Instarem has finally launched its Amaze card in Singapore, having repeatedly delayed the debut due to regulatory hurdles and COVID-19.
Amaze was originally announced in October 2019 as a Visa Platinum debit card, with a targeted launch date in December that year. That was pushed to February 2020, before COVID-19 put the product in limbo for more than 15 months, raising questions of vaporware.
But the Amaze is now here (it’s switched to the Mastercard network as a World Mastercard debit card), packing a simple yet intriguing value proposition: Zero FCY fees, and 1% cashback on top of your regular credit card rewards.
Here’s the tl;dr for those who just want the juicy bits:
|💳 tl;dr: Amaze card|
Overview: Amaze Card
|Sign Up Here|
|Income Req.||Annual Fee||FCY Fee|
|Earn Rate||ATM Fees||Max Spend|
|1% cashback||Not supported*||No annual cap; per trxn cap of S$25K|
|*T&Cs state that the Amaze card cannot be used to make cash withdrawals via any ATM inside or outside Singapore.|
The Amaze works at any merchant which accepts Mastercard debit cards, and has no minimum income requirement nor annual fee. Both virtual and physical versions are available; the former is used for online transactions, the latter for in-store transactions.
Applications for the Amaze card can now be made through the Instarem app. If you use my referral code 7HK2A2, you’ll receive 75 Instapoints as a welcome bonus, and 400 Instapoints when you make your first transaction.
Instapoints can be used to offset Instarem transfers of at least S$500. 100 Instapoints is worth S$1.25, and a maximum of 400 points can be redeemed in a single transaction.
Do note that the Amaze card does not support ATM withdrawals either in Singapore or overseas.
How does the Amaze work?
Unlike Revolut or YouTrip, Instarem does not use a prepaid wallet to fund Amaze. Instead, users link up to five Singapore-issued Mastercard credit or debit cards to Amaze, and select a default one to be charged at the time of transaction.
|⚠️Before you ask, no, you can’t link the GrabPay Mastercard to Amaze.|
In that sense, transactions are a two-step process, with Amaze working like a passthrough. First your Amaze card is charged, then the underlying credit/debit card is charged. The concept is similar to Curve, if you’re familiar with that platform.
The Amaze has two main draws: zero foreign currency (FCY) transaction fees, and 1% cashback, on top of your regular credit card rewards.
Zero FCY transaction fees
When you make an FCY purchase with the Amaze, Instarem converts the transaction into SGD based on the mid-market exchange rate, with a small mark-up. The linked credit or debit card is then charged in SGD; think of it like DCC, but without the rip-off rates or additional bank charges.
To illustrate this, I made a US$5 transaction on Amazon’s USA website. Amaze converted it to S$6.79, which is pretty darn close to the actual mid-market rate at the time (S$6.81).
Just for kicks, I made the exact same transaction on my DBS Woman’s World Card seconds later, and was charged S$7.01.
In case you were wondering, Amaze transactions don’t trigger bank DCC charges. I checked this by using a Citibank card, which imposes a 1% fee on DCC transactions. You might have seen it on your monthly Spotify subscription, which costs S$9.90 plus a 9 cent DCC fee.
I made an A$1 transaction on the Amaze, this time linked to my Citi PremierMiles Card.
It posted as S$1.01, without any DCC fee.
So by paying with Amaze, you avoid the bank’s mark up on FCY conversions, plus their FCY transaction fee which ranges from 2.8-3.5%.
1% cashback, plus regular credit card rewards
But the ability to avoid FCY fees is not a gamechanger in and of itself. That’s the value proposition of every other multi-currency card out there.
Where Amaze really starts to get interesting is rewards, which are earned both from Amaze itself, as well as the underlying card linked to it.
Amaze cardholders who spend at least S$500 each calendar quarter will earn 1% cashback on all transactions, capped at S$100 per calendar quarter. Cashback will be credited to your Amaze wallet on the 25th of the month after the end of the quarter, e.g. Jan to March cashback will be paid out on 25 April.
It’s not clear at this time whether the cashback earned can be withdrawn to a bank account, or must be spent through Amaze. I see “Amaze Wallet” as one of the funding options for the Amaze, so I’m leaning to the latter.
Another question is whether you’ll be able to combine two funding sources. For example, if my Amaze wallet has a S$50 balance, does this mean I can only buy something that costs S$50 or less? Or can I buy something that costs S$80 and use a linked card to cover the balance?
The exceptions list is refreshingly brief. No cashback will be earned on:
- Transactions that have been subjected to refunds and chargebacks;
- Any transactions made by You to top-up other prepaid cards and/or virtual online accounts
such as Grab Wallet;
- Any cash withdrawals; and
- Transactions which are below SGD5.00
Basically, apart from prepaid wallets like Grab, everything else is fair game. This means you could earn 1% cashback on education bills, government transactions, insurance premiums, charitable donations and the like. However, AXS does not accept Amaze, so you’ll have to hope the counterparty accepts Mastercard.
|💡 Of course, you could already earn 1.7% cashback on such transactions via a combination of the UOB Absolute Cashback Card and the GrabPay Mastercard. I see the Amaze as more useful for those who don’t qualify for credit cards, or have maxed out the S$30K annual spending cap on the GrabPay Mastercard.|
1% cashback alone isn’t enough to get excited about, but remember: this is earned on top of your regular credit card rewards.
As it turns out, Amaze is a bit like PayPal in the sense that all transactions code with an AMAZE* prefix, but still keep the underlying MCC.
For example, I bought something on Lazada, and it coded as MCC 5399: Misc. General Merchandise Stores.
Likewise, my Amazon USA transaction coded as MCC 5942: Book Stores.
So in other words, by linking your Amaze to the Citi Rewards or DBS Woman’s World Card, you’d earn 4 mpd plus 1% cashback on these online transactions. And if your transaction happens to be in FCY, you’ll save on the 3.25% FCY fee (charged by Citibank and DBS) compared to using a credit card alone.
I hope you see why this is so fantastic. With other multi-currency cards, you save on FCY fees, but forego credit card rewards. If I use my YouTrip card for a US$500 Amazon USA transaction instead of the Citi Rewards, I save 3.25%, but miss out on 4 mpd.
With Amaze, it’s no longer either/or. I can save on the FCY fee, and get my 4 mpd + 1% cashback.
Does Amaze turn offline transactions into online ones?
Mark this as unconfirmed, but I’ve heard a few intriguing data points that transactions paid with the physical Amaze card are tagged as online.
Pause a minute and consider the implications. If this really is the case, then you can basically turn the Citi Rewards or DBS Woman’s World Card into 4 mpd everywhere cards (so long as the underlying MCC isn’t excluded by the bank, e.g. education), like the Imagine in days of yore.
Moreover, it means there’s really zero opportunity cost involved with using Amaze. For example, suppose I’m at a restaurant in Bangkok and weighing between paying with:
- UOB Visa Signature , earning 4 mpd with a 3.25% FCY fee
- Amaze linked to UOB PRVI Miles Mastercard, earning 1.4 mpd + 1% cashback (remember, Amaze converts the transaction into SGD)
By opting for Amaze, I’m foregoing 2.6 mpd and saving 4.25%- actually a decent trade.
But if Amaze indeed converts all offline transactions into online ones, then my alternative option would be Amaze linked to the Citi Rewards Card, earning 4 mpd + 1% cashback. I’m basically saving 4.25%, while raking in 4 mpd.
I’m waiting for my physical Amaze card to arrive so I can test it myself, and will update this section once I have. Unfortunately, you can’t add the virtual Amaze card to Apple or Google Pay (or rather you can, but only for online transactions).
|Sign Up Here|
Amaze isn’t just another multi-currency card, since it bypasses the wallet concept in favor of consolidating multiple cards into one. You might think of it as a multi-card card, actually.
The prospect of avoiding FCY transaction fees while still earning up to 4 mpd is excellent, and the 1% cashback is merely the icing on the cake. And should it be the case that physical Amaze transactions code as online, that increases the value of the Citi Rewards/DBS Woman’s World Card exponentially.
I have a sneaking suspicion this won’t last forever, given that the banks won’t be too pleased to miss out on FCY fees while still having to pay out 4 mpd. It’s likely a case of making hay while the sun shines, but it’ll be amazing while it lasts.