Category Archives for Money Saving Tips

Reduced interest rates for OCBC 360 accounts could make me switch banks

OCBC has just announced new updates to the bonus interests offered in their OCBC 360 accounts. You can read the details below but in short, it’s bad!

ocbc-360-interest-rate-changes

The OCBC 360 account is a textbook case of showing how many hoops consumers would jump through for bonus incentives. It’s a win-win situation for both consumers and OCBC because the account provides the highest interest rate for consumer banking in exchange for the large amounts of bank deposits that consumers keep with the bank. I just don’t understand why OCBC would want to kill the golden goose.

What are the changes and how does it affect me?

The biggest impact to me would be the reduced interest rates for payment bonus interest because it was the easiest way to earn a good 1% interest per annum by simply changing my bill payment habits to making it online through OCBC’s online banking platform. It’s such a shame that the interest would be halved from May onwards.

The next bonus interest rate to be reduced was credit card spending. I had to make significant changes to my spending habits to ensure that I clocked at least $400 on my credit card instead of paying everything with cash. A 1% interest was enticing enough for me to do this but I can’t say the same for half the interest rate. The increase in minimum credit card spending amount from $400 to $500 only made things worse.

The only bonus interest that OCBC left untouched was salary bonus. That didn’t help me at all because OCBC only qualifies salary credits with the description, “GIRO – SALARY” and all other forms of salary credits will not receive the salary bonus. Unfortunately, the salary credit method used by my employer does not qualify for the bonus interest.

The effective interest rate that I will be receiving in my OCBC 360 account from May onwards would be reduced from 2.05% to 1.05%. Boo!

What I plan to do to my OCBC 360 account

Truth be told, switching from POSB to OCBC 360 account showed me how a good online banking platform should be like. I hate to close that account down if I didn’t have to, but OCBC is forcing my hand here.

The ability to set up sub accounts for Saving Goals is a life-saver for financial budgeting. I could use this feature to set up automated contributions to my Saving Goals each month to ensure that I pay myself before paying anyone else. Once the money has been moved to a Saving Goal, it can’t be withdrawn from the ATM unless I move the money out of the Saving Goal. As these sub accounts are simply virtual accounts within the OCBC 360 account, I would still be able to benefit from the high interest rates of the OCBC 360 account.

In the mean time, I will be looking at the saving account options offered by other banks in Singapore to see if it is worth switching to another savings account. The Standard Chartered Bank Bonus$aver account is one of the options that I will be exploring as they offer $1.88% interest rate for theirBonus$aver accounts as long as the account holder charges at least $500 on their Standard Chartered credit card.

Why you should consider donating to charity to for tax deductions in 2015

The Singapore government has always been encouraging the spirit of philanthropy and giving and one of the best policies that was implemented was giving tax deductions for donations made to a tax-deductible charity. Since 2009, qualifying donations have been entitled to a 250 per cent tax deduction.

There are a few ways to reduce taxable income in Singapore:

  • Making cash top-ups to CPF Special or Retirement acccounts
  • Contributing to Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) account

But there are reasons why it might be more enticing to consider making donations to registered charity organisations instead.

The bang-for-buck tax deduction option

As the tax deductions for making cash top-ups to CPF and contributions to SRS accounts are dollar-for dollar, one has to use $10,000 to receive a tax deduction of the equivalent amount. By donating $4,000 to a registered charity organisation, one can achieve the same tax deduction.

Retain liquidity and avoid locking up cash

The disadvantage of making cash top-ups to CPF and contributions to SRS accounts is that one would have to lock up cold hard cash in accounts that they can retrieve at the age of 65 and 62 respectively. Young investors may not like that. By using the same reference above, young investors can keep the spare cash of $6,000 by donating only $4,000 to a registered charity organisation. That spare cash could be put into investment vehicles that are not restricted to CPF and SRS regulations.

In this year’s Budget speech, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that the current 250 percent tax deduction will be increased to 300 percent for donations this year. The tax incentive is also being extended until the end of 2018.

This means that for every S$1 donated to a registered charity organisation, S$3 will be deducted from the donor’s taxable income for this year. Gifts-in-kind, such as shares, computers, land, buildings and works of art, will also qualify for tax deductions.

While I did not make a lot of donations last year, I definitely will consider making some donations this year for tax deductions.

Commuting to work on my bicycle and I love it!

In late December, my employer finished shifting our office from Suntec City to a new office building near Kallang. That meant my journey on the MRT becomes longer and rides will be more expensive in order to get to my new office. I wasn’t too happy about that so I decided to find out if there is other alternatives for a shorter or cost-effective commute.

After checking Google Maps, I found that the new office is located pretty close to the Kallang Park Connector Network (PCN). Using the Kallang PCN, it seems that apart from a few road crossings and overhead bridges, it is possible to commute to work on my bicycle.

As I have done a bicycle tour overseas a few years ago, I dug up all the equipment that I stored away after the trip and picked the ones that I needed.

Here’s a list of equipment that I needed for my bicycle commute:

  • A waterproof pannier bag that stores my work clothes, shoes and toiletries (fortunately my office has shower facilities)
  • A carry system accessory that converts my pannier bag into a backpack so that I can carry it into the office
  • Eagle Creek Pack-It folder which allows me to fold my work clothes neatly for storage with little crease
  • North Face packable rain jacket in case of rain
  • Cycling helmet
  • Front and rear lights on my bicycle

Not exactly a big list because I try to keep everything simple. One can always deck out the bicycle with more gadgets to make the journey enjoyable. In my case, I installed a mobile phone holder on my bicycle’s handlebar so that I can use my mobile phone for navigation and to play music with the Spotify app.

Here’s how everything looks like on my bicycle. I chose to use my Dahon foldable bicycle so that if I get a puncture tire or encounter a heavy downpour, I can always hail a taxi to continue the rest of the journey with everything in the boot.

commuting-to-work-on-my-bicycle-and-i-love-it-bicycle

I did a trial ride to my workplace on a weekend and it took around 30 minutes to cycle from my home to the office using the Kallang PCN. The journey on the train takes roughly the same amount of time and costs me $1.33 per trip. That works out to $53.20 per month in savings. While it’s not a big saving, I enjoy the health benefits that comes with each ride. I also feel more refreshed if I exercise before starting my workday.

My plan is to cycle to work every day unless I have dinner appointments after work. Let’s hope that I can maintain this habit. Fingers crossed!