.
Also, I use the Amex True Cashback or UOB Absolute card with GrabPay is fuss-free 1.5% (3% for new cardholders!) plus the points Grab gives you, which is equivalent to another 0.8% cashback. This is great for big purchases that is more than what your high earn cards give rewards for, or for when your high earn cards are already fully utilised for the month.
Do see my card strategy article for more info.
If you need help or advice picking a card that fits your spending habits, join us over at the Telegram group and ask away.
Using cards even at places that don’t accept cards
With the rise in popularity of mobile and QR payments, there are increasingly more shops and hawker stalls where you can pay using your credit card even when they don’t have credit card terminals. With mobile wallets like Fave or Grab, you can earn rewards from both your card and the mobile wallet itself. Stop using cash already.
Keep updated on promos
On top of the sign up gifts and cashback banks give on their cards, they continually run promos from time to time that boost the rewards. DBS, for instance, has been giving additional 8% rebate in form of cashback or vouchers if you hit spending targets for the past few months, and it’s pretty insane what I’ve gotten just for using my card as I would normally have:
Sadly, September seems like the last month for this, and it’s a pity if you have missed this so far. If only there were a Telegram group which shares such promos and deals!
Getting cashback on your purchases adds up. Depending on your spending habits, this could be your income tax paid for, or a new phone each year. There are also plenty of other reasons why you should put your spending on your card wherever possible, but if you’re not convinced by now I don’t think anything could persuade you otherwise.
Thanks for reading, and see you in the next instalment of the Working Adult Starter Pack!
Keep up to date on the best cashback/mile cards, savings accounts, attractive deals, and more tips to maximise your financial wellbeing by subscribing to my Telegram channel.
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