Can You Qualify For A Credit Card if You Earn Under $30,000 a year?

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If you want to get a credit card, MAS mandates that you meet at least one of three conditions:

  1. Annual income of at least $30,000
  2. Total net personal assets of at least S$2M
  3. Total net financial assets of at least S$1M

Few of us will meet meet conditions (2) or (3), but most working graduates are quite likely to satisfy condition (1). What if you don’t, though? What if you’re studying, or taking a significant pay cut to pursue a passion project: are credit cards out of reach for you?

Not exactly. Back in 2007, the MAS eased restrictions on credit card age and income requirements. Banks were now allowed to issue cards with a $500 credit cap and no minimum income requirement. Soon after, Citi launched the Citi Clear, the first-ever “no income requirement” card. It didn’t offer much in the way of benefits, but it meant that students could boast their first-ever credit card, even before they joined the workforce. 

In the 12 years since, many new products have been launched for this segment, which begs the question: which is the best credit card with “no income requirement”?

Credit cards aren’t for everyone

Before we begin, a word of warning. It’s one thing if you’re a student from a well-to-do family who sees a credit card as a convenient means of payment. It’s another if you’re struggling to make ends meet, and hoping to get some short-term funds through a credit card.

The latter should seriously consider whether they “need” to get a credit card, even if it only has a $500 credit limit. Debt is not something to be taken on lightly, and a debit card may be a more appropriate option

What ‘low income’ credit cards are available? 

The following credit cards either have no minimum income requirement (for students) or reduced income requirements (for working adults). 

CardEligibilityAnnual FeesRewards
DBS LiveFresh Student Card18-27 years old, students only$192.60 (waived for 5 years)
5% cashback on GV, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Netflix, Spotify

0.3% cashback elsewhere

Cashback capped at $35
Maybank eVibes Card18-30 years old, students only$5 per quarter, waived with one transaction per quarter1% cashback
CIMB AWSM18-29 years old if student/NSF. 
If working adult, <35 years with min income $18K
No fees1% cashback on dining, entertainment, online shopping, telco bills
SCB Manhattan18-32 years old if student

If working adult, <32 years with min income $18K
$32.10 (waived for 1 year)0.25% cashback
BOC F1RST CardCurrently enrolled student
If working adult, min income $18K
$203.30 (waived for 2 years)0.5% cashback, capped at $2.50 per billing cycle
Citi Clear CardCurrently enrolled student$29.96 (first year free)1 Reward point per S$1 (0.4 mpd)

A few points to note here:

These cards are really meant for students, not working adults

You’ll note the vast majority of the cards listed above require you to be a currently enrolled student, or an NSF waiting to enter a tertiary institution. There are a handful of cards that are available for working adults (SCB Manhattan, BOC F1RST Card), but they’re the exception rather than the rule. 

Rewards (and benefits) aren’t stellar

The main value proposition for credit cards in this segment is clearly convenience rather than rewards. The majority of cards here earn cashback, and pretty measly rates at that. It says a lot that the best-in-class offer is 1% cashback . So scarce are the benefits that banks feel obliged to list “benefits that aren’t really benefits”, like the ability to track expenses online 24/7 or the possibility of using your card for public transport via SimplyGo.

The only benefits of note are free entry to Zouk and Phuture on the DBS Live Fresh Student Card. That said, you’ll at least get to enjoy the bank’s generic offers: so if you see a restaurant advertising 20% off for Citibank cards, for example, you’ll be able to get that promotion with your Citi Clear card. 

Forget about earning miles

There are hardly any miles earning cards available here, but if you’re still studying, or working and earning less than $30,000 a year, playing the miles game should be the least of your concerns. 

You could earn 0.4 mpd with the Citi Clear card, but that’s a pretty abysmal rate and you’d need to spend $37,500 to earn a round-trip ticket to Bali (versus $10,000 if you used a “proper” credit card like the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard).

If you’re really insistent on trying though, there is an alternative option I haven’t mentioned above: Diners Club.

Given its almost non-existent acceptance, people tend to forget that Diners Club exists. However, Diners Club offers eight different cobrand cards with $500 credit limit versions. Students and working adults with at least $16,000 annual income are eligible to apply. 

These cards include:

These cards are all ostensibly cashback offerings, but Diners Club cards can double dip on cashback and Diners Club Rewards points. Points are earned based on S$1=1 point, and can be transferred to both KrisFlyer and SkyMiles (Delta Airlines’ FFP). However, the conversion rate is 4,500 points= 1,000 miles, which means the earn rate is a paltry 0.22 mpd. In other words, if you thought it’d take you a long time to earn a free ticket with the Citi Clear card, it’s not much better with Diners Club.

Conclusion

It’s no big surprise that the benefits and perks offered by cards in this segment are somewhat underwhelming. After all, these were never meant to replace “proper” credit cards; they merely provide the convenience of cashless payments to those who would otherwise not have it.

If you’re still eyeing a “proper” credit card but don’t meet the income requirement, an alternative is to consider a secured credit card instead. These basically carry the same fees and benefits as a regular credit card, but require you to put $10,000 in a fixed deposit (which also serves as the credit limit).

HSBC, DBS, UOB and CIMB all offer secured versions of popular credit cards like the DBS Altitude and UOB PRVI Miles. 

So those are your options for getting a credit card if you earn less than $30,000 a year. Choose wisely!

Read these next:
3 Reasons to Cancel Your Credit Card
6 Credit Cards That Give You Free Access to Airport Lounges
Understanding Balance Transfers: How Much Can You Really Save In Interest?
6 Credit Cards You Should Use as Your EZ-Link Card
Most Popular Credit Cards In Singapore 2020


By Aaron Wong
Aaron started The MileLion to help people travel better for less and impress “chiobu”. He was 50% successful. This is his story.