If you’re using credit cards the right way, you should be getting more money out of the bank than they’ll ever get from you.
That means paying all your bills in full and on time, using the cards strategically to maximise your cashback, rewards and air miles, and remembering to call the bank every year to ask for an annual fee waiver.
Thanks to credit card annual fees, I’ve had intimate chats with customer service officers at almost every bank in Singapore in which they asked private questions about my mother’s middle name. Some of them finally relented and waived my credit card’s annual fee, while other conversations ended with me unceremoniously cancelling my credit card.
1. How much are credit card annual fees in Singapore?
What is a credit card annual fee, and why do banks charge them? Bamks often charge credit card annual fees so that the cardholder can enjoy “membership” perks, privileges, and promotions. Generally, annual fees cover the bank’s administrative work that goes into maintaining your credit card account.
Credit card annual fees are not cheap. In most cases, it costs more than all the benefits you could receive from the credit card’s promotions and other perks.
How much do credit card annual fees cost in Singapore? Here’s a look at some of the annual fees being charged:
Luckily, almost all credit cards can be used for 1 year before they start charging you fees, with some offering 2 fee-free years.
So, you can sign up for the card when you’re sure you’ll be able to max out the benefits, and then ask for a fee waiver at the end of the year.
2. Why do credit cards have annual fees?
When you pay for credit card annual fee, 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.
3. Should I pay my credit card annual fee?
It’s rarely worth it to pay the annual fee. Even if the card’s perks are great, you still save money by cancelling and reapplying.
Some credit card providers do at least give you something in return for paying the annual fee. Certain air miles credit cards, for example, give you bonus miles when you pay your annual fee, which is tantamount to you purchasing those miles. You should do the math (i.e. work out the cost per mile) to figure out if it’ll be worthwhile to just pay the fee.
With some credit cards, like certain American Express cards, there are generally no annual fee waivers. 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.
Generally speaking though, you would want to get your annual fee waived.
There is one special case. You might want to pay the annual fee if it’s your oldest credit card, or your ONLY credit card.
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.
4. DBS Annual Fee Waiver
Some banks are so sick of fielding annual fee waiver requests that they now maintain an automated system that lets you send yours without speaking to a real human being. DBS and POSB is one such bank.
To ask for a credit card fee waiver from DBS or POSB, you have 2 options. The first is to use the DBS digibot, which is honestly easier than talking to a real person on the phone. Go to the DBS website, click the red chat logo on the bottom right of the screen to launch the digibot. Then, type “fee waiver” into the chatbox and follow the onscreen prompts.
If you want to do things the old-fashioned way (read: the more troublesome way), call DBS at 1800 111 1111 (from Singapore) or (+65) 6327 2265 (from overseas).
5. Citibank Annual Fee Waiver
To ask for a fee waiver on a Citibank credit card, you only have one option. And it’s the old-fashioned one: Call their 24-hour hotline at (65) 6225 5225 and then enter your NRIC or credit card number when prompted.
Next, press 0 to speak to a Citibank customer service officer to request for annual fee waiver.
ALSO READ: 13 best credit cards with no annual fee (2022)
6. UOB Annual Fee Waiver
To ask for a fee waiver on a UOB credit card, call the 24-hour UOB customer service hotline at 1800 222 2121 or, if you’re overseas, +65 6222 2121.
After choosing your language, continue to hold until asked to enter your NRIC or credit card number. Then select option 1 for credit card services, including requesting an annual fee waiver.
7. AMEX Annual Fee Waiver
To cancel an American Express credit card, you can either make a request via chat on the AMEX app, or call in to speak with their customer service. If you wan to phone in, note that you have to dial a different contact number for each card. You can find the number on the back of your card.
Here’s the list of AMEX credit card contact numbers for Singapore and overseas:
- AMEX Platinum Card: 1800 392 1177 for Singapore, +65 6392 1177 from overseas
- American Express Platinum Credit Card: 1800 396 6000 for Singapore, +65 6396 6000 from overseas
- American Express Platinum Reserve Credit Card: 1800 392 1181 for Singapore, +65 6392 1181 from overseas
- American Express True Cashback Card: 1800 295 0500 for Singapore, +65 6295 0500 from overseas
- American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card: 1800 392 2000 for Singapore, +65 6392 2000 from overseas
- American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card: 1800 392 2000 for Singapore, +65 6392 2000 from overseas
- American Express Singapore Airlines PPS Club Credit Card: 1800 396 6888 from Singapore, +65 6396 6888 from overseas
- American Express Singapore Airlines Solitaire PPS Credit Card: 1800 396 6888 from Singapore, +65 6396 6888 from overseas
- American Express CapitaCard: 1800 723 1339 from Singapore, +65 6880 1343 from overseas
- American Express Rewards Card: 1800 296 0220 from Singapore, +65 6296 0220 from overseas
- American Express Gold Card: 1800 733 0833 for Singapore, +65 6733 0833 from overseas
- American Express Personal Card: 1800 732 2244 for Singapore, +65 6732 2244 from overseas
8. OCBC Annual Fee Waiver
You can quite easily get your OCBC credit card annual fee waived online via the OCBC mobile app and desktop. Then, go to the menu bar and select Card Services > Request fee waiver. Select the credit card which fee you want waived, then submit your request.
9. Standard Chartered Annual Fee Waiver
Standard Chartered offers an online credit card fee waiver system so you can do it all without speaking to an actual human being. Hooray!
You can request a fee waiver on a Standard Chartered credit card through online banking or the SC Mobile app. On the Standard Chartered mobile app, select:
- Help & Services
- Service request by category
- Card Management
- Credit Card Fee Waiver
Next, select the credit card you wish to request a fee waiver for, agree to the terms and conditions and submit your request.
10. Maybank Annual Fee Waiver
To get your Maybank credit card annual fee waiver, you will need to call Maybank’s customer service hotline at 1800 484 2088 or +65 6484 2088 if you’re overseas.
11. HSBC Annual Fee Waiver
You will need to call the HSBC customer service hotline at 1800 4722 669 (that’s 1800-HSBC-NOW) to get an annual fee waiver for your HSBC credit card. The hotline is open 24/7.
12. How can I get my annual fee waived?
It really depends. Some banks use mind-boggling formulae to determine if it’s worth giving you a fee waiver, while others will say okay to almost anyone who asks.
Generally, the more often you use your card, the more you spend on it and paying your bills in full and on time can positively influence their decision.
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.
By the way, customer service officers may have some discretion to decide whether you deserve a fee waiver, so be nice and they’ll be more inclined to do their best to help you.
13. My annual fee waiver request was rejected! Now what?
So, the customer service officer is using their most apologetic voice to tell you that unfortunately they cannot waive the annual fee. Your next step is to check with them if there is a way to appeal the decision. If your appeal gets rejected as well, the decision is final and there is no point in trying your luck again.
At this point, you can choose to burst into tears and cancel the card, or grit your teeth and pay the annual fee.
For the majority of cards, the most worthwhile option is simply to cancel it on the spot before the annual fee is due. You can always reapply for the card if you really like it.
Note that you’ll lose all rewards points and air miles that you haven’t transferred out when you cancel your card. So, make sure you redeem all rewards points and air miles before you make that fateful call.
Cash rebates, if credited directly to your account every month, are considered your money and cannot be withheld by the bank. The cash is usually used to offset your final bill or repaid to you after you close your account.
Also, make sure that you don’t have any standing instructions to pay recurring bills like utilities, telco, insurance premiums and so on. You should set up new recurring payment arrangements before making the call.
14. Credit cards with no annual fees
Not keen on wasting time with the annual ritual of asking for fee waivers? Here are some credit cards that don’t ever charge annual fees:
Standard Chartered Smart Credit Card: This card gives you rewards points equivalent to 6 per cent cashback on everyday spending like bus and train rides, Netflix, Spotify, McDonald’s, Toast Box and Yakun. It also offers fee-free 0 per cent 3-month instalments.
CIMB World MasterCard: Get 2 per cent unlimited cashback on eating/drinking out, online food delivery, movies and digital entertainment, taxis and ride hailing and luxury goods when you spend at least $1,000 in a month.
HSBC Revolution Credit Card: This card offers card members 10X Reward points (equivalent to 4 miles or 2.5 per cent Cashback) on online purchases and contactless payments. Not only does it have no annual fee — it also has no minimum spend.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.