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Using a credit card for gambling

Know exactly what it will cost you when you use your credit card for a gambling transaction.

Credit cards are convenient, but if you want to purchase casino gambling chips, they may be considered as cash advances and incur substantially higher interest rates. Most credit card providers categorise gambling transactions differently to everyday purchases and charge high rates (up to 28% p.a.) and fees for them.

According to the MAS Remote Gambling Act (RGA), placing bets through online betting operators, with the exception of Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club, are illegal.

Credit card companies that charge the cash advance rate for gambling transactions

If your credit card allows you to make gambling transactions, the charge will typically be categorised as a cash advance. This is because gambling charges are often “cash equivalents” or “cash substitutes” (ie. where you spend money to get another form of money). Other examples of purchases that can be treated as cash advances are:

  • Cash equivalent purchases on PayPal
  • Foreign currency
  • Lottery tickets
  • Traveller’s checks/money orders

These transactions attract a cash advance fee and a higher cash advance interest rate than everyday purchases. Cash advances are also commonly exempt from any interest-free period, which means you’ll be charged interest on gambling transactions from the time they are made.

In this table you can find out which providers allow gambling transactions and the range of cash advance interest rates for personal credit cards.

ProviderGambling transactionsCash advance rate (varies by card)
American ExpressProhibitedN/A
CitibankCash advance rate26.9%
HSBCCash advance rate28%
MaybankCash advance rate25.9%
Standard CharteredProhibitedN/A
CIMBCash advance rate28%
UOBCash advance rate28%

Using a credit card at gambling establishments

If you’re at a gambling establishment, using a credit card for non-gambling activities – such as buying drinks or meals – could also attract the cash advance fee and interest rate. When this happens, it is because the establishment’s merchant category code is preset to process gambling transactions. So, when the charge goes through to your credit card company, it will most likely be processed as a gambling transaction or cash advance.

If you’re planning to use your credit card for dinner, drinks or anything else at a venue that allows gambling, call your credit card company first and ask them if your spending would be considered a regular purchase or a cash advance. Alternatively, get a receipt for your spending and – if you think it is wrongly processed as a cash advance – contact your issuer and explain the transactions were not for gambling.

What should I think about before using a credit card for gambling?

  • Interest rate. The cash advance interest rates on most credit cards are usually much higher than your regular purchase transaction rates. This rate can reach as high as 28% (correct at the time of writing, July 2020).
  • Cash advance fee. In addition to the interest charges, you will be charged a cash advance fee, which can be the greater of either a percentage of the transaction amount or a minimum fee. The cash advance fee is typically worth 3-6% of the transaction, which means it would cost you between S$15 to S$30 for a S$500 bet.
  • No interest-free days. Cash advances are not eligible for the standard interest-free period on your card. This means that interest begins accruing immediately when you make a gambling transaction.
  • Rewards. As with cash withdrawals from an ATM, travellers’ cheque purchases and other similar cash equivalent transactions, you will not usually be able to earn credit card rewards points for gambling transactions.
  • Promotional offers. Credit cards that sometimes offer 0% interest or bonus points for new customers will likely exclude gambling purchases from the list of “eligible transactions” required to take advantage of those deals.

Example: How much could a gambling transaction on my credit card cost?

Say you decide to use your credit card to place a total of S$2,000 worth of bets on a sporting event. On a credit card with a 3% cash advance fee and a cash advance rate of 21.99% p.a., here’s what could potentially happen:

  • If you pay the minimum amount each month. If your card balance was $0 before the gambling transaction, and this remains the only transaction on the card, you would pay S$5,735 in total over 16 years and 9 months.
  • If you pay the full amount after 30 days. Assuming again that this is the only transaction on your card, you would have to pay S$36.15 in interest (21.99% x S$2,000 x 30/365), plus S$60 for the cash advance fee (3% of S$2,000). This is on top of the original S$2,000, bringing the total you’ll pay off the card to S$2,096.15.
  • You pay the total amount later that day. Assuming that this is the only transaction on your card, you would have to pay S$1.20 in interest (21.99% x S$2,000 x 1/365), plus S$60 for the cash advance fee (3% of S$2,000) on top of your S$2,000 bet. This means it would cost S$2,061.20 in total.

Now that you’re aware of the fees that a gambling transaction could incur on your credit card, it may be wise to consider some alternatives. There are fee-free ways to pay for your wagers, such as debit cards or cash. If you’d still rather use a credit card, check out these low cash advance rate cards.

You could also research and explore workaround E-wallet solutions like Skrill and Neteller, or PayPal, although PayPal has its own stringent rules around gambling transactions and prohibits many forms of them altogether. Whatever you decide, always remember to gamble responsibly.

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