This is FREE Personal Finance Express Tuition for all credit card users, not necessary for newbies only but for Malaysians (contents applicable for worldwide too except for benefits that comes with cards issued by Malaysian banks).
LESSON NO.1 – What credit card to choose?
1. Get FREE FOR LIFE credit card without any condition.
I’m sure many of you have been approached by representatives of banks enticing you to sign up for a Free Annual Fee credit card only to find out later that you have been misled when you are later imposed annual fee for the second year because (1) you failed to swipe a minimum of 1 time per month or (2) you failed to swipe 6 or 12 times a year or (3) you failed to spend X amount per year.
Therefore, to avoid being charged unnecessary credit card annual fees (or the need for you to beg for annual fee waiver), it is IMPERATIVE that you sign up for a credit card that is truly FREE FOR LIFE WITHOUT ANY CONDITIONS.
The major advantage of FREE FOR LIFE without any condition is that you won’t be penalized a sen in the event you don’t even use your credit card in a particular year. It is great for those who may be assigned overseas for a few years and/or near retirement (once you retire, it is very hard to get a credit card if you do not have a steady source of income).
2. What FREE FOR LIFE without any conditions credit card to get in 2017?
Many of us Malaysians are really lucky because we are eligible for FREE FOR LIFE credit cards that actually give us back FREE Money when we use them for our essential expenses. The credit cards I would recommend are:
(I) Maybank 2 Gold Cards – MasterCard or Visa plus American Express.
a) The Visa or MasterCard that comes with this combo is nothing great and you can actually keep it in your drawer (don’t even activate it if you don’t need it).
b) The STAR of this combo is the American Express credit card where you can earn 5% cash back (maximum cash back RM50/month) for any transactions on Saturdays and Sundays PLUS 5X Treats Points everyday except for transactions related to Education, Insurance and Government Agencies.
What the above means is that you can earn 5X Treats Points and up to RM600/year in cash back with the Maybank 2 Gold/Platinum Cards AMEX from your essential expenses, i.e. Petrol, Groceries, Makan (e.g. Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Sushi Zanmai, etc), electrical equipment & electronic gadgets (Harvey Norman, EpiCentre, Courts, AEON, Best Denki, All IT, etc) and even underwear at AEON or other department stores.
c) The Maybank 2 Cards AMEX with 5X Treats Points is also excellent for collecting Airmiles. If you refer to the image above, for every RM1.484 spent with the Maybank 2 Cards American Express, you can earn 1 AirAsia Big Point which no other credit card can beat!!!
d) Maybank is the only bank in Malaysia that provides TOLL FREE Customer Service for their Entry Level Gold credit cards. And I can tell you, Maybank Credit Card customer service is second to none where your calls will be answered by a human being within minutes.
(II) Public Bank Quantum MasterCard and Visa.
a) Apply for both the Public Bank Visa and MasterCard Quantum credit cards because each card has different benefits.
b) The Quantum Visa earns you 5% cash back for Entertainment and Department Stores capped at RM30 per month.
c) The Quantum MasterCard earns you 5% cash back for Online and Dining capped at RM30 per month.
d) However, I have to point out that Public Bank Customer Service for their entry level credit cards may disappoint you if you have been spoiled by the excellent customer service provided by Maybank.
If you are new to credit cards, i would recommend that you apply for the Maybank 2 Gold Cards (Gold or Platinum) and Public Bank Quantum cards. By combining the cash back, you are entitled to up to RM110 per month FREE Money. And if both you and your spouse sign up for Principal cards, the cash back per month doubles to RM220.
LESSON No.2 – What is the first thing you must do once you get a credit card and what you need to remember throughout your lifetime.
In the previous lesson, I have recommended that you apply for the FREE FOR LIFE Maybank 2 Cards (MasterCard or Visa PLUS Amex) Combo and Public Bank Quantum (MasterCard and Visa) to earn cash back from your essential expenses.
1. So what is the first thing you should do once you activated your new credit cards?
The answer is you must reset the SMS Alert Default Value to RM1.00.
For the Maybank 2 Cards, it is very easy, just call the Toll Free Number behind the American Express Card to speak to the friendly and helpful Customer Service representative and simply request that SMS Alert for all your Maybank credit cards be set to RM1. It’s that simple.
For Public Bank Quantum, once again call the number behind your card and request that the SMS Alert be set to RM1.00. Now, I do not own any Public Bank credit cards, so I have no idea what is the minimum SMS Alert Value that they are willing to accommodate. In the event that they refuse to set the minimum value of your SMS Alert to RM1, you can email Bank Negara Malaysia and complain. So remember to take down the name of the person whom you spoke to and the date and in the meantime request that the SMS Alert be set to the minimum value allowed.
2. Why is setting the SMS Alert Default Value to RM1 important?
Credit card fraud is very rampant. It is made even easier with the internet where anyone can just use the 16 digit numbers of your credit card to make transactions worldwide. I myself have experienced several times where my credit card numbers have been used for unauthorized online transactions. And the amounts weren’t huge, less than USD50/transaction. But with SMS Alert set at RM1, I was alerted of the fraudulent transactions and immediately contacted my card issuer and they then suspended my account to avoid any further damage.
Nowadays, more and more card issuers are issuing cards with payWave or PayPass where we simply touch the card on a terminal and any transaction below RM250 will automatically be approved!!! Cards having these feature are easily cloned (go google RFID card reader/fraud). Imagine someone having cloned your card, then goes tap here and tap there and tap everywhere at Mid Valley, where each transaction is less than RM250, within 2 hours, the damage to your account can easily hit RM2K!!!
And if you do receive an SMS Alert for a transaction you did not make, call the number behind your card immediately (not 1 hour later or the next day) so that your card can be suspended. Failure to report any unauthorized transaction immediately may result in your card issuer insisting that you are liable for the transactions.
With the above, I hope I have emphasized the need for you to have the SMS Alert with default value set to RM1. If you do not practice what I mentioned above, you may regret big time when you receive your credit card statement with several thousand Ringgit worth of unauthorized transactions and end up with a major headache.
3. What you need to remember through out your lifetime when owning a credit card.
a) Always pay the Statement Balance in FULL prior to the Due Date. If you only make partial payment, then you have entered the shit hole of debt. So NEVER EVER use your credit card if you do not have cash in hand to settle the credit card bill in full.
Since most credit card issuers only sent the monthly Statements by email, I thought I share with you a sample of what I meant by paying the Statement Balance before the Due Date:
b) Never disclose your personal details (i.e. card number, expiry date, CCV and birthday) to anyone who calls you over the phone or emails or even a third party claiming to be a representative of a bank on the internet (including people who comment at my Facebook account or in Forums).
c) If you receive a call or SMS or even WhatsApp from a Mobile Phone claiming to be from the bank – most likely it is a scam. If you are interested in a product offered by your credit card, all you have to do is call the number behind your card and speak to the Customer Service and they will be more than happy to assist you.
Recently, both my wife and I even received a FAKE SMS Alerts on a so called transaction which we did not make and in the SMS it even had a number for us to call! Once again, the only number to call is the number behind your card and no other number and use the Dialer instead of clicking on “links” in the SMS. Below is the image of the fake SMS I received.
d) If you receive a call from a Landline claiming to be from the bank or even Bank Negara Malaysia or even the Police in respect to a matter relating to your credit card, NEVER DISCLOSE your personal details. What you should do is once again call the number behind your card to verify or seek further clarifications.
e) Never click on any email links if you are asked to do so. If you need to log on to your online account, always open a new window and clear history/cookies before you sign into your Online Account. If you have any doubt or like more info on what’s stated in the email, go to the bank’s website by opening a new window or just call Customer Service (the number behind your card).
Update July 2017 – I tell you, scammers are getting more and more creative. In June 2017, I received a call on my mobile phone and when I answered it, it automatically went to voice message telling me that a transaction was performed with my credit card and if I did not do it, to press 1 (for something), 2 (for something else) and 3 (for something else). I knew it was a fake call and hung up. IF I had indeed used my credit card, surely I would have received a SMS.
Once again, always be kiasu and seek verification on any phone calls, SMS and emails by simply KEYING IN MANUALLY THE NUMBER BEHIND YOUR CARD INTO YOUR DIALER/KEYPAD to contact Customer Service and NEVER EVER “PRESS” ANY NUMBER SHOWN IN THE SMS TO AUTO CONNECT as it may be a link that directs you directly to the scammer.
LESSON No.3 – How to avoid falling into the shit hole of debt.
(1) If you can’t even save 10% of your monthly income every month, DO NOT GET a CREDIT CARD because YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO SPEND MORE chasing after “shiok sendiri” sensations. You may argue that I have been promoting credit cards to earn cash back from our Essential Expenses. Yes, that is true but it is also a fact that credit card is a very dangerous tool that can lead you straight into the shit hole of debt if you have no cash in hand to pay for the purchases.
(2) The most important thing about owning a credit card is that YOU MUST PAY THE STATEMENT BALANCE IN FULL PRIOR TO THE DUE DATE so that you are not imposed freaking high interest rate and not be a slave working for the bank for free. Never ever break this “rule”, because the moment you only pay the minimum or partial amount, you have entered the shit hole of debt. If you don’t have money today, and you keep swiping your credit card, what makes you think that you will have money in the future to pay your debt?
(3) So how to ensure that you are able to make full settlement of the Statement Balance before the Due Date?
A) Before you use your credit card to make a particular transaction, ask yourself if you have the equivalent amount of cash in your savings account (after deducting the amount required for your essential expenses and commitments) to pay for it:
If the answer is YES, then you should be able to pay your credit card Statement Balance in FULL prior to Due Date.
If the answer is NO and you still go and transact with your credit card, you are then spending beyond your means.
Most people with a little common sense will comprehend the above and would not stupidly go swipe their credit card and end up in the shit hole of debt.
B) So in order to entice people with common sense to spend beyond their means, the banks will lay cleverly disguised trap(s) to fool them. The banks in Malaysia are so freaking generous whereby they will offer you 0% interest rate loans to purchase unnecessary and non-durable stuff. And many will think that it’s a fabulous credit card feature where they can get FREE money, not understanding that 0% loan is also a debt.
(i) For those who have money in their savings account to pay in full for an item and then utilize the 0% installment plan, it may (not necessary, read paragraph below) be a smart move as we can earn extra money by depositing the money in an interest bearing account and pay for the purchase over time,
Having said the above, many people who have been constantly saving X% of their monthly salary or have money in their savings account to pay in full but opted to utilize the 0% Installment Plan would eventually regret that they did so. After experiencing and “tasting” what it’s like to be in “debt” for months, many would rather swipe/pay in full. This 0% installment plan may result in giving you the false impression that you have more money than you think (because you failed to deduct the balance debt which have yet to be paid) and thus you go swipe your credit card for other non-durable stuff and end up spending more which directly results in your savings shrinking further.
(ii) For those of you who do not have the equivalent amount of the total purchase price of an item in your savings account and opt for 0% installment plan, it means you are spending beyond your means. For example, you have RM1K in your savings account and you purchase an iPhone or Samsung Smartphone costing RM3K with 0% installment plan, it means you have spent beyond your means. Not only have you entered the shit hole, but in no time you’ll be drowning in it!!! Like I mentioned at the start of this post, a credit card is guaranteed to make you spend more. If you are in this situation and you keep swiping your credit card for non essential expenses or if an emergency situation arises where you need cash, you will find that you won’t be able to settle the Statement Balance prior to the Due Date and end up being a slave to the bank.
(4) If you do not have much savings and opt for 0% 12 months installment plan to purchase a non-durable item and just barely able to make full settlement of the Statement Balance before the Due Date to avoid being imposed interest. My advise is that you should forget about the non-durable item and instead invest the money so that you do not lose the opportunity of one year of your working life to accumulate wealth for your future.
Every sen saved will count towards a better future in your retirement years. By you simply saving RM300 every month and with the “magic of compound interest”, you will have RMxxx,xxx in 20 years time!!!
Seriously, if you do not have savings equivalent to the amount you require to survive for 6 months (essential expenses + car loan if any + housing loan if any) in the event you are jobless, do not sign up for any 0% installment plan. Shit Happens and we must be prepared for it. i.e. be kiasu or better still be kiasi, hahaha.
Lesson No.4 – Conclusion: The Best Credit Card in Malaysia is……
There is no such thing as the best credit card as each of us have different spending patterns. If you are new to credit cards, I would suggest you chose a FREE FOR LIFE credit card that earns you cash back from your essential expenses as mentioned in Lesson 1. There are only a few simple rules to follow when owning a credit card and they are mentioned in Lesson 2 (reducing your exposure to fraud) and Lesson 3 (you need to have discipline in controlling your spending).
In order to optimize or even maximize the returns we can get from credit cards, we need to hold the right cards. In addition to the Maybank 2 Gold/Platinum Cards and Public Bank Quantum Cards which I have touched on in Lesson 1, here are more examples:
If you shop frequently at AEON Big, then you should sign up for AEON Big Credit Card.
If you want FREE makan at airport lounges in KLIA or KLIA2 or worldwide, there are many FREE FOR LIFE credit cards that allow you to do so. Please check out my Airport Lounge Page to learn more.
If you spend a lot of money at a particular establishment which you frequent, ask them if they offer any discount for any credit card. If yes, go get that credit card! For example, we can get 15% off for selected liquor at Eraman Duty Free with CIMB Premier credit cards.
If you need a credit card for insurance premiums, check out Hong Leong Bank Fortune and Visa Infinite. Many credit cards nowadays do not earn you any reward points for transactions related to insurance.
If you do transact large amounts with government agencies, for example you own a factory and the assessment and quit rent total tens of thousands a year, it will be stupid of you to use a credit card that does not reward you anything for government related transactions. In my Recommended Credit Card Page I will tell you which card to use so that you can fly Business Class for FREE sooner instead of using credit cards issued by Alliance Bank, Hong Leong Bank, Maybank or RHB Bank where you earn ZERO reward points.
If you are into Airmiles and want to fly Business Class for FREE, the best credit card to get is the Maybank 2 Cards Premier for both local and overseas transactions. Please note you earn ZERO Treats Points for Government Related Bodies.
For overseas transactions including Online Transactions, you may also consider Alliance Bank Visa Infinite and UOB Visa Infinite. But the current best card for overseas transactions to earn Enrich Miles is with the RHB Premier Visa Infinite.
As you can observe from the above, all the statements start with IF. Therefore, there is no such thing as the best credit card in Malaysia. So in order for you to really optimize your returns, you may need to own many credit cards. Soon, I will produce reviews of different credit cards for your benefit.
Last but not least, you should read the T&C before applying for any credit card. For years, most credit cards do not reward you any points for petrol. But now, more and more credit cards do not reward you for transactions relating to Insurance, Government, Education and even Business related transactions.
Oh yes, nowadays most of our Debit Cards and Credit Cards have PayWave and PayPass features where amount up to RM250 will be automatically approved without needing any Pin Number. PayWave and PayPass feature also enables one to clone our cards by simply holding a “reader/scanner” to steal info stored in our card(s). Therefore, I suggest you get yourself a RFID Safe/Blocking Wallet. Previously these wallets were made from Aluminum and were bulky; nowadays, we have leather wallets that are RFID Safe too (see Samsonite wallet below) 🙂
I thank you for taking the FREE Express Financial Tuition and I hope what you have read will be useful/beneficial to you.
P.S. All other articles/posts under Credit Card Section is by invitation only. This privilege is offered to those who have been granted “Friend” status by your truly 🙂 If you would like to read them, please Private Message me via Facebook (go look for the button at my facebook account), T&C Apply.