Credit card issuers dangle more carrots to win customers

(From left) Mr Wilson Tan, CapitaLand Mall Trust Management CEO; Mr Jason Leow, CapitaLand Mall Asia CEO; Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and group CEO of CapitaLand; Ms Melanie Cochrane, senior vice-president and general manager of Japa, Global Merchant Servi
(From left) Mr Wilson Tan, CapitaLand Mall Trust Management CEO; Mr Jason Leow, CapitaLand Mall Asia CEO; Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and group CEO of CapitaLand; Ms Melanie Cochrane, senior vice-president and general manager of Japa, Global Merchant Services, Amex; Mr Cheng Heng Chew, country manager, Singapore, Amex; and Mr Ho Yat Wai, head of Consumer Cards, Singapore, Amex, at the Amex CapitaCard launch. PHOTO: CAPITALAND AND AMERICAN EXPRESS

Credit card issuers are stepping up their efforts to win the consumer's dollar with a range of new offers hitting an already intensely competitive market.

American Express (Amex) and CapitaLand Mall Asia - the shopping mall business of developer CapitaLand - announced a new co-brand card yesterday, the same day DBS Bank released a new version of its Insignia Visa Infinite card for the well-heeled.

United Overseas Bank (UOB) also recently revamped its suite of cards catering to women.

Besides more perks, the bank introduced a new UOB Lady's debit card on June 29.

And in early May, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Amex updated their co-branded credit cards, with faster ways to earn and redeem KrisFlyer - SIA's frequent flier programme - rewards.

Amex Singapore country manager Cheng Heng Chew told The Straits Times: "As a market, Singapore is not huge, let's be honest. We've 5.5 million people and a certain number of billings.

"But there are more than 10 active issuers in the market, and technological developments have changed the environment.

"The needs and expectations of consumers today are very different. There's no question that competition is intense."

CapitaLand Mall Asia chief executive Jason Leow said the rewards programme has 2.8 million members across Asia, including about 800,000 in Singapore, and this "will also broaden American Express' reach in Singapore".

This is also part of the reason why Amex, known to be the choice of the ultra-wealthy with its black card, is broadening its product range to target a wider group of consumers.

Its American Express CapitaCard is an attempt to drive shopper traffic, increase sales and encourage repeat spending at 15 CapitaLand malls, with more than 2,000 retailers.

CapitaCard members get to earn more points with CapitaLand's rewards programme, which can be used to redeem shopping vouchers, for instance.

CapitaLand Mall Asia chief executive Jason Leow said the rewards programme has 2.8 million shoppers across Asia, including about 800,000 in Singapore, and this "will also broaden American Express' reach in Singapore".

Mr Cheng said the operator's core focus has long been the affluent segment but it is important for the firm to have a broader reach.

"We want to play a role at every point in the payment chain or cycle. If that means we have to target a broader segment, we're happy to do so," he added.

On the other hand, DBS is strengthening its reach in the affluent segment.

Its DBS Insignia Visa Infinite Card now comes in metal, and can make contactless payments via Visa's payWave system.

Ms Ooi Huey Tyng, Visa country manager for Singapore and Brunei, noted that one-third of Visa's affluent cardholders are frequent contactless users, with 25 per cent of Visa payWave transactions made by them.

She added that the number of affluent Visa payWave users has grown almost 90 per cent year on year.

The DBS Insignia Card, which is available by invitation only, has also been revamped with more privileges and benefits, with a focus on travel.

New cardmembers get 100,000 welcome air miles, for instance, and the card lets holders earn two miles for every $1 spent overseas and 1.6 miles for every $1 spent here.

Mr Anthony Seow, head of cards and unsecured loans at DBS Bank, added that the new metal card "is also the latest in our drive to help transform Singapore into a truly cashless society".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Credit card issuers dangle more carrots to win customers'. Print Edition | Subscribe