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How to: Play the Credit Card Sign-up Gift game?

by Apoorv Trivedi on
How to

The Bottom Line

You can make as much as S$1,100 per year or about S$200 per hour by signing up for credit cards offering the best gifts, meeting the qualifying criteria and then cancelling them.

However signing up for too many cards too quickly can hurt your credit rating and make it difficult to get a mortgage or a car loan in the next 6 months.

You can avoid this hit to your credit score by spreading out your sign-ups over a few months. Your credit score should also recover if you use the cards responsibly and pay off all balances on time.

The table below shows the best gifts being offered by various banks in Singapore right now. We will update this table periodically. Bookmark this page.

Bank Credit Cards Gifts Value
Citibank Cash Back
Cash Back+
PremierMiles
Prestige
Rewards
Dyson Supersonic
OR
Sony XM5
OR
Apple AirPods Pro Gen 2 & MagSafe Charger OR
$350
$500

S450

$365

$350

Standard Chartered Smart Credit Card Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Gen
OR
Jabra Elite 7 Pro
OR
$300
$325

$200

$300

HSBC Revolution Samsonite Prestige 69 Spinner OR
$200
$320

$200

CIMB Visa Signature
World Mastercard
Visa Infinite
ErgoTune Classic
OR
$250
$275

$250

UOB One $300 $300
KrisFlyer UOB $250 Grab Vouchers $250
Lady’s Card $250 Grab Vouchers $250
PRVI Miles 15,000 Miles $210
DBS Altitude* 21,000 Miles $294
Vantage*^ 60,000 Miles $251.50
POSB Everyday $150 $150
Maybank Family & Friends $100 $100
Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 20,000 Miles $280
* Assuming 1.4¢ per mile. See here.
^ Adjusted for the non-waiveable annual fee of S$588.50.
– For gifts in form of miles, only bonus miles are included. Miles earned on paying annual fees or from regular spend during promotional period are excluded.
Updated: 07 Oct 2022

If you found this useful, consider signing up for your preferred cards via the link above. This gives you access to the best deals and helps us maintain the site.


Why play the Credit Card Sign-up Gift game?

Many banks in Singapore offer very generous gifts when you sign-up for their credit cards.

At the time of writing, Citibank is offering a choice of Dyson Supersonic hair dryer (list price S$649), Sony XM5 Noise Cancelling Headphones (list price S$475) or S$350 cashback via PayNow.

Citi usually has the most valuable gifts but other banks also have decent options.

Now, $300 here, $600 there and pretty soon you’re talking real money. So that’s why you might want to to play the sign-up gift game.

There are some risks and costs to playing this game too, as we discuss below.


8 Rules of the game

You cannot just sign-up for every card and collect all the gifts and repeat. You need to jump through a few hoops to collect your rewards. And like any other game, this one has rules too.

Rule 1: The best gifts are for new-to-bank customers.

If you want to collect the sign-up gift from Bank A, you should not have an existing card with them and you should not have cancelled a card with them in the last 12 months. It doesn’t matter if you have another relationship with them e.g. savings account or loan.

Some cards offer a smaller sign-up reward to people who already have a card with the bank, but this is not very common.

HSBC Sign-Up Gift Existing
Best gifts for new customers

Rule 2: You must register with the bank or aggregator website to claim your gift.

It is not enough if you apply for a credit card and get it approved. Depending on where you signed up for the card (e.g. bank website or web aggregator like SingSaver), you may also need to fill up another form to redeem the gift.

SingSaver for instance, gives you only 14 days from the date of application to submit this form or forfeit your gift.

SingSaver Conditions
14 Days to register for the gift

Rule 3: You need to activate the card and charge a minimum amount to it within the promotion period in order to be eligible.

All gift promotions have a “Qualifying Spend” condition. You need to spend the qualifying amount, usually S$500 within 30 days of getting the card approved. Some cards have different terms e.g. DBS Vantage currently requires S$8,000 of spend AND a S$588.50 annual fee to earn the gift. We reduce the value of the gift by the amount of annual fee, where required.

Table 2: Minimum Spend Conditions to Earn the Gift

Card Minimum
Spend (S$)
Within
(days)
1st Year
Annual Fee
Citi Cash Back Card 500 30 Waived
Standard Chartered Smart Credit Card 500 30 Waived
HSBC Revolution Credit Card 500 30 Waived
CIMB Visa Signature Card 988 60 Waived
American Express Platinum Credit Card 500 30 S$321.00
UOB One Credit Card 2,000 60 Waived
POSB Everyday Card 800 60 Waived
DBS Altitude American Express Card 4,000 60 Waived*
DBS Vantage Card 8,000 60 S$588.50
Maybank Family & Friends 600 60 Waived
* There is an option to pay the fee and get additional miles.
* All data based on respective Banks’ T&C in Oct-22. T&C may change or vary by card.

Rule 4: You cannot cancel the card for 3-12 months from date of approval.

This is not a hard rule for all banks. For example, HSBC and DBS both only require that your card should be active and in “good standing” when you redeem the gift.

Usually it takes 3-6 months after application to collect the gift. This includes 1 month to fulfill the qualifying spend and another 2-4 months for processing by the bank or web aggregator.

Table 3: Waiting Period for Cancelling the Card

Card Retention Period
(Months)
Gift Fulfillment Period
(Months)
Citi Cash Back Card 12 5
Standard Chartered Smart Credit Card 3 5
HSBC Revolution Credit Card Till gift fulfillment 3
CIMB Visa Signature Card 12 4
American Express Platinum Credit Card 6 4
UOB One Credit Card 9 6
POSB Everyday Card Till gift fulfillment 5
DBS Altitude American Express Card Till gift fulfillment 5
DBS Vantage Card Till gift fulfillment 5
Maybank Family & Friends Till gift fulfillment 3
* All data based on respective Banks’ T&C in Oct-22. T&C may change or vary by card.

Rule 5: It is better not to apply for too many cards at once as it may hurt your credit score.

Again this is not a hard rule. As Aaron Wong at Milelion documents here, applying for as many as 4 credit cards over a 6 month period apparently did not hurt his credit score on multiple occasions but applying for 9 cards did.

His experience also shows that having many active cards (24!) does not impact the score as long as you pay all the cards off on time.

However, that’s just the experience of one person and your outcome may be different.

We would suggest playing it safe if you are planning to take a big loan soon e.g. a mortgage or a car loan. May be limit yourself to 1-2 cards in the 6 months before that loan.

Even otherwise that may be the safest option.

You should also consider if you’ll be able to meet the minimum spend on each card within the promotion period. If you sign up for 3 cards at the same time, you need to spend at least S$1,500 (500 x 3) on those cards within one month.

This may be difficult if you usually spend only S$1,000 – 2,000 a month on your cards. It may also  make you miss the minimum spend on your primary card, leading to lower rewards that month.

Rule 6: Remember to track and pay all bills on time.

This is the most important rule of all because missing a payment or making it late will really damage your credit score. Honestly, this is a single biggest deterrent to playing this game.

If you sign up to, say, 6 credit cards, you must then keep track of 6 bills every month.

Even if you put them away after collecting the gift and never use them again, the bank will still charge the annual fee to that card at the year end.

This is not a problem if you are checking the account regularly. In that case you can call the bank and get the fee waived, or even better cancel the card.

However, if you forget to check the account statement / balance regularly, the unpaid annual fee will ruin your credit score before you find out.

We recommend putting multiple reminders to cancel the card in your calendar app. Do this at the time of card approval so that it doesn’t slip through the cracks.

Rule 7: Remember to cancel the card once the conditions have been met.

This is important if you want to play the game again, quickly. If you remember, the best gifts are available to those who don’t have an active card with the bank and haven’t cancelled one in the last 12 months.

So to play again, you need to cancel the card as soon as permitted under the terms and then wait 12 months. This also reduces the risk that you get charged the annual fee at some point and forget to pay it.

Rule 8: Start again in 12 months.

Most banks require you to wait 12 months after cancelling the credit card to be eligible for another sign-up with gift. UOB and Maybank are exceptions to this rule. Their terms specify a 6 month and 9 month waiting period respectively.


How often can I play this game?

That depends on the banks’ T&C. The table below has a summary for all the major banks in Singapore.

Table 4: Total Time for a Complete Cycle

Card Retention Period
(A)
Gift Fulfillment Period
(B)
Minimum Wait after
Cancellation
(C)
Total Time between
Applications
(C) +
Higher of (A, B)
Citibank 12 5 12 24
StanChart 3 5 12 17
HSBC 3 12 15
CIMB 12 4 12 24
Amex 6 4 12 18
UOB 9 6 6 15
POSB 5 12 17
DBS 5 12 17
Maybank 3 9 12
* All periods in months
* All data based on respective Banks’ T&C in Oct-22. T&C may change or vary by card.

Citibank has the best gifts but requires you to hold the card for 12 months from the date of approval. You must also wait for 12 months after cancelling the card to be eligible for another gift.

So you can claim a gift from Citibank only once every 24 months.

HSBC’s gifts aren’t as exciting but you can cancel the card immediately after getting the gift (about 3 months from approval) and apply after another 12 months. That’s a gift every 15 months.

UOB requires you to keep the card for 9 months and wait only 6 months before reapplying. Again, you’re eligible once every 15 months.


How much money can I make with this game?

Well, that depends on your existing cards and how many cards are you willing to sign up for. But it can be a fair bit, we estimate may be even more than S$1,000 a year. If you’re a double income couple, double the amount.

Let’s take the example of Ms. Wong, who holds two credit cards, may be DBS Altitude and an Amex Platinum.

Lucky for her, this means she can apply for at least 6 credit cards from different banks (Citi, Standard Chartered, HSBC, CIMB, UOB and Maybank) and receive a gift from each of them.

If she chooses the cash option in each case, that adds up to S$1,500. However since she must now wait nearly 1.5 years to start her next round and 2 years to complete that, the “annual” take is only about S$1,000.


Is it worthwhile?

Obviously the answer depends on who is asking. But to help you decide, here’s one way of looking at it.

With myInfo and SingPass, it takes maybe 45 min to apply for a credit card and register for the gift. Maybe even less.

Last time we tried to cancel our Citi Credit card it took us almost two years but hopefully things are better now, so let’s say another 30 min to cancel.

So that’s a total of 7.5 hours to earn S$1,500, for an hourly rate of about S$200. Choose wisely.

Table 5: Hourly Rate Calculation

Cash (S$) Gift Gift Value
(S$)*
Citi Cash Back Card $350 Dyson Supersonic $500
StanChart Smart Credit Card $300 AirPods Pro 2G $325
HSBC Revolution Credit Card $200 $200
CIMB Visa Signature Card $250 ErgoTune Classic $275
UOB One Credit Card $300 $300
Maybank Family & Friends $100 $100
Total 1,500 1,700
Time Required 7.5 10.5
Hourly Rate 200 162
* Based on postings on Carousell.sg
* Gift data based on various promotions in Oct-22. Promotions may expire or change.

In this section, its also worth repeating that applying for too many cards too quickly can hurt your credit score and make it tough to get, say a home loan or a car loan.

Please also use your credit cards responsibly. Always pay back the full balance on time. Use credit cards as a payment option, never to take a loan. The interest rate is too high.


Choosing the right gift

Many banks offer the option of non-cash gifts like Dyson Supersonic hairdryer and Apple AirPods Pro. Typically the list price of these options is much higher than the cashback option they offer.

Should you take these gifts instead?

If you were planning to buy these items anyway, then you should take those items instead.

You could also take these items and sell them on Carousell. We looked at the Carousell listings for all the major gift items banks are offering right now. A lot of people are clearly playing this game.

Selling the item on Carousell will take more time and the price you will get is uncertain. Based on what we saw, you should assume at least a 25% discount to list price for non-Apple items and a 15% discount to Apple items.

Table 6: Realizable Value for Non-Cash Gifts

Item Carousell List Price Discount
ErgoTune Classic $275 $399 -31%
Dyson Supersonic $500 $649 -23%
Sony XM5 $450 $475 -5%
AirPods Pro 2G + MagSafe Charger $365 $418 -13%
Airpod Pro 2G $325 $359 -9%
Jabra Elite 7 Pro $200 $259 -23%
Samsonite Prestige Spinner $320 $420 -24%
Source: Carousell data estimated based on listing at carousell.sg. List prices from Courts, Harvey Norman and respective manufacturers websites.

Let’s say you decide to take Dyson Supersonic from Citi (instead of S$350 cash), ErgoTune Classic from CIMB (instead of S$250) and AirPods Pro 2nd Gen from Standard Chartered (instead of S$300). You choose the cash option with other banks.

In this case, the total value of gifts increases to S$1,700. Assuming another hour per gift to list, interact with potential buyers and sell, the hourly rate goes down to about S$160.

Most of the difference here comes from the Dyson Supersonic. If you just take that from Citi and cash from everyone else, you get about S$1,650 at an hourly rate of S$194.

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