How I earned S$1,675 in cash and cashback by signing up for credit cards

How I earned S$1,675 in cash and cashback by signing up for credit cards
Photo by Avery Evans / Unsplash

Over the last few months, I've been opening and getting the welcome reward for quite a few different credit cards. Here's why and how I did it, if you want to do the same. I'm now just waiting for the money to be credited to my respective accounts.

Why churn?

I had a few reasons for choosing to churn, most of them related to my personal circumstances. These include:

  1. There was a big family trip coming up where we would collectively spend more than $6,000 dollars in about a month; ordinary cards would not give much rewards past $1,000 or so.
  2. I have only 1-2 credit cards before this, and it wasn't giving very good rewards. I have not opened many other bank accounts either; I was a "fresh slate" for most banks so to speak.
  3. I wanted to get new credit cards - I don't intend on closing many of the ones I signed up for.
  4. I know I will not be taking out big loans in the next one or two years at least, so I'm not too concerned about my credit score.
  5. The welcome promotions were pretty good when I looked through them.
  6. If I open many cards at once, my credit score taken by each card is still the one from before I applied for any of these cards, so it reduces the likelihood of being rejected by them.

Pitfalls

I'd like to cover this first so that you know what you're getting into right from the start.

  1. Be careful of the deadlines for payments and any fees associated with credit cards.
  2. Your credit score will be impacted by opening so many credit cards so quickly.
  3. Sometimes banks use tricky wording - there is a difference between the application date and approval date.
  4. It takes some time to get used to all of this and figure out the details. I spent a few hours calling banks and reading terms and conditions of different credit cards.
  5. The reward may take a few months to credit into your account. So far, I've only actually received two of the rewards (totalling $400). The rest are coming between January to March. I applied for my cards in November and spent/am spending them now.
  6. Some credit cards can be a pain to deal with. I'm not sure what's happened, but I had a lot of trouble with CIMB - the card arrived later than usual, and after a month of having the card, I finally have access to internet banking. Experiences with other banks were much smoother.

Which cards should you sign up for?

Which card you get depends on your personal circumstances. I considered a few things:

  1. What is the reward/spend ratio? For example, spending $500 to get $300 cash has a good ratio of 60%.
  2. During ordinary usage after the promotion period, will I be able to hit the rewards? I looked for cards from each bank that didn't have much requirements for minimum spending.
  3. When is the deadline for the promotion? If this promotion is ongoing and not time-limited, then I can take my time to apply for it. Though as long as I could get it before the big trip, then I'm good.
  4. What is the foreign transaction fee? This was important because I was spending mostly overseas. This would reduce the rate of return for opening a new card. If a card gave me 3% welcome cashback but the foreign transaction fee is 3.2%, then there's not much point in using that card. I'd rather use a card that has no transaction fee instead.

Steps

  1. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of all the details.
  2. List down the extra spending you would be doing, and make sure that this extra spend can fulfill all the welcome promotions that you'd be aiming for, including spending deadlines.
  3. Take note of transaction exclusions for every card, by reading the terms and conditions.
  4. Take note of deadlines for receiving rewards and deadlines for spending - for the Standard Chartered Smart Credit Card, I have to spend the reward within 3 months of receiving it. For others the deadline is more like 2 years or so.
  5. If you plan on cancelling, take note of how long you must hold the card for. The period may be as short as 3 months and up to 12 months.
  6. Take note of fees - annual fees, foreign transaction fee and dormancy fees being the big ones.
  7. Look for rewards for signing up. I compared SingSaver rewards with rewards from the bank themselves; sometimes, the reward from the bank itself made more sense to me. The bank rewards may have lower spend requirements - or none! - and tend to credit the rewards faster. You can also consider MoneySmart for other reward offers.
  8. Compare rewards - usually the same banks will have the same sign up offer across a few different cards. You should think about which ones you would use long-term. I prioritised cards with a lower/no spending requirement and no yearly fees, since I don't spend much normally.
  9. Keep track of your expenses on each card, and stop spending once you've hit the limit for each card.
  10. Let the bill accumulate, then pay your credit card bills after your spend is available via a monthly statement.

Paying the bill

I was actually a bit confused on how to pay the bill. Turns out you could do it via e-AXS and simply indicate the amount of money to pay and the credit card number.

I also used DBS to pay my cards (under "Pay Bills") because it was easy to add my cards and save the info, so I don't have to type the card details every time.

It may be good to wait until 3-5 days before the due date to pay, instead of paying straight away. This is because in one of the cards I signed up for (Maybank), the welcome gift paid for a part of my statement. It arrived after my statement was issued but before the deadline for payment. I was impressed because most other banks require you to wait and will only reward cashback to be used for future transactions, after you've paid off your existing statement. Also, it avoids disputes by showing clearly that you've met the required amount of spending for the card. Don't pay the bill too early!

Cards I signed up for

  1. Standard Chartered Smart Credit Card (I get cashback if you sign up here) - $300 cash credit upon sign up, no minimum spend. However, you must spend the $300 within 3 months.
  2. Citibank Cashback+ Card - For a brief moment, the promotion for this card went up to $400 cash via PayNow, so you may want to wait for that again before signing up.
  3. Maybank Platinum Visa Card -  Lowest minimum spend of the group, and they count transactions like donations, insurance and hospitals too.

Subscribe to see the other cards I've signed up for in this post.