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DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

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DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby russch » Sun, 04 Jan 2015 11:53 pm

Hi All -

Will be relocating to SIngapore next month and trying to get a handle on banking. From the research I've done, it appears quite easy to open a "Global" account with Citibank. Does a Citi account afford me as much "local flexibility" as an account with DBS, however? Do I get NETS with a CitiBank account? And does it really matter anyway?

I'd love anyone's thoughts on:

- If Citi US <> Singapore fund transfers are as seamless (and cheap) as Citi claims they are with a Global Account: I've read a few threads that indicated that some have had some pretty major issues accessing their "foreign" Citi accounts from SIN-based Citi accounts. If this is the case, I'm not sure what Citi brings to the table..

- If local banks are superior when it comes to ease of use, NETs, branch locations in Singapore, etc.

- Relative ease of opening up a Citi Global account vs. a local bank (like DBS)

- Relative sophistication of online banking / apps for each option

Thanks very much in advance!

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby aster » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 12:42 am

russch wrote:Does a Citi account afford me as much "local flexibility" as an account with DBS, however? Do I get NETS with a CitiBank account? And does it really matter anyway?


It depends on what you mean by "local flexibility." What exactly are you looking for from your bank? For everyday stuff they're pretty much all the same. The only issues I'd look at for generally-useful stuff is ATMs, rebates & promos, as well as credit cards that generate lots of miles.

DBS has a huge ATM network, but their ATMs can often be plagued with long lines. UOB and OCBC share their ATMs which makes things easier, and they will generally be much more accessible. Some of the foreign banks also share their ATM networks (Citi, HSBC, etc.), so that helps too.

In terms of rebates, all banks play the rebate/promo game, so often you'll see restaurants giving something extra or providing a rebate like 10% off when paying with a certain bank's card. Overall DBS and UOB are king here, though Citi and Standard Chartered are also in the game.

In terms of credit cards, here is one area that you ought to focus on if you want to make your spend count when it comes to generating air miles. In general UOB is king here in recent years, although DBS and Citi still have decent cards out there (these two used to be the main contenders when I first moved here, but have been pummelled by UOB since).

As for NETS, it isn't really important.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby russch » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 1:01 am

Thanks! I was under the (mistaken, it seems) impression that NETs was a big deal in terms of making bill payments easier, etc. In my perfect world I'd want to be able to pay as many of my local bills (power, water, internet, etc.) online (1st choice) or at an ATM (2nd choice). I don't want to stand in a line every month to pay utilities. I thought NETS was part of that equation. Perhaps not?

Rebates and promos aren't that big of a deal for me and I've already opened some good US-based "miles" credit cards with no international fees.

So I'd say that the most important "local" things for me are:

- Automating bill payments as much as possible so I don't have write checks / stand in line, etc
- ATM network

Thanks!

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby aster » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 2:47 am

You can pay telco or Singapore Power (includes gas and water) bills directly via internet banking. For telcos you can also pay onine using CCs.

Not sure using foreign CCs is a good plan, even with no special fees you will likely still be hit with fat currency conversion rates on each transaction. Plus I doubt any of those cards will match up with those available here in terms of mileage accrual, especially if you pick your cards wisely.

For ATMs you can't go wrong with UOB. Having said that, if you will be staying in a central location then the atm5 network isn't bad either as it combines the ATM networks of HSBC ANZ, Citibank, Maybank, State Bank of India and Standard Chartered (don't ask me why there are 6 banks in the atm5 network :) ).

One issue I forgot to mention is currency exchange. Most banks will offer rip-off rates when switching funds, with DBS probably having the best rates followed by HSBC.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby x9200 » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 7:34 am

1. NETS card = basic ATM card - you still need sometimes to pay in cash (withdraw physical money). Other than this is hardly anything more beyond a typical debit card.
2. NETS is a useful addition allowing you to go cashless not incurring extra fees - some outlets charge a fee for paying both cc and NETS and on such case NETS is always cheaper; some other outlets charge the fee for the cc but nothing for NETS.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby the lynx » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 9:18 am

Just to add, DBS and POSB share ATMs and POSB is one of the most common ATMs around Singapore (especially for commoners). You tend to see more DBS ATMs in expat-ish areas and POSB in heartland areas. Citi is always in every MRT stations.

For almost every transaction, you can pay using online banking and now they have FAST transfer for free (in some countries, it cost you a service charge) so you can transfer funds between two local accounts within minutes, if not seconds.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby russch » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:05 am

Thanks all, this is good stuff.

plus I doubt any of those cards will match up with those available here in terms of mileage accrual, especially if you pick your cards wisely


What is considered average vs. good on mileage accrual on local cards? I get 3x per 1$ on travel and 2x on dining/entertainment as a baseline. Just curious..

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby nakatago » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:16 am

russch wrote:Thanks all, this is good stuff.

plus I doubt any of those cards will match up with those available here in terms of mileage accrual, especially if you pick your cards wisely


What is considered average vs. good on mileage accrual on local cards? I get 3x per 1$ on travel and 2x on dining/entertainment as a baseline. Just curious..


Information is more than 6 months old though: viewtopic.php?f=84&t=68944&hilit=credit+card+mileage&start=135

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby zzm9980 » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 1:16 pm

russch wrote:I'd love anyone's thoughts on:

- If Citi US <> Singapore fund transfers are as seamless (and cheap) as Citi claims they are with a Global Account: I've read a few threads that indicated that some have had some pretty major issues accessing their "foreign" Citi accounts from SIN-based Citi accounts. If this is the case, I'm not sure what Citi brings to the table..



Singapore to the US is almost instant. Singapore to Anywhere or Anywhere to Singapore actually is. However, Anywhere sadly does not include the USA. Citi's USA to Singapore (anywhere) transfer still seems to take hours or a day, depending on banking hours. It really sucks,but there is no better option really available. I still use Citibank despite this because it's still better than alternatives, and they have the best/largest global ATM network where I travel. (pretty much every citi in Asia I've visited has Citibank ATMs. This is nice as you don't have to freak around with changing money at money traders).

- If local banks are superior when it comes to ease of use, NETs, branch locations in Singapore, etc.
Every bank has ATMS scattered all over. But, No matter what bank you have, you'll eventually find yourself somewhere in Singapore needing to use an ATM but your bank will not have one within 1km. It will happen no matter what bank you pick. Solution is to withdraw more money less often. If you still care, POSB/DBS (same bank different color schemes) ATMs are everywhere, but despite having 5x as many ATMs they almost always still have long queues.

- Relative ease of opening up a Citi Global account vs. a local bank (like DBS)

About the same. Citibank is slightly behind the times on updating account information online. They still rely heavily on paper forms. Anything that requires a paperform however can also be accomplished by sending a "secure message" through their website and waiting 1-3 days. As opposed to DBS, where you can just update it like you'd expect of any modern banking website built in the last 10 years.

- Relative sophistication of online banking / apps for each option


They both accomplish the same things just with different UIs, with the exception I laid out above.


For benefits, they're all the same/so close that it doesn't really matter. I'm not a points min-maxxer though. I use the Citi Premier Miles Visa, it gives 3 miles per S$1 spent overseas. The exchange rate hits you, but then I expense all of those charges back to my company anyway. Locally it is 1.2 miles per S$1.

If you drink Starbucks coffee, you get a 10% rebate using a Citibank Visa card. Honestly that is the only regular purchase I make that matters where I actually notice the slight gain of the rebate card. I'd still use Citibank, but it is a nice tangible bonus.

The only time you'll need a NETS card is if you want to recharge your EZ-Link (MRT, bus) card at a kiosk, or your NETS Cashcard for ERP and Parking if you buy a car. You can still do those in Cash at 7-11s and other places though.

Honestly I think the most important thing will be if you travel anywhere besides Malaysia and Indonesia is to have Citibank. ATMs all over is an immense convenience.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby aster » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 9:39 pm

the lynx wrote:Just to add, DBS and POSB share ATMs and POSB is one of the most common ATMs around Singapore (especially for commoners). You tend to see more DBS ATMs in expat-ish areas and POSB in heartland areas. Citi is always in every MRT stations.

For almost every transaction, you can pay using online banking and now they have FAST transfer for free (in some countries, it cost you a service charge) so you can transfer funds between two local accounts within minutes, if not seconds.


Correct, DBS and POSB are the same, though overall I think the UOB+OCBC network of ATMs is unbeatable. Same with branches.

FAST transfers are instantaneous. They are a new addition to local transfer options which used to be expensive (MEPS) or complicated (GIRO). As you mentioned they're free right now which is an added bonus! :)

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby aster » Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:18 pm

russch wrote:What is considered average vs. good on mileage accrual on local cards? I get 3x per 1$ on travel and 2x on dining/entertainment as a baseline. Just curious..


It all boils down to whether you want to juggle separate cards for different types of spend to maximise your earnings ratios, or whether you prefer to play the game conveniently and have just 2-3 so that you don't have to track their annual renewal dates, fee wavers, etc.

1. For a "general spend" card decent is 1.2, good is 1.4, and the top one out there is currently a new 1.6 card from UOB (PRVI MC). This is the ammo in your wallet that you whip out and can always rely on.

2. Looking at your spend you will always have certain areas where a big chunk of your budget goes to. One of those areas is your grocery (supermarket) spend, which also includes alcohol of course. Here it all depends on where you shop. If you use Fairprice regularly then I'd go with the UOB Preferred Platinum Visa card as it earns 4 miles/$ for all Paywave spend.

The only area you have to watch out for are special UOB merchants which give SMART$ rebates instead. Cold Storage is one such merchant, so instead of a sweet 4 miles/$ for Paywave they give you those useless SMART$ instead. Bummer, especially since this is a recent change.

3. Must-have cards. Here the big one is ironically the Woman's World MC (WWMC), which of course you can still apply for as a guy. This card gives 4 miles/$ on online spend up to a $2k limit (8k miles) per month. Don't be so worried about the online aspect though. You can use this card to top-up prepaid debit cards like the Imagine AMEX card (they allow up to $1000 balance, but you can have up to 5 cards registered). This way you get the 4 miles/$ just for topping up, and then you can use the prepaid Imagine Amex for your regular spend... at Cold Storage for instance. BOTTOM LINE: this is an easy way to spend $2k each month for a guaranteed 8,000 miles.

Hope I've given you some idea, this is just something to start off with. You mentioned airfares and there are some good cards for that which I can look up and get back to you on this here.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby curiousgeorge » Tue, 06 Jan 2015 4:12 pm

russch wrote:Hi All -

Will be relocating to SIngapore next month and trying to get a handle on banking. From the research I've done, it appears quite easy to open a "Global" account with Citibank. Does a Citi account afford me as much "local flexibility" as an account with DBS, however? Do I get NETS with a CitiBank account? And does it really matter anyway?

I'd love anyone's thoughts on:

- If Citi US <> Singapore fund transfers are as seamless (and cheap) as Citi claims they are with a Global Account: I've read a few threads that indicated that some have had some pretty major issues accessing their "foreign" Citi accounts from SIN-based Citi accounts. If this is the case, I'm not sure what Citi brings to the table..

- If local banks are superior when it comes to ease of use, NETs, branch locations in Singapore, etc.

- Relative ease of opening up a Citi Global account vs. a local bank (like DBS)

- Relative sophistication of online banking / apps for each option

Thanks very much in advance!


I have a UK Citi GBP account, a UK Citi SGD account and an SG Citi account. (And a POSB e-savings account).

With a credit card you never have to queue to pay utilities (except when you have to return your set-top box argh!)

No NETS with Citi and to be honest you can get by mostly with NETS top-up card. I recently went native and signed up for the POSB PA card which does debit duties for NETS, EzLink, SMRT, ERP and PayPass. Basically my catch-all when I need it (although the EZlink has to be topped up on the card from your account, it doesn't debit directly.) Handy in car parks when my cashcard has run out...

My day-to-day spending locally all goes through a Citi Prestige Mastercard (1.4m/$1) so the UOB card is a better bet for Miles, however the Citi Prestige card gives local purchase protection for 30 days which has paid for itself when I dropped my new tablet. (compared to UOB overseas purchase protection only).

WORD OF CAUTION:
Since I opened the accounts seven years ago, my UK citi accounts (Both GBP and SGD) are now converted to Savings accounts. Current (checking) accounts attract a fee from Citi in the UK unless you're paying your salary into them (I'm not). The difference is subtle, but you can't transfer money from a Citi Savings account to another bank via online banking. Only via telephone banking. Never used to be this way and its a bit of a faff now but still free. Hopefully won't be long until all my obligations in the UK are over and I can close them.

One last word - it would behoove you to do the sums, based on how much $$$ you expect to be repatriating. Compare the FX from each bank, along with the fees back home. For my "free" transfers from SG Citi to UK Citi, I pay an extra $0.005 on each $, meaning about GBP5 on a $1000 transfer.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby curiousgeorge » Tue, 06 Jan 2015 4:16 pm

Oh and if you are opening a Citi account locally, contact me for a friend referral reward ;)

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby michellell » Tue, 06 Jan 2015 5:10 pm

I love to share what I experienced with Citi and DBS with you. When I moved to Singapore two years ago, I was told exactly the same - seamless transfer between the Citi Global account in US and Singapore Citi account. My company covered me to have a Citi Global executive account , so I opened a bank account with Citi Singapore hoping to use it as my primary bank account locally. It's closed now and here are the reason:
1. The exchange rate was terrible when you do the "free" fund transfer from your US Citi account to the local account. I did a test a couple month ago. My US credit card was converting S$ at about 1.26 and Citi global transfer was giving about 1.23. On the other hand, if I use my US Citi debit card on Citi ATM in Singapore, there is no fee and the exchange rate is much closer to the market rate.
2. Citi's basic checking account is free for 6 month, and charge S$10 maintenance fee if your balance falls below S$5,000 after that, and they won't waive it.
3. You can only re-charge cash cards on local bank's ATM. If you only have Citi, you'll have to go to 7-11 to pay about 50 cents to top up cash cards. Cost is not a big deal, but if you drive, it could be an inconvenience to recharge the cash cards.
4. Citi doesn't have as many banking centers, and some of them close at 3pm in the afternoon. The Gold counters stay open till 6, but they only recognize local gold accounts (balance with $200K and above).
5. DBS and other local banks seem to have more discounts with retail and restaurants. It is true that Citi has 10% rebate with Starbucks, but I just see more discount for shopping, parking, and food for the local banks.

So I closed my account with Citi a month ago. I opened an account with DBS (which was super easy), and they have a multi-currency account that allow you to keep US$, S$ and other currencies. I'm happy not having to deal with Citi Singapore. Hope this helps.

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Re: DBS vs. CitiBank: Opening accounts vs. ease of use

Postby Dert42 » Tue, 06 Jan 2015 9:29 pm

michellell nailed it.

the global transfer stuff is a huge pain, and not really whats advertiesed.
there is a 10k limit per every 24 hours. They don't tell you that either.
i had over $50k locked up in the US when i moved here and had to scream on the phone for 2 hours before i finally got them to agree to give me my money.

also people mentioned it, CitiBank ATMs are rare.

Citi has been terrible to us here in Singapore. I highly recommend you don't go with them.


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