10 Practical Tips For Dealing (And Taking Advantage Of) With Banks And Others

There are certain advantages and disadvantages in using plastic money in today’s world. Since it is almost a necessity now with the lockdowns and everything, I decided to write about how to take advantage, save money (or at least avoid charges), and maybe even make some (in the form of points etc which are as good as cash). Just to be clear, I am not advocating to swipe unnecessarily only to acquire these points. I am sorry, but that is just plain stupid. Because as much as I would like to think we can outsmart these financial institutions, I am sorry to disappoint you but they would not roll out these promos to lose money intentionally. In my opinion, these marketing campaigns (yes, marketing campaigns, so it should be our first clue that no matter how hard we try to take advantage of them, in the end these are designed to reel us in) are still beneficial to them. Otherwise they would not even bother.

How do they make money? I suppose their main target are the consumers who do not have the discipline. It is like luring us with a 1% cashback then charging us 7% if we miss our payments. Get the idea yet? I am lucky I do not like shopping, much less online shopping (if I need to, I want to be able to try clothes on before purchasing) so I do not have this problem. If you are one of the impulsive ones, my advise is to cut up those plastic cards which give us more spending power than sometimes we can afford to pay for before you find yourself deep in debt. Next time I will write about the dangers of credit cards.

For the stingy ones like me (cheers!), read on, enjoy, and I hope you find my tips useful.

1. It pays to at least ask for waiver of annual fees. Two weeks ago, I called Citibank to request my annual fees be waived. I was told to send a message online and then I was told they do not have any offers for me. I requested my card be cut instead and was told someone is going to call me to confirm. Three days later, I got a text message saying they have reversed my annual fees. And to think I saved our conversation as PDF (see attached file) so I will have proof that they will deduct the the fees from my supposedly last bill (because I made the customer service representative swear they will and I want to be ready in case I need to remind them). Just as well, since it is their Cash Back card and I get 6% rebate from my groceries spends and I still get more than 4.5K a year.

I did not even get the call.

2. Take advantage of spend anywhere promos. The banks who usually have this are Citibank, BDO, Eastwest Bank (though the last one I remember is years ago) and Metrobank (just recently, and very clever, too, jumping in on the BTS bandwagon). Since birth, I have probably gotten like three months’ worth of meals and maybe P200K worth of shopping credits. Not bad eh? That is how serious I am. Check this out as an example: https://www.bdo.com.ph/personal/credit-cards-promos/view/shop-anywhere-cash-back

3. Credit card companies have cards designed for specific needs. I have a Citibank premier miles card, but since 2007 (I think it was called differently way back then) I have not been able to redeem miles for any flights. Not that I did not try, but I think I remember it seemed very complicated, or only have Cathay Pacific as options or something. Still not a waste because I used my miles for cash credits instead. So anyway, since 2018 (till the borders closed) I have been traveling a lot and mostly with Cebu Pacific. I am not partial to any one airline, they are not much different, all of them have canceled flights, delayed flights, missing baggage, so given the same destinations, schedule and number of layovers, if any, my deciding factor is really the price. So two years ago, I got myself a Union Bank getgo card. I have accumulated over 44k getgo points now!

I sure hope I can use them soon. They have migrated to Go Rewards, which I have not checked yet.

4. Grab has these cute little challenges that reward their users points. Yep, even these I take seriously. Every time I book a grab ride, I always use my points for discounts. I remember this one time I had pizza (Sophia’s favorite) delivered via GrabFood and the restaurant messed up my order (wrong size of soda) and so I reported and asked they rectify the mistake. I was given a discount voucher to appease me, and of course I asked for GrabPay credits instead because I always use promo codes when I order (or not at all) and I am only allowed to use one at a time. Though I have discovered that the prices in the app are higher than the ones in the stores, maybe some anyway. So I only have food delivered from restaurants not within walking distance from where I am.

Not very original, but who cares eh?

5. Instead of acquiring late payment charges and interest fees (hopefully not from unnecessary purchases), balance conversions or cash to go (or whatever the bank you are dealing with calls it) has lower rates. Especially if you are not planning (or cannot afford) to pay within the next due date, I suggest to apply for installments instead to avoid exorbitant (and for me very unreasonable) fees. I say unreasonable because banks give savings accounts 0.75% (give and take .05%) less 20% withholding tax per annum. Per annum! And they charge roughly over 7% (in total) per month if you do not pay your credit card bill in full. Per month! I hope this makes you think twice before “taking advantage” of the 8.8 shopping scheme!!!

6. Only withdraw from your bank’s ATM. Unless I am in a hurry, I would walk 1-2 km to save a measly 11 pesos (roughly 22 US cents). Well, if it is BDO and they only allow 10K (or is it only 4K if other banks) withdrawal at a time and I need 50K, not so measly anymore right? Plus it is a good cardio exercise. I also heard that banks recently increased their fees. Like I need another reason!

7. Look for the cheapest (if not free) way to send money online. I have been a fan of online banking pre-pandemic, but now it is not only convenient but the only way to go unless you are fine with long lines outside banks (yes outside, with social distancing and all) and contact tracing (manually done at some establishments) and spraying too much alcohol as if your skin is not dry enough and taking (another) shower upon returning home. It is so annoying how banks charge as much as P50 (approximately 1 US dollar) for deposits to accounts from other parts of the country. I need to maintain at least 100K (around 2K USD) just to get even for that 1 charged transaction. P50 may not be much, but imagine having multiple transactions per month and it all adds up. I got so annoyed with BPI for charging 10 pesos for transfer to anyone transactions, so I always ask for QR codes.

8. Look for the cheapest (if not free) way to pay bills online. Every month, I have like 10 (give or take 2) electric and wifi / cable bills to pay. I am a fan of online payment. I used to pay through Meralco app, until they started charging for it, then I enrolled my accounts to Citibank, then I switched back to Meralco app when they suspended the charge during the pandemic, then again back to Citibank when they started collecting fees again. Early this year I got like maybe around P8K worth of gift certificates (refer to #2) for paying Meralco bills using the Citibank app. When I run out of available limit in my Citibank card, I switched to Grabpay, I get Grab points on top of the credit card points I get for cashing in on my account so needless to say, I could not be happier (except maybe when the bills stop coming altogether, but will settle for the points for now).

9. Take advantage of the 0% installment promos of credit card companies. Unless you are the kind of person who would rather pay in full because you do not want that hanging over your head. If your income is steady and you can make the monthly repayment without tragically making a dent in your budget, then you can invest the money instead. Hopefully somewhere earning more than what you’re losing in value in lieu of the inevitable inflation rate. Message me if you want to know your options.

10. Probably the most memorable cheapskate moment I have so far is that one night in Singapore back in October 2018. My friend and I bought a shirt each for a badminton event we were going to. Now this friend is as stingy (or did we establish me as the worse, or better, depends on how you look at it, one after several discussions about it?) as I am and we only shopped at the discounted section of Nike at Takashimaya department store. It was not until the next night while we were deciding where to have dinner that I remembered about the GST refund so I made him walk at least 3-4 bus stops away from our hotel. It did not make sense to take the bus and get as much, if not less, as the refund, right? To make a long story short, I was told we did not spend enough to qualify for the refund. To say that I was extremely disappointed and a little mad at myself for not thinking things through was an understatement. The silver lining was I did not spend more just to get there, and the good news is that I got free dinner (he said to make up for my loss he would buy me dinner, but of course irregardless he would still have, so he only cheered me up just a little). From then on, I could not help but associate Takashimaya with a very harrowing, distressing experience. Until now, I could not look at the store without reliving that traumatic night. Until now, I could not let go. Unfortunately, same goes with that particular friend I was with that night.

Nah I only said that to make the story more dramatic but to be honest, it was a very funny encounter and we had one too many laughs about it. Regret to say that is the only exaggeration in that last part of the previous paragraph.

Can you add to my 10 tips? I would love to learn more ways on how to save money!

#ToABetterSarah #ShowMeTheMoney

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