Credit card fine print is certainly wordy but it pays — literally and figuratively — to get through the nitty gritty details.
Scrutinising lengthy, wordy credit card fine print isn’t the funnest activity one can participate in, but it is a must for savvy credit card users bent on stretching every hard- earned dollar spent and milking the most out of their credit cards.
After all, credit cards can be a valuable and rewarding personal finance tool for those who play the game right.
Apart from justifying why you really ought to read your credit card fine print below, we’ve thrown in some priceless tips and tricks to help you take your personal finance journey up a notch.
- Why is it important to check the fine print on credit card offers?
- Credit card fine print examples
- Tips on reading credit card fine print
- What else to look out for when scrutinising credit card fine print
Why is it important to check the fine print on credit card offers?
#1 To get that sweet sign-up bonus
Not going to lie, attractive sign-up bonuses like Apple products, Dyson products, cold hard cash and bonus miles are a big reason why some people sign up for certain credit cards.
In order to bag the sign-up bonus, there are usually some hoops you need to jump through aside from being the bank’s new credit card customer.
Knowing the rules is half the battle won. As it stands, most credit card offers in Singapore require you to make an eligible spend of a certain amount within a certain time frame before you can declare that sweet sign-up bonus yours. For example, a credit card offer might require you to spend S$500 within 30 days of card approval.
#2 To know the reward mechanics like the back of your hand
Your credit card fine print is all things related to your credit card’s reward mechanics are laid out.
Any savvy credit card user must know how to earn their credit card rewards, be it cashback, miles or rewards points. Does your credit card reward you handsomely only when you spend on certain categories?
Case in point, some cashback credit cards let you earn a flat-rate cashback across all purchases while some let you earn high cashback only on a select few categories. Some rewards credit cards let you earn 10X rewards points on certain types of purchases or transactions and only 1X reward points on all other purchases.
The same applies to air miles credit cards. Most of them let you earn more miles per dollar when you spend in a foreign currency and fewer miles per dollar when you spend in local currency.
Here are some other important things you need to pay attention to:
- Earning caps, if any, per statement month, calendar month or card membership year
- Minimum spend requirement per statement or calendar month, if any
- Rewards expiry, if any
- Related loyalty programme, if any. For example, if your credit card accrues points in a separate loyalty programme, such as an airline frequent flyer programme (e.g. KrisFlyer), you need to be familiar with its own rules, terms and conditions
#3 Understand what counts as an eligible transaction
Not all transactions charged to your credit card will earn you rewards. In particular, you’d want to pay extra attention to exclusions such as donations, bus/MRT/EZ Link transactions, bill payments, insurance premium payments and utility bills.
Apart from the usual list of exclusions, zoom in on what counts as an eligible purchase on your credit card.
For credit cards that offer accelerated points or cashback (e.g. 10X points, 8% cashback, 6% cashback), you might want to pay extra attention to the Merchant Category Code (MCC) section listed in your credit card’s terms and conditions. Your card issuer usually provides a list of MCCs that qualify or don’t qualify for the advertised accelerated points or cashback.
As much as consumers dislike changes, card issuers can change their terms any time, although they would usually inform their customers ahead of time. This could range from things like broadened categories eligible for earning accelerated rewards to more exclusions. Therefore, when you get a notice pertaining to changed credit card terms, be sure to dive into the fine print!
#4 Be clear all things related to redemption
What good are your credit card rewards if you don’t redeem them? Just so you’re aware, not all credit cards offer automatic redemption. Most credit cards on the market — especially rewards credit cards and miles credit cards — let you earn flexible rewards points that you can redeem for cashback, actual frequent flyer air miles, gift vouchers and more.
That said, some cashback credit cards let you earn automatic cash rebates that offset your credit card bills while others require you to redeem them either via SMS or in-app.
There could be minimum redemptions that you need to know about, too. For instance, if you want to transfer your points to a partner frequent flyer programme, Citi requires you to transfer in blocks of 25,000 Citi ThankYou Points or 10,000 Citi Miles whereas DBS requires you to transfer in blocks of 5,000 DBS Points.
#5 You might stumble upon unexpected goodies and perks
Credit card fine print isn’t all doom and gloom. There could be unexpected benefits nestled in there that you might not have known about.
For instance, your credit card might offer complimentary comprehensive travel insurance coverage for you and your family members when the full travel fare is charged to your card. Perfect for digital natives and online shopping addicts, some credit cards throw in complimentary e-Commerce Protection to safeguard consumers against non-delivery or defective goods for online purchases charged to their credit card.
Credit card fine print examples
Citi Rewards T&C:
For every 10X Points Eligible Transaction charged to the Eligible Card, an Eligible Cardholder will be awarded:
(i) 1 Base Point for every S$1 of a 10X Points Eligible Transaction (“Base Points”); and
(ii) 9 Bonus Points for every S$1 of a 10X Points Eligible Transaction (“Bonus Points”).
Points shall be calculated on the amount of each 10X Points Eligible Transaction, rounded down to the nearest S$1. Base Points are not subject to any cap. However, Bonus Points are subject to a cap of 9,000 Bonus Points per statement month.
Citi Cash Back Card T&C
Effective 9 Dec 2020, you will receive cash back of 0.25% on all retail purchases, additional cash back of 5.75% on Dining, 7.75% on Groceries and/or 7.75% on Petrol transactions worldwide, if you accumulate a total retail spend of S$800 or more in a statement month. The total cash back you can earn is capped at a combined S$80 across all retail spend per statement month. Please refer to FAQs for more information.
Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Credit Card T&C:
Recurring payments (being automatic payments where you (including your supplementary cardholder(s) on your Unlimited Card account) have given a one-time authorisation or instruction for the merchant to charge the payment directly to your Unlimited Card at a fixed interval, such as transactions made pursuant to Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited’s 0% Interest Instalment Plan) or payments made to all billing organisations using Standard Chartered Online Banking or mobile app are not Eligible Unlimited Card Retail Transactions and will not earn Unlimited Cashback
UOB One T&C:
The Quarterly Cashback and/or Base Cashback for a given a Quarter shall only be used to offset the Principal Cardmember’s Card Transactions incurred in the following Statement Month.
DBS Altitude T&C:
Miles will be awarded in the form of DBS Points (which can be converted at a rate of 1 DBS Point to 2 miles) based on the amount of retail purchases charged, rounded down to the nearest number.
Tips on reading credit card fine print
The first tip from me would be to allocate some time to do this: scrutinising credit card fine print is a time-consuming task.
The second tip? Zoom in to magnify the fine print. Credit card fine print is extremely wordy. Cut your eyes some slack!
Lastly, make use of the search function (control+F/ command+F) to make your life easier when searching for specific things like fees, eligible transactions, and exclusions.
What else to look out for when scrutinising credit card fine print
Take note of annual fees and annual fee waivers while you are at it. Most credit cards offer customers a one-year waiver. Some offer two-year waivers while a select few offer perpetual annual fee waivers! Want to gift your kids or spouse a supplementary card? Check out these popular and free supplementary cards that you can get your hands on.
Apart from interest charges for card transactions and cash advances, you may also want to read up on cash advance fees, overlimit fees, late payment charges etc just to have a better idea of what you are in for.
While we believe with conviction that credit cards do have a place in your life, you need to use them wisely to your advantage in order to stay out of debt while milking the most out of your cards.
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