Using a credit card in Singapore
Credit card fees can add up quickly when you're spending money overseas – but we've got some tips to avoid the fees altogether.
Singapore is one of the more technologically and financially advanced countries in Asia. This means credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express are widely accepted. Still, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash for smaller establishments that may not accept plastic. While you can rely on your credit card for most purchases, you’ll want to watch out for some common fees that can add up quickly when you’re spending overseas.
Compare credit cards for use in Singapore
What credit cards can I use in Singapore?
American Express cards are generally accepted as widely as Visa and Mastercard in Singapore. If you’re looking to make cash withdrawals with your credit card, DBS and many smaller banks’ ATMs accept Amex cards. Visa and Mastercard work at most ATMs. That said, it’s not a good idea to use a credit card to withdraw cash – instead use a debit card.
Potential credit card fees in Singapore
You should always keep an eye on credit card fees, especially when travelling overseas.
- Foreign transaction fees. Most credit cards issued in Canada come with foreign transaction fees of 2.5%. You’ll need to pay this fee every time you use your credit card outside of Canada. Fortunately, there are a few credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees.
- Currency conversion fees. If someone gives you the choice of paying in Canadian dollars or Singapore dollars with your credit card, always choose the local currency of SGD. Paying in CAD with your card will subject you to a dynamic currency conversion (DCC) that can lead to poor exchange rates and currency conversion fees. Pay in the local currency and let your bank do the currency conversion.
- Cash advance fees. If you use your credit card to withdraw money from an ATM, you’ll face a cash advance fee as well as the cash advance interest rate, which is usually charged from the day you withdraw the funds. To avoid the high APR, use your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM.
- ATM fees. Even using your debit card to withdraw funds from an ATM will likely have you facing an ATM fee. To avoid this fee, use a debit card issued by a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance, such as the Global ATM Alliance that Scotiabank is a member of.
- Surcharges. Although these aren’t legal in Canada, certain establishments in Singapore may charge a surcharge when you pay with credit card. One example of this is when you pay for a taxi using a credit card – the driver can add a 10% surcharge on top of your payment in order to cover the processing fees associated with paying with plastic.
Can I avoid all of these fees?
Yes, here’s how:
- Apply for a no foreign transaction fee credit card to avoid this fee.
- Avoid conversion fees by always paying in the local currency.
- Avoid the high cash advance APR by using your debit card – instead of your credit card – to withdraw cash from an ATM.
- To skirt around ATM fees, you’ll need to use a debit card from a bank that belongs to an international ATM alliance – plus you’ll need to stick to ATMs that belong to that network.
- Surcharges are harder to avoid since some merchants can legally charge them. You’ll have to pay with cash if you want to avoid a surcharge.
ATMs in Singapore
ATMs are easy to find in Singapore and are usually located within banks, shopping malls and hotels. Although Visa, Mastercard and Amex credit cards are widely accepted in Singapore, small establishments may be cash-based businesses only. If you visit an open-air market for example, you’ll need cash.
Should I use my credit card to get cash?
No, avoid using your credit card to get cash from an ATM at all costs. You’ll end up paying a cash advance fee as well as interest, which will start adding up from the day of the transaction. If you need to withdraw cash from an ATM, use your debit card.
Do taxis in Singapore accept credit cards?
Yes, a large number of taxis in Singapore accept credit cards. However, they also charge an additional 10% surcharge for credit card payments. Avoid this high surcharge by paying in cash.
Is it safe to use my credit card in Singapore?
Singapore is one of the safest countries for credit card use. However, exercising caution is wise. For example:
- Protect your PIN. Don’t write your PIN down anywhere. When entering your PIN, use the other hand to hide it from hidden cameras and onlookers.
- Select ATMs carefully. Use ATMs found in banks, shopping centres and otherwise busy areas. Avoid ones in isolated areas or unsafe districts.
- Keep an eye out for skimmers. If you feel that the card slot is not as smooth as it should be or if you think there’s a problem with the keypad, cancel your transaction and use a different ATM. Someone might have installed a card skimmer on the machine.
- Keep your card physically safe. Instances of pickpocketing and theft are sometimes common in Singapore, even though it’s regarded as a safe haven. You’ll want to take care of your belongings and be careful on the streets after dark.
How to prepare before travelling to Singapore
- Carry at least two credit cards. Ideally, take at least two credit cards with you, with at least one being a Visa or Mastercard. That way, you can avoid being left without money if your primary credit card is lost or stolen or if a merchant doesn’t accept Amex.
- Think about foreign transaction fees. Paying foreign transaction fees does not make sense when you can find cards that come with no foreign transaction fees. For each transaction, you’ll save yourself 2.5%.
- Inform your bank. Banks monitor accounts to minimize fraudulent transactions. If your bank sees an unexpected purchase made in Singapore, it may decide to temporarily block your card. Let your bank know of your travel plans in advance.
- Carry emergency numbers. If your card ends up lost or stolen, you should know which number to call. Write down your credit card providers phone number and carry it on you at all times.
- Know how you’ll get cash. Even though credit cards are widely accepted, you should carry at least some cash on you at all times. Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM in order to avoid the high cash advance APR that comes with using a credit card. You can also exchange Canadian dollars for Singapore dollars at a bank, airport or currency exchange office.
You can avoid unexpected problems by asking yourself these simple questions before you leave for Singapore:
- Which cards should I take? Carry at least one Mastercard or Visa card and have at least two credit cards with you.
- Did I inform my bank? Unless you want to deal with the possibility of a blocked card, inform your bank before you head overseas.
- Will I pay extra fees? Check if your current credit card charges foreign transaction fees. If it does, consider applying for a card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
- Where will I get money from? Use your debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM – avoid using your credit card unless it’s an emergency. You can also convert Canadian dollars to Singapore dollars or use travellers’ cheques.
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