Bank of China cuts SmartSaver interest rates, and I’m so out of here

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BOC will nerf the SmartSaver account from 1 August 2020, significantly cutting the bonus interest. It's time to jump ship.

Well, you can’t say it hasn’t been a long time coming.

Bank of China has announced that from 1 August 2020, interest rates on the BOC SmartSaver will be cut significantly, joining DBS, OCBC, UOB and pretty much every other bank in nerfing its flagship savings account. 

boc interest rate changes

This gives customers just under a month to adjust their allocation of funds, and for me, it’s so long BOC and thanks for miles and interest (and migraines). 

BOC SmartSaver account changes

From 1 August 2020, the BOC SmartSaver will offer the following interest rates: 

 Until 31 July 2020From 1 August 2020
Purchase eligible BOC wealth productsN/A1.5%
Spend on BOC credit cards each month1.6%
(≥ S$1,500)

0.8%
(≥S$500)
0.5%
(≥ S$1,500)

0.3%
(≥S$500)
Credit salary 1.2%
(≥ S$6,000)

0.8%
(≥ S$2,000)
0.5%
(≥ S$6,000)

0.3%
(≥ S$2,000)
Pay at least 3 bills0.35%0.3%
Maximum Bonus Interest3.15%2.8%
Base Interest0.4%0.15%
Total interest3.55%2.95%
Cap on bonus interestS$60,000S$80,000

On first glance, a reduction in the maximum bonus interest from 3.15% to 2.8% doesn’t seem that bad, especially considering how BOC is raising the cap on bonus interest from S$60,000 to S$80,000. 

But look closer, and it falls apart.

New wealth bonus interest category

 Until 31 July 2020From 1 August 2020
Purchase eligible BOC wealth productsN/A1.5%
*Bonus interest awarded for first 12 months only

BOC is now offering a “wealth bonus” of 1.5%, which makes up ~55% of the total account’s bonus interest. Since I have no interest in buying the bank’s investment products (I’m a DIY investment kind of guy), this is virtually irrelevant to me. 

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Moreover, even if I did buy an investment product from BOC, the bonus interest would only be awarded for the first 12 months. 

Credit card bonus interest cut

 Until 31 July 2020From 1 August 2020
Spend ≥ S$1,5001.6%0.5%
S$500 ≤ Spend< S$1,5000.8%0.3%

BOC has taken the sword to bonus interest for credit card spending. Currently, you can earn up to 0.8-1.6% bonus interest by spending on your BOC cards. From 1 August, that’s getting cut to 0.3-0.5%. 

Assuming an average account balance of S$60,000, you’ll lose S$660 of interest each year. 

This also means that the last vestige of a use case for the BOC Elite Miles goes out the window.

Currently, if you spend S$500 on your card and keep S$60,000 in the BOC SmartSaver, you’ll earn S$40 of interest and lose out on 100-1,500 miles. Even if you take the highest end of that spectrum, 1,500 miles is worth ~S$30, making S$40 interest a good trade. 

❓ The actual number of miles you lose out on depends on what alternative cards you have, and whether there was a chance to earn 4 mpd. The BOC Elite Miles earns 1 mpd on local spending, and given a 1.2-4.0 mpd range of alternatives, S$500 represents 100-1,500 foregone miles.

But from 1 August, that same scenario will earn you only S$15 of interest (S$20 if you max out the account’s increased S$80,000 interest cap). That’s a much more marginal case for giving up miles, especially if it’s a 4 mpd opportunity. 

Let’s also not forget the litany of issues that come with the BOC Elite Miles Card too- mysterious interest charges, dodgy annual fee “waivers”, a cap on the maximum number of miles you can transfer at a time..

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All in all, it’s just not worth the drama anymore. 

Salary crediting bonus interest cut

 Until 31 July 2020From 1 August 2020
Salary ≥ S$6,0001.2%0.5%
S$2,000 ≤ Salary < S$6,0000.8%0.3%

Crediting your salary to BOC will be significantly less rewarding from 1 August 2020, with the bonus interest cut from 0.8-1.2% to 0.3-0.5%. 

Assuming an average account balance of S$60,000, you’ll lose S$420 of interest each year. 

Bill payments bonus interest cut

 Until 31 July 2020From 1 August 2020
Pay at least 3 bills of min. S$30 each0.35%0.3%

Bill payments are the easiest bonus category to earn, which may explain why so many banks have removed them. BOC hasn’t, to their credit, but they’ve reduced the bonus interest ever so slightly from 0.35% to 0.3%.

You’ll need to pay at least 3 bills of at least S$30 each, via GIRO or BOC Internet Banking/BOC Mobile Banking Bill Payment function. 

Assuming an average account balance of S$60,000, you’ll lose S$30 of interest each year. 

Base interest has also been cut

 Until 31 July 2020From 1 August 2020
Below $5,000.000.25%0.1%
$5,000 to S$20,000 (exclusive)0.275%0.1%
S$20,000 to S$50,000 (exclusive)0.35%0.15%
S$50,000 to S$100,000 (exclusive)0.4%0.15%
S$100,000 and above0.475%0.2%

BOC will also cut the base interest on all its savings accounts. Previously, you could earn 0.4% base interest on account balances from S$50,000 to S$100,000 (which is how you get the 3.55% interest figure on the SmartSaver- keep S$60,000 in the account and max out all your categories to get 3.15% + 0.4%).  From 1 August, that will be cut to just 0.15%. 

What now?

I’ve been a BOC customer since July 2018, and my relationship with them has been…complex. The customer service is awful, the IT antiquated, the shenanigans plenty, and yet I stuck with them for the promise of high miles and interest. 

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That Faustian deal has unraveled in recent times. In June, the BOC Elite Miles was well and truly nerfed, leaving it a shell of its former self. And yet, the SmartSaver received a stay of execution thanks to the OCBC 360’s devaluation. Even with no credit card spending, I’d still be earning 1.95% p.a with the SmartSaver, more than the 1.25% p.a on the 360. 

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With the new interest structure, however, the best I can manage with the BOC SmartSaver would be a paltry 0.95% p.a:

  • 0.5% from salary crediting
  • 0.3% from bill payment
  • 0.15% base interest

So I’m out. It’s going to be a pain to spend the next few weeks redoing all my GIRO arrangements, but it is what it is.

BOC’s only saving grace was its high interest rates- take those away, and I’d much rather place my money with a bank that doesn’t require me to go down just to link my credit card to ibanking. 

Conclusion

Low interest rates aren’t a BOC-specific phenomenon, of course. As mentioned at the start, we’ve seen many banks cut their rates over the past few months, making savings accounts less and less attractive. 

I’ve attempted to forestall the impact by opening a Singlife Account and parking S$10,000 at 2.5% p.a, and also a Dash EasyEarn account for a further S$20,000 at 2% p.a. Beyond that, however, it looks like I’ll be forced into the market if I want to earn a decent return on my funds. 

BOC customers- what are your next steps?

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Adam

Not BOC, but affected by DBS Multiplier rate cut. Moving some of my money to Dash EasyEarn, then considering whether to open Elastiq to put some more money.

rates

getting into the market is not necessarily a bad thing if you have savings beyond 6-12 months cash expenses ready.

the yield on some older corporate bond issues are good too because of current pricing.

multiplier is still decent if you have a house loan for 3 categories. for 2 categories at 30k its still decent as a place to park the dry powder.

kelvin

no point timing the market. just go for company stocks that would be able to rebound post covid 19 and dca on those.

Aaron

You missed out including the “Bonus Interest” of 0.4% which is awarded for fulfilling any one category. I think it is still the highest interest account out there:

Salary 0.5%
$500 Credit Card 0.3%
3x GIRO 0.3%
Bonus 0.4%
Prevailing 0.15%
=================
Total 1.65%

Jon

“bonus” only applies to balances above the 80K

rates

DCA requires faith and discipline. And choosing TSLA instead of wirecard or luckin.

IMO multiplier is current low-hanging fruit for Singapore consumer banking at 1.3-2.8% for 2 transactions and 2.0-3.8% for those with mortgages. Easy for 50K/100K savings without irritating-to-change GIRO or minimum card spends.

More than that and we’re in bond territory – easier with SGD but more liquidity with USD. At current prices some investment grade bonds are 4-8% yield, more with leverage.

Fedrick

Aaron you honestly should be a wealth manager at DBS Treasures or higher

Alys

Let’s just not bring in the topic of putting money in investments.
Just by looking at this type of savings account, BOC still seems better than the similar multiplier savings account offered by OCBC, DBS, UOB, dont you think so?

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