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Priority banking in Singapore (2023): Benefits, eligibility, and more

Priority banking in Singapore (2023): Benefits, eligibility, and more
PHOTO: Unsplash

There are many ways to fake it if you want to look rich in Singapore. You could buy a nice car and then moonlight as a Grab driver to pay off your car loan, or blow a year's worth of savings on a Europe trip and then show it off on Instagram.

But the true indication of an affluent Singaporean is his or her status as a priority banking customer.

Notice we used the word "affluent" and not "rich". That's because those who are really and truly rich are one tier above priority banking customers and usually become private clients of the bank.

1. Top 8 priority banking programmes in Singapore

Priority banking Minimum requirement* Applicable cards
Citigold $250,000 Citigold Debit Mastercard Citi Prestige Card
Citi Priority $70,000 Citi Priority Debit Mastercard
DBS Treasures $350,000 DBS Treasures Visa Debit Card DBS Treasures Black Elite Card
HSBC Premier Bank Account $200,000 HSBC Premier Mastercard Credit Card
Maybank Premier Wealth $300,000 Maybank Premier Wealth Platinum Debit Card Maybank Premier Wealth World Mastercard
OCBC Premier $200,000 OCBC Premier Banking Debit Card OCBC Premier Voyage Card
SCB Priority $200,000 Standard Chartered Priority Visa Infinite Credit Card
UOB Privilege Banking $350,000 UOB Privilege Banking Card

*Refers to total assets, which could be funds in savings accounts, fixed deposits, and various investment instruments.

2. What is priority banking?

Priority banking is designed for high net worth customers who can afford to deposit and transact large amounts of money with a bank.

In short, being a priority banking customer makes you a VIP member at the bank.

To qualify as a priority banking customer, you need to park a certain amount of assets with the bank. These assets could be cash left in savings accounts or fixed deposit accounts, or in investments such as bonds, shares, unit trusts, ETFs and REITs.

As you will later see, the minimum requirements are not astronomically high. A few banks will let you become a priority banking customer if you have assets of $100,000 with them, which many ordinary Singaporeans do have. But just because you can qualify doesn't mean you need to or should.

It's a better idea to shop around for a bank or bank(s) that can give you the best return on your deposits or investments, rather than throw all your money into one bank just because you want to become a priority banking customer.

3. Benefits of priority banking

As a priority banking customer, you get preferential treatment, including better rates, a dedicated relationship manager and other perks that will work together to help you get even richer.

While perks vary from bank to bank, in general you get to enjoy the following:

  • Priority queuing: Breeze past the masses by taking the priority queue at bank branches or even showing up to branches dedicated to priority banking customers.
  • A dedicated relationship manager: Forget about being stuck on the line listening to a recording telling you to press 1 for English. Your relationship manager will be at your service, assisting with your requests and helping you invest your assets.
  • Better interest rates: Bank account interest rates tend to be quite pathetic in Singapore. Yours might be a little better with a priority banking savings account.
  • Better foreign exchange rates: Continue being a jet setter at better rates.
  • Preferential loan packages: Because you're affluent, you’re seen as less of a risk, so expect more attractive interest rates when you take out loans.
  • Fee waiver: To make it more attractive for you to use them, banks often dangle fee waivers such as for overseas ATM withdrawals.
  • Other lifestyle perks: Some perks you might get include travel discounts, airport lounge access, golf discounts and more.

4. Citigold

Citibank has two priority banking programmes: Citi Priority, which has a minimum requirement of $70,000, and Citigold, with a $250,000 requirement.

While Citigold has higher wealth requirements than Citi Priority, it's also more generous in terms of perks.

For instance, their welcome gift is up to S$16,855 cash. Yes, please!

But to get the maximum cash amount, you need to do things like invest, buy insurance, and take a home loan:

Citigold welcome gift
Requirements Reward amount
Deposit $850,000 fresh funds, completes Investment Risk Profile and fact find report $1,600
Holds a valid Primary/main Citi Credit Card $300
Invests S$500,000 by 31 Dec 2023 $5,400
Insures S$250,000 by 31 Dec 2023 $3,000
Take a new housing loan from Citi (minimum $800,000) by the end of the Welcome Period $500
Maintains $100,000 balance in Citi Wealth First Account $6,055
Total $16,855

If you just stick to depositing $850,000 fresh funds, holding a Citi credit card, and maintaining $100,000 balance in your Citi Wealth First Account, you still get $7955.

You are entitled to the Citigold Debit Mastercard, which gets you some travel, dining and entertainment deals and discounts.

You also get more perks with the Citi Prestige Card:

  • Complimentary night stay when you book four nights at any hotel or resort
  • Welcome gift of up to 177,500 ThankYou Points (71,000 Miles)
  • Unlimited Priority Pass VIP airport lounge access
  • Golf privileges - six complimentary golf games

5. Citi Priority

Citi Priority is the more accessible of Citi's 2 priority banking programmes, with a minimum requirement of $70,000.

Like Citigold, you also get a debit card-the Citi Priority Debit Mastercard. This card lets you withdraw cash free at Citibank ATMs worldwide and gives you some dining, travel and entertainment perks.

Your Citi Priority status will also get you preferential rates for things like fixed deposits.

While Citi used to offer up to $1,400 as a welcome gift when you start a Citi Priority relationship, their website currently doesn't display any welcome promotion.

6. DBS Treasures

DBS wants its priority banking DBS Treasures customers to know they are important. That's why there are three fancy DBS Treasures Centres opened just for priority banking customers, as well as their DBS Treasures Exclusive Safekeeping Centre.

Open from 8.30am to 4.30pm, this centre is for you can to keep your valuables. It also has private parking lots and is equipped with lounge areas where you can have a drink and relax. If one of your incentives for becoming a priority banking customer is to avoid long queues and get VIP treatment, then DBS is one of your best bets.

Other perks include fee waivers on telegraphic transfers and withdrawals from Visa/PLUS ATMs worldwide.

DBS Treasures members get to sign up for the following cards:

  • DBS Treasures Visa Debit Card: Four per cent cashback on online food delivery, local transport and in foreign currency (including online purchases).
  • DBS Treasures Black Elite Card: 2.4 miles for overseas spend, 1.2 miles for local spend, and S$1 million travel insurance coverage

You need at least $350,000 in investible assets for DBS Treasures.

7. HSBC Premier

To become a HSBC Premier customer, you need to tick one of the following boxes:

  • Have assets of at least $200,000 with HSBC
  • Credit a monthly salary of at least $15,000
  • Take up a property loan of at least $1,000,000

The priority banking programme has two tiers, Premier and Jade. Jade is an invite-only programme targeted at even richer people that promises even more exclusive perks. Most people who sign up on their own will be classified as Premier.

The biggest perk is their HSBC Premier Mastercard Credit Card, which gives you the following perks:

  • Five per cent cash rebates on dining, groceries, petrol and transport, both locally and overseas (capped at $150 per month)
  • One Rewards point for every $1 spent

To qualify for the maximum cash rebates, you must spend $600 a month.

HSBC Premier's welcome gift is currently a cash gift totalling up to $14,770. That’s if you jump through a ton of hoops, including depositing $1.2 million in fresh funds, purchasing at least $100,000 in wealth or insurance products, and refinancing a $1.5 million home loan. If you don’t want to by insurance or refinance a loan, you can get a 1-night stay at Shangri-La Singapore, Tower Wing Deluxe Room (worth SGD 420++) if you  deposit $300,000 in fresh funds and let your Relationship Manager take you through a Goal Planner Report.

8. Maybank Premier Wealth

Maybank Premier Wealth members enjoy priority services at Maybank branches in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as Bank Internasional Indonesia branches in Indonesia. It's thus a good programme to consider if you frequently travel to Malaysia or Indonesia.

Until April 30, 2019, they are offering an attractive interest rate of up to 2.05 per cent on deposits in your Maybank Prestige Savings Account. After the promotion ends, you'll earn 0.45 per cent on deposits under $200,000 and 0.59 per cent on deposits above $200,000, which is so-so.

Your Maybank Premier Wealth Platinum Debit Card  lets you withdraw cash from Maybank ATMs in Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia without any service charge. You'll also be eligible for the Maybank Premier Wealth World Mastercard, which offers the following perks:

  • Two complimentary airport transfers a year (with minimum $3,000 spend within three months)
  • Two complimentary Plaza Premium airport lounge access passes a year
  • 10x TREATS points (or four air miles) for every $1 spent at selected boutiques and restaurants and at all petrol stations in Singapore
  • Golf privileges i.e. complimentary green fees
  • Member rates at Healthway Medical

To be a Maybank Premier Wealth Client, you’ll need at least $300,000 in investments or cash with Maybank.

9. OCBC Premier

You need to deposit or invest $200,000 to become an OCBC Premier client. Should you join OCBC Premier? Here's what they can offer:

  • Up to 3.7 per cent a year on Premier Dividend+ Savings Account
  • Preferential fees and charges for selected transactions
  • S$0 cable and commission fees for 18 currencies when you transfer money overseas

Additionally, the OCBC Premier VOYAGE Card gets you the following perks:

  • 2.3 VOYAGE miles with every $1 spent in foreign currency
  • 1.6 VOYAGE miles with every $1 spent on local dining
  • VOYAGE miles never expire
  • Unlimited access to VIP Plaza Premium airport lounges for both main and supplementary cardholder
  • Free transfer services with minimum spend of $12,000 in a quarter
  • 19 per cent off at Caltex petrol stations, 14 per cent off at Esso

They also have a debit card, the Premier World Elite Debit Card. If you spend $400 a month on the card, you can enjoy an unlimited one per cent rebate on overseas spending and duty-free shops in Singapore, as well as selected online merchants, transport, fast food and convenience stores in Singapore. This is a rather generous rebate for a debit card, although you can probably easily find credit cards that beat it.

10. Standard Chartered Priority Banking

Standard Chartered Priority Banking makes it easier for you to grow your wealth with Standard Chartered, giving you access to digital wealth solutions and market updates. You’ll also have access to their Priority Banking team.

With the Standard Chartered Priority Visa Infinite Credit Card, you get the following perks:

  • 2.5 rewards points for every $1 spent
  • One air mile for every $1 spent
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • Complimentary travel insurance (worth $50,000) for you and your spouse

By way of welcome gift, Standard Chartered is advertising a whopping $16,000 cash reward from now till Sept 30, 2023. But you have to do a whole bunch of stuff to get that figure, and you’ll need a whole lotta cash to park in equities/unit trusts/other investments with the bank. If you do the minimum and just deposit/invest $200,000, plus complete a Financial Needs Analysis, you’ll only get $500. Pfft.

11. UOB Privilege Banking

With a minimum asset requirement of $350,000, UOB Privilege Banking is one of the harder priority banking programmes to qualify for. But to be honest, their travel and lifestyle perks do not look as attractive as what the other local banks are offering.

Aside from the usual preferential rates and priority banking services, the main draw of UOB Privilege Banking is the UOB Privilege Banking Card, which offers the following perks:

  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on overseas dining and retail
  • 2 miles for every $1 spent locally on selected luxury fashion brands, such as Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Hermès, and The Hour Glass
  • 1.2 miles for every $1 spent on everything else
  • 60,000 air miles if you pay for the annual membership fee
  • Up to 20 per cent off at selected restaurants in Pan Pacific, PARKROYAL hotels, and The Fullerton Hotels
  • Complimentary room upgrade, daily breakfast and late check-out at over 900 luxury hotels worldwide
  • Complimentary weekday green fees at Sentosa Golf Club

12. Which priority banking programme can you join?

Which priority banking programme you should join depends on your lifestyle.

Are you a frequent traveller who enjoys air miles? You might want to join Citigold or OCBC Premier.

If you have business dealings or relatives in Malaysia or Indonesia, the Maybank Premier Wealth programme is a good one to consider.

Based on the amount of funds you have, these are the suitable priority banking programmes:

Total assets Suitable priority banking programmes
At least $700,000 in the bank Citi Priority
At least $200,000 in the bank OCBC Premier, HSBC Premier and SCB Priority Banking
At least $300,000 in the bank DBS Treasures, UOB Privilege Banking, Citigold and Maybank Premier Wealth

ALSO READ: Loyalist vs deals chaser: Is disloyalty the key to maximising loyalty programmes?

This article was first published in MoneySmart.

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