Credit card users here own less plastic on average: Survey

The number of credit cards that an individual owns declined to an average of four last year, from five in the previous year, according to online personal finance portal MoneySmart.sg.

Its annual survey aims to better understand credit card usage and spending habits of local consumers. The online poll conducted in November last year surveyed 839 respondents between the ages of 21 and 39 who hold Singapore credit cards.

CONSUMERS AND CARD OWNERSHIP

Mr Vinod Nair, chief executive of MoneySmart.sg, said that less is more to consumers, a mindset that could have come about due to the onset of a soft economy and the Monetary Authority of Singapore's limit on unsecured borrowing. From June 1, unsecured debt cannot exceed 18 times a borrower's monthly pay, from 24 times now.

He said: "This will undoubtedly impose restrictions on the issuance of new credit cards, as well as prompt credit card owners to cancel under-utilised cards."

Respondents were polled on which card comes to mind immediately, otherwise known as top of mind recall. From top of mind recall and card ownership to preferred card providers, three banks stood out for consumers.

Leading the pack in unaided recall for credit cards was Citibank (36 per cent), followed by OCBC Bank (17 per cent) and DBS Bank/ POSB (11 per cent). Unsurprisingly, this high recall translated to more than half of respondents holding credit cards from them: OCBC (57 per cent), Citibank (55 per cent) and DBS/POSB (52 per cent).

OCBC maintained its leading position last year with 25 per cent of respondents naming it their favourite credit card provider. Citibank was next with 22 per cent, and DBS/POSB scored 14 per cent, the same positions they held in 2015.

American Express (Amex) received the largest spike, rising to 13 per cent from 7 per cent in 2015. The increase is attributed to Amex having the best customer service (4.6 on a scale of 5), the most exclusive deals and benefits (3.71) and being the best in ease of calculating and claiming benefits (4.4).

MANY BECOMING MORE DISCERNING

Consumers appear to be more discerning about the plastic they own and the benefits.

The survey found that card users increasingly conduct online research (77 per cent last year compared with 72 per cent in 2015), before they apply. Credit card comparison sites (3.9 on a scale of 5) are also pulling ahead of friends' recommendations (3.8) in terms of influence.

In addition, online applications have grown steadily since 2014 and are now significantly more common than roadshow booth applications.

About 52 per cent of respondents applied for their credit cards online, compared with 26 per cent at roadshow booths.

Mr Nair said: "Credit card comparison on MoneySmart.sg has grown 64 per cent year on year from 2015.

With high connectivity in Singapore, consumers have access to online information and also enjoy the convenience of applying online instead of manually at a roadshow or bank branch.

"More importantly, consumers are more empowered to make informed decisions with comparison sites that show them the best cards that are out there - an experience that's difficult to replicate at bank roadshows because those are usually biased towards a single brand."

A LOOK AT WHERE THE MONEY GOES TO

The survey results indicate that 32 per cent of respondents spent the most money on their credit cards for travel expenditure, followed by dining at 18 per cent.

Yet, the cashback category was the most preferred credit card benefit, cited by 71 per cent of respondents, as opposed to air miles, which garnered only 20 per cent.

Mr Nair noted that cashback cards provide instant gratification with redemption perks, but allow consumers to benefit from their highest expenditure item - for example, discounts and cashback on flight and hotel bookings.

"Hence, even though consumers use their cards mostly for travel, it isn't as worthwhile to charge this spend to air miles cards," he said.

Overall, the survey indicated that consumers are becoming wiser and more educated in their selection of credit cards that best suit their lifestyle needs and spending habits.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'Credit card users here own less plastic on average: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe