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Battle for bank deposits heats up as rates set to rise

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 28, 2014

Banks in Singapore are competing fiercely for depositors, as the era of unusually low interest rates draws to a close.

As the United States scales back its huge money printing programme, interest rates around the globe are on the way up. And that means banks are eager to lock in deposits ahead of this expected higher cost of borrowing funds.

To that end, lenders here are spreading some festive spirit offering freebies such as gold-plated horse figurines and New Moon abalone gift sets to attract deposits.

Mr Ling Seng Chuan, head of deposits at OCBC Bank, said: "The competition for deposits is keener especially during the Chinese New Year festive period, thus the current promotional rates are higher than before."

The OCBC Bonus+ Savings account offers up to 1.8 per cent with a deposit of $10,000, up from 1.18 per cent before.

DBS Bank is offering up to 2.014 per cent a year for its eMySavings Account 2014.

Ms Tok Geok Peng, senior vice-president for consumer deposits at DBS Bank, said savers will get interest of 1.764 per cent a year on the incremental average daily balance, in addition to 0.25 per cent on the entire balance.

"For someone who saves $1,000 each month with eMSA 2014, the interest he would gain at the end of 12 months could be as much as 10 times that of a regular savings account."

On the time deposit front, Maybank offers up to 1.18 per cent for deposits of at least $60,000, depending on the period.

For more rewards, ANZ Singapore is also offering cash credits with its ANZ Abundance Bundle, for customers who take up a regular savings account together with a time deposit.

Customers can redeem cans of New Moon abalone or a gift set, with 1.1 per cent on deposits of at least $50,000 for CIMB's 12-month fixed deposit account.

Standard Chartered Bank is offering Year of the Horse medallions with its seven-month time deposit at 1 per cent a year.

Mr Dwaipayan Sadhu, head of consumer transaction banking, mortgage and auto loans at StanChart, said this has been a practice for the past few years. "More than just an interest rate, we believe the offer captures the spirit of the season and appeals to customers at this festive period."

United Overseas Bank was giving away gold-plated horse figurines each worth $238, for Passbook Savings and Uniplus accounts opened with fresh funds of $88,000. They have been fully redeemed.

Ms Gemma Tay, UOB executive director of deposits, investments and insurance, said: "We usually see two types of customers - the ones who park their extra cash for a short period of time before investing in something else or those who make use of fixed deposits to earn interest on their extra cash."

She added that the range of promotional interest rates offered for selected products such as the Singapore dollar time deposits, savings accounts and foreign currency time deposits, mainly drive deposits growth in Singapore.

Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho said: "This clearly shows that rates are gradually being pushed higher and they are following the US 10-year yield."

Banks such as the Bank of China offering up to 3 per cent a year for a 12-month yuan time deposit have also added another dimension of competition, he said.

"I'm not surprised that local deposits are rising slightly faster, because of this dimension of competition from yuan deposits and the rising transformation from the long end of the US rates, which is the quantitative easing (money printing) tapering effect."

rachaelb@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 28, 2014

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