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Best credit cards for students and low-income earners in Singapore

Best credit cards for students and low-income earners in Singapore
Most credit cards have a minimum income requirement of $30,000. But what if you don't meet this criteria? We will find out what is the best card for you.
PHOTO: Unsplash

Can you qualify for a credit card without income?

Applying for a credit card is often seen as a sign of financial independence, and is indeed an important milestone in any adult's financial journey.

Having a credit card also affords you a great deal of benefits, which includes credit card points, cashbacks, and deals. Not to mention, the added convenience of just swiping or tapping on a terminal to make payment, instead of fumbling for your wallet looking for loose coins, or your mobile phone for PayNow.

Additionally, making payment using a credit card also means you make payment for your purchases at a later date. This means your money can be used for other purposes, like accruing high-interest rates in your savings account.

However, is it possible to actually qualify for a credit card in Singapore if you don't meet the minimum income requirement? What even is the minimum income requirement in the first place?

Government regulations on credit cards

We will first take a look at the official regulations regarding this requirement.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) mandates that credit card owners (up to age 55) meet one of the following three criteria:

MAS criteria for credit card cligibility:
Annual income of at least $30,000
Total net personal assets exceeding $2 million
Total net financial assets exceeding $1 million

For people aged above 55, the income requirement is much more lenient, with an annual income of at least $15,000. But if you are reading this, you probably don’t fit into this category. So is it possible to get a credit card in Singapore even if you don’t earn $30,000 a year?

In theory, yes. Back in 2007, MAS eased restrictions on credit card age and income requirements. Banks were allowed to issue cards with a $500 credit cap and no minimum income requirement.

Why are credit cards risky?

But before we move on, it is very important to understand that credit cards have a barrier of entry for a reason. It might be a different scenario if you are a student from a wealthier family who sees credit cards as a more convenient form of payment.

However, if you are struggling to make ends meet, and are hoping to get some short-term funds through a credit card, then it is definitely not a good idea to sign up for a credit card - even if the credit limit is just $500.

You might ask, why?

Fundamentally, credit cards give you loans. When you have a credit card, you are granted access to money you don't actually own. Access to this money is granted with the understanding that you will repay whatever you spend - with added interest if your repayment is late.

And if you cannot prove you have some source of income, the bank simply cannot trust that you are able to do so. It's a good way to protect both the bank, and yourself.

As such, on top of the minimum income requirement, the minimum age to apply for credit cards in Singapore is 21 as well.

That said, if you are still studying and have low expenditures, or perhaps you're taking a significant pay cut to pursue a passion project or your own business, credit cards are still within reach for you. Here are some credit cards that do not have a minimum income requirement:

Card Eligibility Annual fees Rewards
DBS LiveFresh student card 21-27 years old, studying at certain institutions only $192.60 (waived for five years)
  • Five per cent cashback on GV, McDonald's, Starbucks, Netflix, Spotify
  • Five per cent cashback on selected eco-eateries, eco-retailers & eco-transport
  • 0.3 per cent cashback otherwise
Maybank eVibes card 18-30 years old, studying at certain institutions only $5 per quarter, waived with one transaction per quarter One per cent cashback on all purchases
  • 18-29 years old if student/NSF
  • If working, 35 years old with min income $30,000
Perpetually waived One per cent cashback on dining, entertainment, online shopping and telco

DBS Live Fresh student card

Consider this if actively like to shop on e-commerce sites and make purchases with mobile payments. 

  • Pros
    • Five per cent rebate on select merchants & Five per cent rebate on sustainable spend
    • No minimum spend requirement
    • Annual fee waived five full years
  • Cons
    • Just 0.3 per cent rebate on general spend
    • otal rewards capped at just $50/mo

The DBS Live Fresh student card, as its name applies, caters with the specific target audience of students in mind.

Therefore, its eligibility is only extended to students of ages 21-27 years old, and must be an existing student from one of the post-secondary institutions (excluding junior colleges).

The list of eligible universities includes:

List of universities
National University of Singapore (NUS)
Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
Singapore Management University (SMU)
Singapore Institute of Management (SIM)
Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT)
Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

Meanwhile, students from the following polytechnics are also eligible:

List of polytechnics
Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP)
Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP)
Temasek Polytechnic (TP)
Singapore Polytechnic (SP)
Republic Polytechnic (RP)

As mentioned, due to an existing regulation by MAS, the credit limit will be only up to $500. Another attractive incentive is that the annual fee of $192.60 is waived for a whole five years! However, if you are still studying even after using the card for five years, it is possible to request for additional years of waiver through contacting the DBS credit hotline.

The main perk of this card is its attractive cashbacks for eco-friendly merchants. Students will be able to get up to five per cent Green Cashback on selected Eco-Eateries, Eco-Retailers and Eco-Transport Services. Some examples include JustDabao, The Green Collective and even BlueSG.

Furthermore, you can get up to five per cent cashback on favourite brands, such as McDonald's, Starbucks, Golden Village and other movies and TV streaming services.

For more information and a more detailed analysis of the DBS Live Fresh student card, you can check out our handy guide right here.

Maybank eVibes card

Promo: Apply and $50 cash credit 

Consider this if you want to maximise cashback on everyday spending. 

  • Pros
    • Students & NSF earning less than $30,000/year
    • People looking for easy cashback on all spend
    • Individuals hoping to avoid paying an annual fee
  • Cons
    • Young adults who'd prefer a card with EZ-Link functionality

Similar to DBS Live Fresh student card, the trendy-sounding Maybank eVibes Card also targets tertiary students as well.

However, beyond just the educational institutions listed previously, students from LASALLE, NAFA and NIE are also eligible to apply for this credit card.

The Maybank eVibes card also has a more forgiving age limit of between 18-30 years old. Similar to the Live Fresh student card, it has a credit limit of $500, and has no annual income requirements.

Interestingly, the Maybank eVibes Card instead has an annual income limit, in which applicants cannot exceed $30,000 in annual income.

What about the benefits?

This card offers one per cent cashback on all spending. Yes, this means you are not restricted to a particular spending category. Other promotions also include discounts for Agoda, as well as Golden village.

It also has a $5 quarterly fee, which is waived if you charge your card at least once every three months, which is not too difficult to accomplish.

Interested in signing up for the Maybank eVibes card? You can take a detailed look into our more in-depth guide about this card over here. More often than not, there are rotating promotions for new sign-ups, so don't wait too long!

Cimb Awsm card

Consider this if you earn $18,000 and $30,000 per year and are below the age of 35. 

  • Pros
    • Students, NSFs & low-income consumers earning less than $30,000/year
    • People with high spend on dining, entertainment, online shopping & telco
    • Individuals interested in discounts & deals in Indonesia and Malaysia
  • Cons
    • Individuals who earn more than $30,000/year
    • People who tend to eat in, and prefer to shop offline
    • Young adults looking for cashback on their utilities spend

Are you perhaps not a tertiary student, but already in the working world? All’s good, because the Cimb Awsm card offers the best of both worlds, and caters to both demographics.

For students and NSFs, the age limit for this card is between 18 to 29 years old, with no annual income restrictions.

However, if you are a salaried employee and below the age of 35, the annual income restriction is $18,000, which is far less than the standard $30,000 a year. However, if you are above the age of 35, you will have to comply with the minimum of $30,000 annual income restriction.

What about the annual fee? Or rather, what annual fee? For the Cimb Awsm Card, the annual fee is perpetually waived, so you do not have to worry about paying, or calling them up to further extend your waiver.

Similar to the Maybank eVibes card, the Cimb Awsm card offers one per cent cashback. However, this cashback is only applicable to certain spending categories, like dining, Entertainment, Online Shopping and Telco.

You will also be entitled to more than a thousand deals and discounts as part of the CIMB cardholder privilege. Finally, like most credit cards, it is also compatible with SimplyGo for more convenient transport rides.

For a more detailed analysis and comparison, you can check out our CIMB AWSM card review right here.

Debit cards

Sometimes, you might not want to go through the hassle of credit card applications. Or you are not comfortable with the risks of owning a credit card.

Or you feel that the benefits afforded by these credit cards are not worth the worry. What are some of the alternatives that are available to students and low-income earners then?

The most common alternative that immediately springs to mind is debit cards.

Debit cards are a much safer alternative due to the fact that you are spending money that you already own, and therefore not be tempted (or allowed) to rack up credit card loans to finance your spending habits.

So what are some of the best debit cards in Singapore?

Unfortunately, most debit cards do not have fancy cashbacks, discounts, deals, air miles or promotions similar to credit cards. If you are a student using your POSB account that your parents set up when you were in primary or secondary school, then you might be familiar, or already using, the DBS debit card.

The DBS debit card allows you to earn good cashback on quite a few spending categories, and with no minimum annual income as well. This includes four per cent cashback on online food delivery, three per cent cashback on local transport and two per cent on foreign currency spends.

However, do take note of the drawbacks, including a $500 minimum spend, as well as a restriction of making cash withdrawals of more than $400 a month. Your cashbacks are also capped at $20 per month.

For a more comprehensive comparison of the most attractive debit cards in Singapore, you can check out our debit card guide that we have meticulously compiled.

Other alternatives

With the rise of FinTech, other interesting alternatives might be worth considering. Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) programs in Singapore such as Rely, Atome and Hoolah might be familiar to some of you.

In a sense, these BNPL apps are similar to credit card loans, in which you owe money to pay your purchases now. The difference is that you don’t have to pay the full price upfront, and can spread your payment over weeks, or even months! Most BNPL plans also charge little or no interest and have near-instant approval, allowing for a seamless shopping experience.

However, these programs still require sound financial sense and are dependent on you not spending recklessly, or beyond your means. Defaulting, or failing to make payments on time can result in late fees.

For instance, Hoolah charges up to $15 in late payment charges, depending on how much you borrowed. These charges add up quickly, which will become a financial burden if you are not prudent with your spending.


At the end of the day, there are many payment methods students and low-income earners can use. Contrary to popular belief, they are not restricted to using credit cards entirely, and there are a few cards that are purposely designed for them.

Alternatively, they can look at debit cards, which present a safer option, as well as Buy Now Pay Later programs.

Regardless, it is crucial for students and low-income earners to be careful with their expenses, so as to not overspend beyond their means.

ALSO READ: How to reduce your Singapore credit card fees to effectively zero How to reduce your Singapore credit card fees to effectively zero

This article was first published in ValueChampion.

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