How Credit Cards Throw Free Money at You!

How Credit Cards Throw Free Money at You!

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It’s true. I’ve had so much savings with credit cards in direct and indirect ways, I just love ’em! I wasn’t part of this game before. I recall Mr.C telling me about 5 years ago to sign up for a particular credit card and get a free cabin-sized luggage. I asked him – “Why? We already have one (which he got from signing up for said credit card)).” Mr.C didn’t invest much in convincing me.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve become a lil’ more savvy in this aspect. Before I get into the meat of this post, i.e. the actual savings and perks we have generated from our wallet sized plastic besties here, there are a couple of rules we live by:

  1. We always pay our credit cards in full every month. We have, not once, incurred late charge fees and actually paid it. The times we have incurred it was merely an oversight to make payment on the due date. Nothing a quick call to the service center did not fix.
  2. We only spend on spend that we would have anyway. Some credit cards require you to do a minimum spend of x amount (say $3,000 or $10,000 or even just 3 transactions) before redeeming the perk. We would plan our purchases accordingly to meet that minimum spend and not once have we purchased something we wouldn’t have otherwise for the sole purpose of meeting that spend. We do not spend to save.

Righty then, I thought we had a longer list of rules. Seems like there’s just 2 golden rules – all the better! On to the exciting bit!

Credit CardValue GainedTotal
K’s Credit Cards
OCBC Titanium- $10 NamNam Noodle Bar voucher (Dining)
- $25 cash rebates (Cash Savings)
- $40 Fairprice voucher (Grocery)
- $60 Charles & Keith voucher (Shopping)
- $30 Esso voucher (Fuel)
- $32 Night Safari Ticket (Entertainment)
CIMB- Luggage worth $148 (this is probably not true judging from the luggage I actually received!). I sold the luggage for $10, a quick sale just to move it as I didn’t think it was worth much.
- Cash Rebate: $30 cash rebate offered with 3 transactions when I called to cancel the card. Sure.
AMEX Krisflyer Ascend- Airport Lounge Access for 2 years (AMEX stopped giving it out if you didn’t pay the annual fee). Mostly used in Singapore which would have cost us $58 for 5 hours of access each time if we paid for it.
- $464 2 free nights of Millennium & Copthorne hotel stays at Penang. Cheapest rates as of today is $84 per night. Our value = $168
- At least 14,805 Krisflyer miles. I have the statements for the past 2 years however from the email balances I can tell how the miles grew. There are months where there were actual flights miles included so I did not count those months spend that resulted in miles. So this is an understated amount. Value of miles are roughly 2 cents per mile = $296
HSBC Visa PlatinumA Samsonite 75cm Luggage worth $529 $20 cash rebate 4 movie vouchers at about $12 each with a supplementary card. I got my brother a supplementary card and never passed it to him because I’m smarter than the average bear! I did split the movie tickets with him though for his “trouble”.597
ANZ Visa Travel SignatureEarn 7,500 Krisflyer miles by spending S$3,000 within 2 months. Value based on 2 cents a mile = $150 28" luggage bag. I sold it for $60 just to move it quickly. It didn’t have a brand on it so I didn’t think it would fetch anything higher. By concentrating my spend on this card for 10 months, I accumulated 50,000 points which I redeemed for 25,000 Krisflyer miles. Conversion charge = $25. Total value (25,000 x $0.02 - $25) = $475 $100 cash rebate. There was a promotion for 1 month - $10 cash rebate for every $200 spent, capped at $100 per person. Somehow I maxed it out unknowingly! This was luck perhaps, I had a ton of medical bills that month, partly reimbursable and partly not. Again, it was spend I would have done anyway. $25 cash rebates over 2 months on normal spend.810
DBS Visa Altitude$20 cash rebate20
Diners Secret Recipe Card$30 Secret Recipe Voucher 1 Free Umbrella 1 Free Power Bank 1 airport lounge access per year (let’s go with the value at HK Airport, which is where I used it) Value = $74104
UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard12,000 Krisflyer miles @ $0.02 per mile = $240240
Total for K2,936
Mr.C’s Credit Cards
AMEX SIA Krisflyer25,000 Krisflyer miles500
AMEX Krisflyer Ascend5,000 Krisflyer miles - signup bonus. At $0.02 p/mile that’s worth $100 2,500 Krisflyer miles - online sign up bonus. Worth $50. 1 free night of Millennium & Copthorne hotel. Again, we used this in Penang so our value is $84. 4 Airport Lounge Access. Used in SG Changi airport, Our value = $58 x 4 = $232466
Citibank Credit CardCabin sized luggage bag.80
HSBC Revolution CardAmerican Tourister 75cm Luggage worth $5xx. $20 cash rebate $70 Starbucks card Redeemed $20 Dairy Farm Voucher from the points410
ANZ Travel Signature28” luggage bag which I sold for $60, was unbranded as mine was as well 2,000 Krisflyer miles @ $0.02 p/mile = $40 1 Free Airport Limo Transfer. A cab would have cost us $30 to head to the airport. 1 Lounge Pass, taking SG Changi’s lounge pass cost as an approximate value at $58. Redeemed point for 30,000 miles, estimated value at $0.02 = $600788
Diners Club - Secret Recipe Card / Normal Card$30 Secret Recipe Voucher 1 Free Umbrella 1 Free Power Bank 1 airport lounge access per year (yet to be used to we’ll use SG’s Changi Lounge cost) = $5888
UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard12,000 Krisflyer miles @ $0.02 per mile = $240240
DBS Visa Altitude$20 cash rebate20
Total for Mr.C2,492

Well there you go, our under-stated benefits from doing absolutely nothing more than focusing and planning our spend on where we get most value out of cards. It helps to have websites such as MoneySmartSG clearly detailing out the perks of each card. It is one of our favourite past-times, to check what’s the latest card available and if there’s a great deal on sign up.

This is also the first time I actually put it all together to see the actual value we have reaped. I must say, it makes me very happy! I shared with Mr.C as well and the feeling is mutual, unsurprisingly!

Some notes on the cards:

  1. There were some cards I got before I had my credit card game on. I was oblivious to the free money on the table and took no effort to make any of the minimum spend and maximize the points. OCBC Titanium is a prime example, it was my primary card for 4 years.
  2. AMEX was my favourite card, second only to ANZ. Such amazing customer service, through the years! [You can get 1,500 Krisflyer miles simply by spending $50 within your first 3 months of membership using this link – Free 1,500 points. I earn 2,000 miles for the referral, for which I thank you in advance!] I had all my spend on this card after discovering it!
    1. Now we would never have spent $58 on airport lounge passes, ever, if we had to pay for it ourselves. Not a perk we need but a perk we enjoyed thoroughly.
    2. On the hotel, there’s actually a wider choice of M&C hotels worldwide for us to choose from. However we live by Rule #2. We only redeemed it in Penang during our trips back to Penang to visit my folks.
    3. On the miles, while the value doesn’t come up to much however the redemption of those miles are much more interesting. There was a recent promotion in June/July 2017 which saw a roundtrip from Singapore – Siem Reap (Cambodia) was 12,500 miles per person. Typically roundtrip flights to Siem Reap on budget airlines would have been SGD400+ per person, on SIA / SilkAir that would be on the higher end of $600. We actually did book these flights for the 3 of us, but an unexpected complication with my pregnancy saw us cancelling the trip (full refund, thanks SQ!)
  3. Sometimes when a promotion is so popular, we stand to gain as well. For the HSBC card, the luggage bags were sold out when Mr.C went to collect his. He was given the option of redeeming a lower value luggage bag (maybe in the region of $300 retail price) with a $70 Starbucks card. Deal. We passed the luggage bag to Mr.C’s parents and consumed lots of Starbucks (something we would never have usually paid for).
  4. For my HSBC luggage, I had fully intended to sell the luggage bag as soon as I got it for anything between $150 – $200. However when I laid my eyes on such a beauty, I knew I couldn’t part with it. She was a gorgeous golden bag and oh so smooth. We only had 1 other big luggage bag so we figured we’d keep this amazingly free Samsonite. Why did we ever buy a luggage bag before, we’ve no clue!
  5. Looking back at the SMS’s from ANZ, there was lots of promotions I could have capitalised on whilst having the card similar to the $100 cash rebate that I received. I didn’t always read these text messages 😀 I loved ANZ. However as of August 2017, ANZ sold its retail business to DBS so the card has been terminated and transferred over to DBS. Will DBS live up to the dream? Remains to be seen!
  6. Some cards you apply on a whim as you happened to pass by the card promoter – like the Diners Card Secret Recipe. No serious planning, figured why not have a $30 meal! The airport lounge access came in really handy though, I had this monstrous journey to make to LA a few months ago when I was 3 months pregnant. During my 4 hour layover at HK, I rested at the lounge and had some delish hot meals whilst watching some TV series.

Can we sustain this level of spending to benefit from the perks once we are both FIRE? Trick question, Rule #2! We spend on what we spend and maximize the best we can. Although I must say that again, the kind of spend we have had is mostly spend we would have had anyway – medical bills, flight tickets, insurance premiums make up the bulk of it. We gained close to $5,000 in credit card value by mostly timing our spend – here’s our tricks.

What’s been your favourite credit card freebie?

Author: Ms.K

Ms.K is everything that Mr.C is, without the natural interest in investing and company financials! The activity planner for the family, the driver of random ideas and soon to be ‘retiring’ in to full time motherhood – Ms.K has no idea what she’s in for but remains super excited!

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