3 Free Things in Singapore That Aren’t Really Free

Alexa Fang

Alexa Fang

Last updated 06 October, 2016

These free things in Singapore will eventually cost you when they stop being, well, free.

Let me paint you an analogy: Bananas.

When you buy them, they’re all nice and yellow and firm. Leave them lying around for a day-and-a-half, and brown spots start popping up, and then out of the blue, they turn black. It’s all about timing, you see.

The point of this is to illustrate the very same principle which applies when you’re on a mission to milk companies for the “freebies” they offer you on a golden platter — Free trial! Free memberships! Free returns on purchases you regret! Free, free, free! A word that sends your money flying towards it like a moth to a flame.

However, these freebies don’t last forever. There’s an expiration date — seven days, a month, even a year. But like bananas, once the window is closed, oh, you pay! Caveat emptor.

Here are a few things that will eventually cost you when the “free” service stops being, well, free.

mobile phone apps

App Fab (Until You Get The Bill)

True story: I recently got excited about a popular workout app which promises one that with a bit of hard work (it’s very hard work!), you will be rewarded with a “beach body” — like the numerous success stories you find on the BBG_Community (FYI, BBG = Beach Body Guide) on Instagram.

Curiosity (ok, vanity too) got the better of me. So I signed up for the 7-day free trial. A whole week of Sweating With Kayla is all I need to get back into my one-piece, I thought, and then it’s bye bye, Kayla. Oh, the things we tell ourselves.

I did it — for three days and took the other four to recover (that’s what happens when couch potato tries to become beach body). By the time I recovered and was raring to go again, it was Day 10 (has it been? Could it?), and I’m S$29.98 poorer as iTunes informs me via email. Ouch.

online shopping

Online Shopping Returns

The bulk of my shopping is done online. When the exchange rate was at US$1 to S$1.20 in 2011, I think I went a bit overboard. Books, gifts, electronics… I was on a bit of a buying frenzy on Amazon.

They offer a great return policy: If you didn’t like what you bought and could find your reason listed on the website (yes they have a list), it’s usually a no-questions-asked, send-it-back with a full refund. Sounds perfect right?

Well, here is the issue: They don’t tell you the “return-by” date of the item until when you initiate a return. I learned it the hard way and missed the return-by window.

Then there are the online retailers that are unbelievably generous with their return policy. Pomelo Fashion, for example, gives you 365 days — a whole year! — to change your mind about your purchases, provided the article is unworn and in original condition with tags intact. Oh they’re good, they know us too well.

The more time we have, the more time we take. You know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun and forgetting about that bag of clothes you’ve been meaning to return for 365 days but never got around to it — until Day 366.  C’est la vie.

credit card welcome offers

Credit Card Welcome Offers

You know what else is free? Credit cards. Whether you’re a fashionista or a foodie, there at least one card for you that showers you with perks like discounts for movie tickets, hotel high tea deals, and brunch buffet promotion for lazy weekends. It’s also a valuable tool to manage your expenses.

When you apply for a credit card, banks usually offer a one-year annual fee waiver. Depending on the bank and the type of card, sometimes you get two or five years - and free luggage with your credit card!

But again, here’s the thing with freebies: they often come with a cost. The free luggage might require you to spend several thousand dollars on the card in one month, and pay for the annual fee.

So don’t get too bedazzled by exciting credit card welcome offers. Ask a lot of questions about what you need to do to claim it before signing up for the card. See if there are ways out of paying the annual fee. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself blowing your whole paycheck to meet the requirements for claiming that “free” Samsonite or TUMI you could have bought for less than S$1,000.

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Alexa FangBy Alexa Fang

Alexa is a pop-culture vulture. She lives to read, write and travel, and decided long ago that life is stranger than fiction. When she's having croissant, she thinks in French. "31 Rue Cambon" is her favourite address, and she believes that money one enjoyed spending is never money wasted.


Alexa is a pop-culture vulture. She lives to read, write and travel, and decided long ago that life is stranger than fiction. When she’s having croissant, she thinks in French. “31 Rue Cambon” is her favourite address, and she believes that money one enjoyed spending is never money wasted.


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