CNY hongbao rates in Singapore 2018 - everything you need to know

PHOTO: AsiaOne

Young Singaporean parents or newlyweds giving out Chinese New Year hongbaos for the first time often have no clue about the market CNY hongbaorates and traditions surrounding hongbao giving.

Giving out hongbaos for the first time during Chinese New Year can be a very daunting experience. Just prior to this, you were on the receiving end of the hongbao and having a lot less to worry about (other than what you would be spending the money on).

Many young parents and newlyweds approach this season with trembling hands and wallets, which is why the following information on CNY hongbao rates as well as some other important points to note is going to help you prepare for the upcoming CNY season.

Here’s what you need to know to get yourself prepared for the festivities:

What is the minimum amount to give?

This is the golden question and one that is foremost on everyone’s mind. Let’s begin first by saying that most seniors will tell you it is not good practice to give odd number amounts like $5 or $7 as Chinese traditions do not consider these odd numerals to be auspicious.

Amounts for hongbaos should always be in pairs or even numbers, so you are going to be in good shape this Chinese New Year if you are “bao-ing” amounts like $2 or $8 or $20.

The $4 amount is debatable because although it is an even number, the “4” in Chinese sounds like “death”, inferring bad luck, so some couples stay clear of this just because they don’t want to send out a bad signal (we know it’s tempting as it’s a nice low amount to give kids that you don’t really know very well). This does depend sometimes on your dialect group; it has been said that Teochews do not see “4” as inauspicious.

CNY hongbao rates by hierarchy

Of course, there is no fixed minimum amount for each level of recipient as it should be dependent on your financial situation and how much you feel you can afford. Rich folk are possibly giving out Ang Baos with thousands of dollars but we’ll focus on us regular Singaporeans here.

The following are approximations we gathered from speaking with seasoned couples with some years of hongbao giving under their belts, and in accordance with family hierarchy.

Something to note is that peers do not usually give hongbaos to each other, or rather it is less expected. So, if you meet an old classmate at a CNY gathering who isn’t married yet, it would not be weird if you did not give one to this person.

Is there an age limit to receiving hongbaos?

The tradition mostly points to the fact that once you are married, you do not receive hongbaos anymore and become the giver of them. Assuming you are not married, most people we spoke to believe that receiving hongbaos when you are in your late 30s becomes awkward and many will meet such kind gestures with “Wah, so old already – no need lah uncle / auntie”!

Giving hongbaos  to adults who are already earning a living on their own isn’t always necessary. However, you should ultimately go with giving according to your comfort level, and according to your family practices.

Should hongbaos be opened in public or in front of the giver?

Most will attest to having been scolded as young children for opening hongbaos in the living room for the world to see. It is made worse if the giver of the hongbao is in your presence. So, parents who have young children who receive hongbaos – a prior briefing about not opening it publicly is usually advised.

Where to get hongbao packets to use?

The trend seems to be towards giving hongbaos that are from banks, and better yet prominent banks in Singapore. This all sounds very flashy and materialistic, but hey we don’t make the rules, we just point them out. Some even say that it’s not just the bank but also the account level that is meant to send out a signal to gawking relatives. i.e. giving out hongbao packets that make it abundantly clear that you are some high level priority banking customer.

Honestly, don’t bother about these subtle nuances during your first few years of Chinese New Year giving. Call your bank and get them to send you red packets in the mail or drop by your nearest branch where you have an account and ask if you can get some. In most cases, they will be happy to oblige.

Alternatively, more and more companies are creating unique hongbao designs, so you might also get some from your neighbourhood petrol station or supermarket. If all else fails, you can brave the crowds and buy your own Ang Baos from stalls in Chinatown’s Festive Street Bazaar.

Here are some of the best red packet designs this CNY

  • Universal Studios Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa is selling these Minion red packets till the 15th day of the Lunar New Year (March 2), while stocks last. A packet of six costs $8.
  • Grab is handing out these specially-designed red packets to its drivers.
  • Marriott Tang Plaza is giving out these special red packets to its corporate customers and clients
  • Customers collecting and withdrawing new or good-as-new notes at all DBS branches will receive two sets of either DBS or POSB red packets. Red packets will also be given to customers at the new notes pop-up ATMs.
  • Customers collecting and withdrawing new or good-as-new notes at all POSB branches will receive two sets of either DBS or POSB red packets. Red packets will also be given to customers at the new notes pop-up ATMs.
  • Food Republic's red packets are designed by Hong Kong designer Ken Lo, and come in chili red, hot pink, and sunflower yellow. Spend a minimum of $15 at Food Republic with a maximum of 3 combined same-day receipts
  • UOB is giving out red packets for personal banking, corporate banking and private banking customers
  • Receive one Skechers Year of the Dog red packet with $80 nett purchase in-store. Applicable in all concept and outlet stores, while stocks last.
  • Join Pomelo Fashoin's CNY giveaway on Facebook for a chance to win a Pomelo outfit, exclusive red packets and SunnyHills hamper.
  • Spend $228 at Millenia Walk and get a set of 4 red packet designs and a mandarin orange carrier.
  • Red - or yelllow - packets from Honest Bee.
  • PS. Cafe and Chopsuey Cafe will be giving out these red packets to diners while stocks last
  • Visitors can redeem a pack of KidZania Singapore’s exclusive hongbaos with a minimal purchase of S$80 on tickets.
  • Recipients can scan a QR code on the back of the red packet by Schroders Singapore, which are primarily sent to partners and clients. The QR code will launch an online game, Run Puppy Run. The top ten scorers at the end of the Chinese New Year will each win for themselves a WowWee ChiP Robot Toy Dog.
  • Singtel features artist Goh Beng Kwan's The New Era in this year's red packet design. Customers who buy new mobile phones or recontract their mobile plans at any Singtel shop are entitled to two packets of the hongbaos.
  • MSIG customers will receive the red packets upon renewal or purchase of a policy.
  • Shoppers who are ION+ Rewards members or American Express Card members can redeem an exclusive set of red packets featuring oriental spring blooms and a mandarin orange carrier with a minimum spend of $80 in four same-day receipts. The 3D embroidered red packet and satin pouch is redeemable by ION PRIVI ELITE members only.
  • Le Meridien Singapore is giving out a complimentary Chinese New Year packet and mandarin orange carrier bag set for every dining reservation made for the Abundant Treasures Lunar New Year Buffet Dinner and Harmony, Joy Set Menus.
  • Enjoy Sushi Tei Lunar New Year Red Packets with purchase of any Sushi Tei Prosperity Yusheng and more.
  • StarHub
  • OCBC Bank
  • Mandarin Orchard is giving out 8 sets of these limited edition red packets on Facebook
  • NEX shopping mall ang pows feature the blooming of fresh cherry blossom buds and tiny hummingbirds, an imagery that is symbolic of hope and new beginnings. Spend $50 at NEX to redeem a six-piece set.
  • Complimentary red packets from Royal Plaza on Scotts will be available on the buffet counter during dinner.
  • Take part in the PUB Water Agency's snap & win contest on Facebook and stand a chance to win Water Wally red packets.
  • Raffles Hotel Singapore gave away 10 sets of limited edition red packets and greeting cards to lucky fans on Facebook
  • Pan Pacific Singapore's 2018 red packets are available to guests who dine-in at any of the hotel's restaurants from Jan 22 to March 2, or to those who book their Chinese New Year Eve Reunion Dinner Package on Feb 15 in the newly renovated Pacific Ballroom.
  • HSBC Premier CNY red packets are available to all its customers starting Feb 5 at all its branches, while the Jade by HSBC Premier red packets are only available to HSBC Jade customers through their relationship managers.
  • Changi Airport is giving out Sanrio-themed red packets this year. The ang pows are available in a set of eight, featuring Hello Kitty and her friends such as My Melody, Little Twin Stars and Gudetama. Spend a minimum of S$60 (S$80 for supermarket purchases) in a maximum of two same-day receipts in Changi Airport to redeem one set.
  • Mandarin Gallery will be giving away a set of limited edition festive red packets and a carrier bag when shoppers spend $488.
  • A pack of Goodwood Park Hotel ang pows will be given with every order of the CNY festive set menus at Min Jiang and Min Jiang at One-North for this period.
  • Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is selling two ang pow designs, available for purchase exclusively at SYSNMH at $3.90 for a packet of six. Red packets are available while stocks last.
  • Limited edition Din Tai Fung red packets. Customers receive complimentary New Year red packets (8 red packets per pack) with a minimum spend of $68.
  • McDonald's is giving away red packets designed with a fun play on Mandarin puns, with every purchase of the Prosperity Feast, while stocks last.
  • The red packets are available online at A pack of nine hongbao costs $8, and all proceeds go to Causes For Animals Singapore.
  • Bark A Tree and Hope For Animals: $4 for a pack of five red packets. Sold out at
  • The Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) is giving away a set of red packets, with two designs featuring artworks by local pioneering generation artists, including Chen Chong Swee and Lim Hak Tai. Members of the public can win a set of red packets by participating in the SCCC's Facebook and WeChat quizzes from Jan 31 till Feb 9.
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