I’ll be honest with you — Malaysian credit card privileges suck right now.
They’re a far cry from the glory years of 2013 – 2014, when banks were handing out credit card benefits like free popcorn samples.
While I don’t know for sure, rumor has it that Bank Negara (BNM) has asked banks to be stricter about issuing credit cards (which is probably a good thing). But worse for kiasu people like me — apparently BNM has also asked the banks to reduce existing credit card benefits.
While I applaud them for trying to tackle Malaysian household debt, it’s now become harder to save money using credit cards. But you know me — I always try.
For lean times like these, here are strategies on how to still optimize your credit cards.
1. Look for Free-for-Life Cards
Sorry to keep talking about the glory years of 2013 – 2014. But back then, nobody had to pay annual fees.
Bank didn’t want to waive your annual fee? No problem — you just needed to ask to cancel the card; and most times they’d immediately waive the fees.
Times have changed.
I can’t claim to speak for all banks, but I recently had to cancel my Maybank Visa Signature because I couldn’t afford the annual fee anymore. I wasn’t even able to negotiate a waiver for one year. Even ultimate Credit Card Jedi Master GenX was recently denied an annual fee waiver.
I think it’s a sign of the times — banks are being stingy with their waivers.
Which tells me that your and my focus should now be on “free-for-life” credit cards. That way, you don’t have to worry about begging for annual fee waivers every year.
Recommendation: Maybank 2 Cards
While the Maybank 2 Cards aren’t the undisputed king of credit cards in Malaysia anymore, I still think they’re a must-have. The American Express gives you 5% cashback on weekend dining and 5x points on most transactions. Which is basically a 1.25% rebate.
And the minimum income requirement is low for such great cards: just RM 2,500.
Unbeatable, if compared to all other free-for-life cards.
2. Have Cards for Different Categories
We used to have supercards. Like the Maybank 2 AMEX which used to give you 5% cashback + 5x points on everything. But then credit card Armageddon came; and took our super privileges away.
Nowadays, if you really want to save money via credit cards, you can’t rely on just one “best” card anymore.
Instead, look at where you’re spending most of your money, and consider getting a cashback card for those categories.
For petrol and groceries (the bulk of my spending aside from dining), I used to adore the Maybank Visa Signature’s 5% cashback. Like I mentioned above, I can’t afford the annual fee anymore. So I recently applied for the Maybank Islamic MasterCard Ikhwan instead. Which is the best alternative I could find: 5% cashback on petrol and groceries — on Fridays and Saturdays.
For Petrol & Groceries: Maybank Islamic MasterCard Ikhwan
Benefits as above, plus the bank will donate money to charity based on your spending on the Maybank Islamic MasterCard Ikhwan. And it’s free for life!
For Groceries, Dining & Online Transactions: Public Bank Visa Signature
This card has an outstanding 6% cashback on groceries, dining and online transactions — every single day. Well done, Public Bank — you’re certainly improving.
The only thing stopping me from getting this card is the RM 411.28 annual fee. Which is waived if you use the card at least 12 times a year. But hey, sometimes I get lazy keeping track of so many terms and conditions. (More on that later…)
The cashback is capped at RM 50 per month. But the great thing about this card is they don’t combine the cap between primary and supplementary cards. So you can have up to RM 50 cashback on your primary plus more cashback on your supplementary cards.
If You’re Really Kiasu: Hong Leong Wise Gold Card
I like the idea behind the Hong Leong WISE Card: 10% cashback on 2 of your chosen categories (e.g. Utilities, Petrol, Entertainment + 1 mandatory category: Mobile). I hate the implementation: you need to swipe your card at least 10 times (amount > RM 50) a month to eligible.
I know the bank wants to encourage spending, but I don’t think anyone has time to track transactions like that. If you’d like to prove me wrong though…
Update 18th September 2016: Hong Leong Bank has revised their terms and conditions for the WISE Card. There’s no more need to swipe 10 times a month, but you need minimum spending of RM 2,000 per month to be eligible for cash back. 🙁
3. LOOK FOR SIMPLICITY
Banks have a habit of making statements like “Up to 8% cashback everyday!” But when you look at the fine print, you realize that it’s only 8% cashback if you spend a lot of money (e.g. > RM 2,000 per month). And it’s only applicable at xxx mall, and only on the first weekend of the month.
8% may be a pretty good discount, but like I said above, ain’t nobody got time for burdensome terms and conditions. I suspect most people just get pulled in by marketing promises, but don’t get anywhere near to maximum benefit.
(Who the hell spends more than RM 2,000 per month on their cards anyway?)
Instead, here’s what I suggest: go for the simplest, most uncomplicated card that you can find — which still serves your purpose. That way, you fully understand the privileges you’re getting, and can maximize the benefits. Of course, all banks have their own terms and conditions. But you’ll save yourself a lot of gray hairs if you choose one that’s reasonable.
Recommendation: Ambank Visa Infinite / World Mastercard
Most banks recently reduced their airport lounge privileges; but AmBank improved theirs. The AmBank Visa Infinite and World MasterCard now allow unlimited lounge access to Plaza Premium lounges in over 26 airports (till 31st December 2016). No conditions.
You also get 5x points on all transactions outside Malaysia, excluding online transactions. Apart from that, again — no conditions.
But even if AmBank reimposes difficult terms and conditions, pulls back all privileges, or downgrades them — you can still keep these cards forever without worry. Why? Because they’re free for life.
See what I said about simplicity?
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While it’s a lot harder than it used to be, hopefully the above has given you some ideas to save your hard-earned money in difficult times.
Let’s hope the winds of change blow again soon, and banks start re-introducing better privileges. Till then, let’s hang on tight, and keep adapting our strategies to the market. And stay on the lookout for better cards and even better strategies.
I’ll let you know if I find any.
Originally published at mr-stingy’s column on iMoney.
This article contains affiliate links; if you get a card through them — I’ll get a small fee to support my website. But absolutely no additional cost to you.
Pic from Pexels.
Waiting for 2017 Credit Cards Review! Wanting to see if Ambank (or any other banks) provide airport lounge access still 🙂
Yeah man… I shall get to it… (eventually)…
Hello En Kedekut.
Maybank Ikhwan Petronas had revised their new improved 8% rebates for weekends since 1 Nov 2016. So more jimat after the recent fuel price hike. But no more points lah 🙂
Wow that’s a super super super good promotion. 8% is WAYYYY better than 8x points. Thanks for letting me know. Now I have to figure out how to get hold of one…
Hi Mr. Stingy, would you recommend a card that have cash rebate on Google Adsense/FB advertising spending? Tried few cards and noticed these are not considered online spending = =|||
What are the cards you have tried? It would really depend on the merchant code that Google Adsense/FB uses. Sorry I can’t really help as I’m not very familiar with it myself. Perhaps go for a blanket cashback card if none of the “online cashback” cards work?
Or perhaps this is something to speak to the credit card companies about — if their terms and conditions weren’t spelled out properly — you might have grounds to ask them to give you the cash rebate anyway.
Hi Mr Stingy,
A little correction on what you said up there. Wise Gold gives cashback for 3 spending categories but we only get to choose 2. The other one, which is for mobile phone payments, is fixed by the bank for everyone. (I worked with the bank and I myself am getting RM100 cashback every month. I think for that easy RM1200 per year it’s worth my time to do a little homework)
Thanks for your very helpful comment. I’ll amend the article above. Thanks again!
I just read in HL website mentioning “…make a minimum of RM2,000 posted retail spend in a calendar month…” in order to enjoy 10% rebate on 2 selected categories, so I must have spent RM2k before I could enjoy the rebate? Did not found any details about swipes 10x to qualify as mentioned. Appreciate your advice.
The 10x (minimum RM 50) swipes was the old requirement. Hong Leong Bank recently updated their terms and conditions to make it harder now — RM 2,000 minimum spend. Sad to hear, but I’ve just updated the article too.
Public Bank sure RM50 each for principal and supplementary because I only got the max RM50 for both cards. Pls confirm .
Have just confirmed with my friend that this is correct. He got more than RM 50 cash back from his card + a supplementary card — and also confirmed it with Public Bank customer service. Perhaps you can call them and find out why you haven’t been getting it?
Thanks for sharing, am going to get the Public Bank card for online transaction.
For me it’s definitely the Wise Card – tracking 10 transaction is simple. Petrol at RM50 each time and break spending into RM50+ bills. Using IFTTT as counter. Other cards that I like: UOB ladies card for 10% groceries. Maybank Amex Reserve for 50% Shangri-la Dining.
On a side note:Benefits aside we can consider customer service quality. I have deal with banks that service center seems non-existence or too busy. Just last month, I need to make ~10+ calls over 2 days (including 9pm, 12am, 7am…) just to get connected to the UOB customer service. Imagine if one lost the card.
Appreciate your comment here. And customer service quality is a huge factor. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t include certain credit cards (foreign banks) that I’ve had bad experiences with. For what it’s worth, Maybank customer service quality used to be top-notch, but I’ve found that their standards have recently slipped. 🙁
What?! Did you just called me kiasu? Lol
In all fairness, once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy to track, split your utilities and mobile bills and you would reach 10 transactions in no time, and petrol too
It’s a good card with extra 30% cash back promotion for weekend with some T&Cs
Even more kiasu would be getting cash back on your insurance premiums paid – most banks give none/minimal points for that. Just started with Alliance’s younique as recommended by genxyz
I guess I just did 😉
Okay, so maybe I’m projecting my own disdain for terms and conditions on everyone else. Just a fan of simplicity, can’t help it!
p.s. thanks for the helpful comment!
I know what you mean by simplicity
Now I have to call ‘the world’s local bank’ chasing for my Agoda 5 times points as promised. Well, unfortunately for them, I would painstakingly read the terms and conditions and reconcile the bonus points granted. This is not the first time they do not deliver what they promised in the T&Cs, not to mention how sneaky the T&C is…. seriously time to consider giving up this card. The effort is not worth the little extra airmiles I can get
Yeah, I haven’t had good experiences with the world’s local bank either… Like not very sincere one they all…
While I love the Maybank 2 Cards I had to change it to the Maybank Islamic Visa Ikhwan. I must ask am I missing out if I don’t change it to Mastercard’s version? (I prefer to have only 1 card). Appreciate the help.
2 different approaches really. The Maybank Islamic Visa Ikhwan gives rewards in terms of points: 8x points on weekends and 5x points on weekdays for petrol. 8x points on weekends is actually equivalent to about 2% cashback i.e. You need to spend RM 2500 to get 20,000 points to get RM50 PETRONAS fuel voucher.
The MasterCard on the other hand gives rewards in terms of cashback: 5% on petrol and groceries on Fridays and Saturdays.
So in that sense, if you can limit your spending to just Fridays and Saturdays, the MasterCard is clearly better.
And the 5% cashback is up to only RM 50/month right? Whereas the points (by Visa Ikhwan) is uncapped?
Also groceries on a Sat will have no plastic bag (don’t curse me mother nature).
The umrah/holiday package seems nice though.
Yup, the 5% cashback is capped at RM 50 / month, but the points are uncapped. I guess if one really wants to be kiasu, can use up the cashback till the cap — then switch to the other card for points 😉
I use this strategy so I guess I’m kiasu too!
I expect you to be kiasu 😉