Credit Card Glossary

3D Secure / 3Ds

Credit card providers use 3-D Secure or 3Ds as an additional layer of security every time a Singapore cardholder uses a credit card or debit card for an online transaction. This extra authentication step protects merchants and cardholders against fraud. In other words, 3DS is a safe way to make sure that the person making the online transaction is the rightful owner of the card being used.

When a purchase is made at a merchant website that has 3DS technology, the cardholder receives a one-time password (OTP) on their mobile phone. They must then enter the OTP on the website to complete the transaction.

VISA first developed the 3DS system and offered it to consumers under the Verified by Visa service. Their goal was to improve the security of internet payments for both merchants and customers. MasterCard has since adopted the protocol under the MasterCard SecureCode, followed by JCB International as J/Secure. In 5 March 2010, the Association of Banks in Singapore adopted 3DS to further improve the security for card payments and better protect Singaporeans against fraud.

Air Miles

Air miles, also known as frequent flyer miles or travel points, are a type of credit card reward offered by airlines and card issuers. Cardmembers are rewarded every time they use their credit card in Singapore and overseas, by earning a certain number of miles for every dollar spent. When they accumulate a certain number of miles, they can redeem these for business class upgrades or even free flights with the card's partner airlines.

With an air miles credit card, cardmembers don't necessarily have to travel to earn miles. Because miles are awarded for every dollar spent on the card, cardmembers can start earning points towards their next trip by shopping, dining, or buying groceries. Since credit cards are accepted by virtually every merchant in Singapore, accruing miles becomes efficient when the card is used to pay for most expenses. Some credit cards also offer bonus points when online travel bookings are made through their partner merchants.

To redeem miles for flight tickets, cardmembers have to make the request through their card issuer's rewards portal. Depending on the card issuer, a redemption fee may be required to convert miles into air tickets. Co-branded airline cards usually credit the miles directly into the cardmember's frequent flyer account.

American Express

American Express is a top payment processing network and card issuer, with over 109.9 million cards running on their network worldwide. The number of cards they have in circulation makes them the 4th largest card network in the world and the largest card issuer based on purchase volume.

Most people know American Express by their iconic Green, Gold, and Platinum charge cards, as well as by the Centurion that graces the center. Cards of similar color levels are available in Singapore. They also have several co-branded cards which generally fall under the travel and retail categories of the local country they are present in. In Singapore, American Express has co-branded cards with Singapore Airlines and CapitaLand Malls.

Travel guides have noted that American Express credit cards are less accepted in Europe compared to Visa or MasterCard. Because American Express charges merchants 50% more than their rivals to carry their card, fewer retailers in Singapore take their cards as well.

Despite this, American Express was ranked the highest in Credit Card Customer Satisfaction by the 2015 and 2016 Singapore J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Study. They were also the first card provider in Singapore to partner with Apple Pay, which allowed cardmembers to sync their personal or corporate credit cards to their Apple devices and used NFC technology to make payments as early as April 2016.

Annual Fee

Also known as an Annual Membership Fee, a credit card annual fee is automatically billed to your statement for the convenience and privileges offered by the card issuer. They generally range from S$80 to S$500, depending on the type of credit card.

Not all credit cards in Singapore have an annual fee, but some types of cards are more likely to have it than others. Air miles cards, rewards cards, and premium cards are among those that have annual fees. Many of these cards waive the annual fee during the first year, then automatically charge it to your account in the subsequent year. Cards that have a high-value welcome offer, such as luggage or bonus miles, generally require cardmembers to pay the annual fee in order to claim the offer.

Annual Fee Waiver

An annual fee waiver is when the card issuer cancels your annual fees on your credit card. Most credit cards that have an annual fee typically waive it during the first year or two of card ownership. However, you may need to pay the annual fee to claim a high-value welcome offer like luggage.

Annual fee waivers are up to the card issuer's discretion, and there are instances where they are more likely to grant it than others. Generally, if you charge a certain amount to your card every year, you have a better chance of getting the annual fee waived than if your card is barely used. Call your card issuer to find out what you need to do to get the fee waived.

Balance Transfer

A balance transfer lets you pay down the existing balance on a credit card by transferring it onto a new credit card account. The new credit card charges you 0% interest on the transferred balance for a certain period of time, usually 6 months, which must be fully paid off. If the transferred amount is not fully paid within this time period, the remaining balance is charged interest.

There are a few caveats to note before getting a balance transfer. Balance transfer credit cards are not entirely free. In some instances, you may be charged a fee of 3% - 5% on the transfer amount to complete the process.

The amount you can transfer must also be within the credit limit of the new card. For example, if the credit limit on the balance transfer card is S$8,000 and you want to transfer a balance of S$10,000, you will only be able to transfer up to S$8,000 (including fees).

Nevertheless, if used responsibly, a balance transfer gives cardmembers an opportunity to clear credit card debt without paying high interest rates.

Cash Advance

A cash advance is a facility bundled with your credit card that allows you to withdraw cash from ATMs both locally and overseas.

There are fees and interest charges associated with a cash advance. Every cash advance you take will be subject to an upfront service fee (see Cash Advance Fee), which is typically 6% of the amount withdrawn, or S$15, whichever is higher. Also, the interest charged on your cash advance will be higher than the base interest rate of your credit card.

The amount of cash advance you can take depends on your available credit limit, and is capped at up to 90% of your total credit limit.

A cash advance is granted on your credit card's available credit limit; it is separate from the funds you have in your bank account.

Not all credit cards have the cash advance facility enabled by default. Depending on your provider, you may have to make a separate application to enable your cash advance facility.

Cash Advance Fee

This fee is charged by your card issuer each time you successfully carry out a Cash Advance (see above). The cash advance fee is charged as the higher of a flat fee, or a certain percentage of the cash advance amount. Typically, this is about S$15 dollars, or 6%.

Do note that like all finance charges, cash advance fees are subject to compounding interest if not paid on time.

Card Payment Network

A card payment network refers to a system that facilitates financial partnerships between merchant establishments and credit card issuers. The most common form of this relationship is the ability of a consumer to pay for a purchase using a credit or debit card.

There are many card payment networks in existence, with Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Union Pay as perhaps the most well-known in Singapore and the region.

Card payment networks usually charge a fee, known as an interchange fee, for their services. The bulk of this fee goes to the card issuing bank, with the remainder going to the card payment network and the retailer's merchant account provider.

Because it also issues its own cards, American Express does not charge an interchange fee. This is unlike other card payment networks, such as Visa and Mastercard, which actively offer their services to card issuing banks in exchange for an interchange fee.

Interchange fees are partly used to fund the various rewards programmes that cardholders are entitled to.

As interchange fees are typically hidden from the consumer, (being deducted from the merchants? accounts) there have been calls for greater transparency so consumers can make an informed choice in the use of credit cards.

Cashback / Cash Rebates

A type of credit card reward in which a small percentage of the amount spent is credited back to the cardholder.

Cashback credit cards are usually designed to give cashback or cash rebates on specific categories of transactions, such as travel, dining, entertainment or groceries. There are also some credit cards that give cashback across all categories of spending.

Notwithstanding the above, there are certain transactions that do not earn rebates, such as recurring bills, insurance premiums or fines. Interest payments, instalment plans and fees are also usually not eligible for cashback.

The amount of cashback you can earn within a statement month is usually capped at a predetermined amount. However, there are some cashback cards that give unlimited cashback.


Often included as a credit card perk, credit card concierges can provide a variety of helpful services to eligible cardmembers.

When the need arises, a cardmember may contact their credit card's concierge service for help in a number of tasks. These may include (but are not limited to) making reservations at restaurants and other venues, re-booking a missed or cancelled flight, arranging travel insurance coverage, or finding a cheap hotel.

Concierge services are usually accessible via a dedicated phone number. Most concierge services are offered free of charge to the cardmember, but the cardmember is liable for any and all costs arising from bookings, purchases or transactions agreed upon.

Charge Card

A charge card is a type of payment card that differs from a credit card in significant ways. It does not have an interest rate nor a credit limit. However, you must clear the outstanding amount in full every statement month.

Failing to do so may incur high interest charges and late fee, and could even result in the charge card account being cancelled altogether.

Charge cards usually include similar perks and privileges as those offered by credit cards. However, charge cards usually have high income requirements and appeal to high earners and high spenders.

Credit History

As you make use of unsecured credit facilities, such as credit cards and personal loans, your borrowing and spending activities will be collated, building up a record over time.

This record is known as your credit history, and is used by banks and other financial institutions to determine the likelihood of you paying back an unsecured loan or debt.

Consistently missing payments will result in a bad credit history, even if the amount of debt is low. Conversely, a habit of making payments on time creates a favourable credit history, even if you've incurred a significant amount of debt.

Your credit history is a main component used in the calculation of your credit score (see below).

Credit Limit

A credit limit refers to the maximum amount you can charge to a credit card. Payments, fees, interest charges, cash advances and outstanding balances all count towards your credit limit.

Should you reach the credit limit on your card (aka 'maxing out' your credit card), you will no longer be able to use it to pay for your purchases. You may also be charged a penalty fee.

Generally, credit limits are determined at the time of application of your credit card. Credit limits are set at between 2 to 4 times your monthly income.

A card's credit limit is not set in stone. You may specify a credit limit during the application of your credit card, or you may request for it to be raised or lowered during use.

Credit Score

A credit score is a 4-digit numerical rating that indicates your likelihood of repaying your debts, or the chances of going into default.

Banks and other financial institutions look to your credit score when processing your application for a unsecured loan or credit facility. Your credit score Your credit score will help them guagto determine the risk involved in approving your application for a unsecured loan or credit facility. This helps them to gauge your likelihood of defaulting on your loan.

This is an indicator of risk that is based on statistical validation determined by credit card providers and credit bureaus. Your credit score represents your entire credit history in one numeric measure.

Interest Rates
When a cardholder doesn't pay off the full sum on the monthly payment, an interest rate is charged to the outstanding balance. Interest rates differ from card to card.
Introductory Period
During the introductory period, banks may apply introductory interest rates to outstanding balances on your credit account.
Late Payment Fee
A late payment fee will be charged to the cardholder if the monthly minimum sum is not paid. It is charged on top of the interest rates on the outstanding balance.
MasterCard is one of the top payment processing networks that does not issue credit cards. It is accepted in many establishments and merchants around the world.
A business establishment where you purchase products or services.
Minimum Payment
The minimum payment is a portion of the outstanding balance that you are required to pay in a monthly statement. The rest of the amount that isn't paid will be subject to interest.
Online Banking
This refers to all electronic systems that allow you to do any banking transactions using the internet. You can transfer money, pay bills or just check the balance in your accounts using online banking.
Personal identification number (PIN) is the security code that you need to key in whenever you need to perform any banking transactions. This includes withdrawing money from an ATM. Your PIN should not be shared with anyone.
This is a payment in the form of a discount, reduction, return, or refund for a paid service or merchandise, and is usually given as a reward for credit cardholders for making a transaction with partner merchants.
Rewards Program
A rewards program is a feature that many credit cards have. It allows cardholders to accumulate rewards points that can be exchanged for vouchers, cashback or even air miles
Secured Cards
This is a type of credit card that requires the cardholder to make a deposit before being granted a credit line. The credit limit for secured cards are the same or less than the deposit the cardholder puts in. If you always pay your bills on time, you might arrange to apply for a major credit card.
Security Code
This is the three-digit code which follows right after your card number, usually printed on the signature strip at the back of your card.
Visa is a top payment processing network that is widely accepted around the world.

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