Best alternatives to Savings Accounts in Singapore (2020)

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Ever since banks started reducing their deposit interest rates, we’ve started seeing a slew of non-traditional alternatives to savings accounts.

Some popular ones you might have heard of are the Singlife Account, Dash EasyEarn, Etiqa Elastiq and Stashaway Simple.

Offered by non-bank financial institutions such as insurers and stock brokers, these alternative accounts supposedly let you earn higher interest rates than your traditional savings account, while not compromising on the liquidity of your funds.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the differences between savings accounts and these new alternatives, while comparing the options on the market.

What exactly are these alternatives?

As mentioned above, products such as Singlife Account and Stashaway Simple are not bank accounts. They are cash accounts maintained by different types of financial institutions (FIs) such as:

  • Insurance providers
  • Investment brokerages
  • Robo advisors

Why do we care? Because these FIs are governed under different rules by the Monetary Authority of Singapore compared to banks. 

Banks are more strictly regulated, and the cash you deposit in a bank account is insured by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation (SDIC). That makes regular bank savings accounts practically risk-free.

Insurers, brokerages and robo advisors are not held to the same level of accountability as banks, so there’s a higher level of risk. 

When you park your cash in a non-traditional ‘savings account’, the returns may not be guaranteed. In some cases, even your capital is not guaranteed, meaning you may lose the initial amount you put in.

Or your returns may be guaranteed, but there are certain conditions (e.g. lock-in period, minimum balance) to meet.

We’re not saying that these accounts are too good to be true. But it’s important to know the difference before you commit.

Comparison of alternative ‘savings accounts’

There are almost too many of such accounts to keep track of, so we decided to compile the more popular ones in a handy table. Apart from the interest rate, we also categorised them by FI type and whether your cash is insured under the SDIC.

Alternative ‘savings account’ Advertised interest rate* Category Deposit insured?
Singlife Account 2.5 per cent Insurer Yes
Singtel Dash EasyEarn 2 per cent Insurer Yes
Etiqa ELASTIQ 1.8 per cent Insurer Yes
Singapura Finance ViVid 1.3 per cent Finance company Yes
Endowus Cash Smart 1.1 per cent to 2.2 per cent Robo advisor No
Stashaway Simple 1.9 per cent  Robo advisor No
MoneyOwl WiseSaver  Varies; now 0.79 per cent Robo advisor No
POEMS Excess Funds Management Varies; now 1 per cent Stock broker No
FSMOne Auto-Sweep Varies; now 0.9 per cent Stock broker No

*Valid as of July 2020. Interest rates are subject to changes.

If you are looking for something super-low-risk, we recommend you only consider the first few options which are covered by the SDIC. The SDIC covers only banking institutions and insurance providers.

Investment broker and robo advisor accounts, on the other hand, are not insured, so they are better for those with slightly higher risk appetites.

Accounts insured under SDIC

The following cash accounts are provided by insurers and they are technically insurance policies. Your capital (the original deposit) is guaranteed; even if anything should happen to the provider, it is still insured under the SDIC’s Policy Owners’ Protection Scheme.

Insurance savings plan Advertised interest rate Minimum deposit amount Maximum deposit amount
Singlife Account 2.5 per cent (not fully guaranteed) $500 $10,000
Singtel Dash EasyEarn 2 per cent (1.5 per cent guaranteed + 0.5 per cent non-guaranteed) for first year only $2,000 $20,000
Etiqa ELASTIQ 1.8 per cent (guaranteed) for first 3 years. Lock-in of 90 days applies $5,000 $50,000

Finally, there’s also an alternative savings account by local financial services company Singapura Finance. It’s under the SDIC Deposit Insurance Scheme, so your capital is protected up to $75,000.

Savings account Advertised interest rate Minimum deposit amount Maximum deposit amount
Singapura Finance ViVid 1.05 per cent on first $10,000; 1.3 per cent on next $10,000 (guaranteed) $500 for initial deposit (thereafter, maintain minimum account balance of $200) $20,000

Verdict: We like the Singlife Account for its flexibility and high promised interest. The initial deposit and minimum funding is a low $500, which makes it appealing to those who want to try it out. It also comes with a debit card to make accessing your funds easier.

For savings above $10,000, the next best choice is Etiqa ELASTIQ as it guarantees a relatively high 1.8 per cent p.a. for three years. Note that there is a lock-in period of 90 days. After three months, you can start withdrawing cash, but you need to maintain at least $5,000 in your account to avoid a service fee.

Non-insured alternatives

The next few options are cash management accounts by robo advisors and investment brokerages, meaning they take your cash and ‘manage’ (invest) it for you. 

The providers choose relatively low-risk investments for these accounts to preserve your capital, but as with any investment, there is no capital guarantee. Remember, you do not have the safety net of SDIC protection.

The ‘interest rate’ really depends on how well those underlying funds do, so let’s take a quick look at the underlying funds for each account:

Cash management account Projected return Underlying fund(s)
Stashaway Simple 1.9 per cent LionGlobal SGD Money Market FundLionGlobal SGD Enhanced Liquidity Fund
Endowus Cash Smart (Core) 1.1 per cent to 1.3 per cent Fullerton SGD Cash FundLionGlobal SGD Enhanced Liquidity Fund
Endowus Cash Smart (Enhanced) 1.9 per cent to 2.2 per cent UOB United SGD FundLionGlobal SGD Enhanced Liquidity Fund
MoneyOwl WiseSaver Varies; now 0.79 per cent Fullerton SGD Cash Fund
POEMS Excess Funds Management Varies; now 1 per cent Phillip Money Market Fund
FSMOne Auto-Sweep Account Varies; now 0.9 per cent Fullerton SGD Cash FundLionGlobal SGD Enhanced Liquidity Fund

Verdict: Without diving deep into prospectuses, it is difficult to say for sure which underlying funds/accounts are the best. 

If we had to pick one, we would say to go with whichever robo advisor or brokerage you are already investing with (or planning to). These accounts are good for parking the money you’ve earmarked for investments, while you wait for the right time to enter the market.

Are these good alternatives to savings accounts?

If you learn one thing from this article, it’s that these accounts cannot be compared apple-to-apple against bank accounts. They are different financial products, and you must either take on more risk or accept more limitations if you are to switch your account.

While their returns may be attractive compared to the current savings accounts interest rates, you should do your due diligence and understand what you are going into.

Unlike true bank accounts, these ‘savings accounts’ do not come with the banking facilities or ATM network we take for granted. Although you can typically perform bank transfers/withdrawals, this might take up to days to process. So it’s best to keep a sensible amount of cash in your savings account still.

All that said, these accounts are a relatively low-risk way of growing your spare cash, especially if you do not have the stomach for investments. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and select those insured under SDIC for greater peace of mind.

This article was first published in SingSaver.com.sgAll content is displayed for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional financial advice.