Singaporeans love using credit cards. Most of us carry at least three credit cards everywhere we go. We love the convenience that it gives us, as well as the rewards points and cashback rebates it can help us earn. But when it comes to paying annual fees, we're less in love. Annual fees are like that weird cousin who plays with birds and pretends he's Marilyn Manson. You don't know whether you should keep him around and feel uncomfortable or try to exclude him even though he's family.
LET'S LOOK AT WHAT THE ANNUAL FEES ARE FOR SOME POPULAR CREDIT CARDS IN SINGAPORE…
There are many things to consider when choosing a card, and how much it'll cost you each year is an important factor. You should also consider how many years waiver you get when you sign up. Remember, the first year waiver that some of these credit cards involve are referring to the fact that you don't need to pay the fee when you sign up. You will start being charged the annual fee after one year of signing up for the card.
Here are the various annual fees being charged, organised from the most expensive to the least:
WOW, THOSE ANNUAL FEES AREN'T CHEAP. WHY SHOULD ANYONE BE PAYING THE CREDIT CARD ANNUAL FEE?
Well, for one thing, you're paying for the convenience of using the credit card to make your purchases. Having a credit card means you don't have to fumble with small change, or feel embarrassed if you open your wallet at the store and find yourself without cash.
You're also paying for the administrative costs of maintaining your credit card account. You often get a free credit card replacement if your card is lost or stolen, or if it's damaged and you need a new one. All these costs add up and your annual fee is what goes into paying for them.
Smart banks will try to incentivise you to pay your credit card annual fee. Cards that earn air miles, for example, like the Citi PremierMiles Visa Card and the DBS Altitude Visa Signature Card give you 10,000 air miles every time you pay your annual fee. Considering you generally get about 1.2 miles per $1 spent on the card, that's a really good reason to pay your annual fee.
But in general, you would want to get your annual fee waived. Do note that some credit card providers like American Express, for example, generally do not waive your credit card annual fee. Most of their cardholders feel that the top-notch customer care and worldwide assistance that they provide is often reason enough to keep paying each year. But for the rest, really, just try to get them waived.
GETTING YOUR ANNUAL FEE WAIVED IS JUST A CALL AWAY
Believe it or not, about 90 per cent of customers that call a bank's hotline are just hoping to get their credit card annual fees waived. These days, some banks have even invested in an automated fee waiver system because of the number of calls they get regarding annual fee waver requests. You don't even have to speak to a human being to get your fees waived.
Some banks use a complicated formula to determine if they're able to waive your credit card annual fee. Trying to figure out the formula is like deciphering quantum mechanics. It's not impossible, but no one's going to waste time figuring it out. What we do know is that it's based on your card usage - how regularly you use your card and how much you spend on it, as well as whether you make payment in full and on time.
If the automated waiver system cannot waive the annual fee, don't panic. It will usually forward you to a customer service officer, who has slightly more authority than the automated system to approve the waiver. So just channel your inner Adele (or Lionel Richie, for you older folk) and say "Hello" to your bank's customer service officer. Be nice to them and they'll be more than happy to help you to the best of their ability.
WHAT IF I CAN'T GET MY ANNUAL FEE WAIVED? SHOULD I JUST PAY FOR IT?
First, try to find out if you can probably get a waiver if you spend a certain amount on the card. Some banks have a certain spending threshold for their credit cards. For example, spend about $500 on the card in the past three months and they can waive your annual fee. Of course, no customer service officer who wants to keep their job will tell you what the exact amount is, but some may be kind enough to suggest how much more you need to spend in order to hit that waiver requirement. If you've already spent $400 on the card, then it might be worth to charge another $100 to the card, instead of paying the annual fee.
If you can't find out what that spending threshold is, you can appeal to the higher-ups at the bank to have your credit card waived. Make sure your appeal comes with valid reasons, of course. You can insist that you are a long-term customer of the bank, but that's ultimately a less effective reason than promising to use the credit card more often. Especially if you're dealing with DBS/POSB - most Singaporeans are already long-term customers, so it's not like you deserve special treatment for being one.
I TRIED APPEALING, BUT THE WAIVER REQUEST WAS REJECTED. NOW WHAT?
If the appeal still fails, and you're still not willing to pay the annual fee, then your only option left is to cancel your credit card. Just remember that before you make the request to cancel it, you redeem all rewards points or cashback rebates you can, if there are any, of course. They will be forfeited once the card account is cancelled. You should also inform any organisations or corporations that you have a recurring payment with, like your utilities bill, telco bills, insurance premiums, and so on. Make sure that you set up new recurring payment arrangements with your remaining credit cards.
Before you cancel your credit card, however, make sure that you're not cancelling a card that you've held the longest. A long-term credit history, especially if it's free from partial payments and late payments do go a long way in giving you a good credit score. If you're thinking of taking out a major loan, like a home loan, education loan or car loan, it might be worth paying the annual fee to make sure you don't destroy whatever good credit history you have built up.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.