Guide to debit cards in Singapore
Find out how debit cards work, the features on offer and how to find the best one.
Debit cards are a convenient way for you to spend your own money, but not all cards are the same. This guide covers what you need to know about debit cards in Singapore, including how they work and how to find one for you.
What's in this guide?
- How does a debit card work?
- What features should I look for in a debit card?
- Compare a range of debit cards in Singapore
- What security features does my debit card have?
- What is a cashback debit card?
- What limits and fees apply with debit cards?
- Debit cards vs ATM cards vs credit cards
- Am I eligible for a debit card?
- Frequently asked questions
How does a debit card work?
Debit cards are attached to your bank account and allow you to spend the money in that account. You can use your debit card to make purchases online and in-store and withdraw cash from ATMs. As soon as you make a purchase or withdraw money from an ATM using your debit card, the money will be deducted from your bank account.
What features should I look for in a debit card?
Debit cards can come with a host of features, including:
- Cashback and rebates: Some debit cards give you cash back on certain types of purchases, such as contactless transactions or for spending on petrol. You might also get rebates for spending at select stores.
- Multicurrency support. If you travel often or shop online at overseas stores you might benefit from a debit card that supports multiple currencies.
- Low fees. You can find debit cards that won’t charge you fees for foreign currency spending or for ATM withdrawals.
- Mastercard, Visa or NETS. Debit cards in Singapore give you the option of how you want to spend. If your debit card has a Visa or Mastercard logo you can sign for the transaction and use that card anywhere Visa or Mastercard is accepted, but many cards can also be used as a NETS card.
- Free memberships. Your debit card may offer you free membership or a loyalty program which can save you money in the long run.
- Use for transport. If your debit card has a SimplyGo function you can use it to tap on buses and trains.
Compare a range of debit cards in Singapore
What security features does my debit card have?
A PIN (personal identification number) allows you to securely spend money held in your bank account using your debit card. When you sign up for a bank account and receive your debit card, you should receive instructions on how to set your PIN. This may be done online through your Internet banking portal or through a banking app.
Keep your PIN to yourself and do not share it with anyone, this will help ensure your funds remain secure. If you forget your PIN or need to change it, you can contact your bank directly.
The Card Verification Value (CVV) is a three-digit number found on the back of your debit card. On American Express debit cards, the CVV is four digits. This number is used to verify your debit card and helps to reduce fraud, by proving to the merchant that you have the physical debit card with you when making a purchase online or over the phone.
What is a cashback debit card?
Many debit cards offer cashback as a feature in Singapore. You might be able to get cashback for making a contactless transaction, for spending at a certain retailer or for something else. Cashback is when you receive a certain amount back into your account for spending on eligible purchases. It’s usually a percentage of the transaction.
For example, 1% cashback on petrol purchases with your debit card would see you receive S$1 back on a S$100 petrol spend. Remember to read the terms and conditions of the cashback offer to make sure you spend on eligible purchases.
What limits and fees apply with debit cards?
- Minimum monthly spend. Some debit cards in Singapore have a minimum spend requirement that you need to meet each month. This is usually around a couple of hundred dollars.
- Annual fees. The more features your card offers, the more likely it is it will have an annual fee.
- Fall-below fee. If you don’t meet the average daily balance set by the bank, you’ll be charged this fee.
- Monthly fee. You might also be charged a monthly fee along with an annual fee.
- Cheque book. If you request a cheque book, this may carry a fee.
- Early account closing fees. You may be charged a fee for closing your account too soon after opening it.
Debit cards vs ATM cards vs credit cards
Debit cards allow you to spend the money in your bank account. ATM cards also allow you to do this, but debit cards are usually Mastercard- or Visa-branded. With debit cards, you also might not need to sign the receipt for purchases under a certain amount, but you always have to provide your PIN when purchasing with an ATM card. Debit cards also come with more fees than ATM cards, including annual fees.
Credit cards work differently. They still let you make purchases and withdraw cash from ATM, but you are using borrowed funds. Every dollar you spend will have to be repaid with interest.
Am I eligible for a debit card?
Debit cards have different eligibility criteria you will need to meet in order to apply. These can include:
- Be of a certain age
- Have a certain account with the bank
- You may need to make a deposit