Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
This mantra, hackneyed through it may be, should really come embossed on every single one of Instarem’s Amaze Cards.
When I first published this review back in July 2021, Amaze was truly amazing: Zero FCY fees, 1% cashback, regular credit card rewards, and virtually no exclusions. Demand was so off the charts that Instarem had trouble shipping out physical cards in time for year-end VTL travel.
Since then, however, a whole lot has happened:
- Amaze added numerous rewards exclusions in January 2022 (though no more onerous than those of regular banks)
- Amaze’s exchange rates have progressively diverged from spot and Mastercard rates (though it’s still cheaper than paying with a credit card)
- Amaze devalued its cashback programme multiple times, and has now scrapped it altogether in favour of a points-based scheme with fixed-block cash rebates
- DBS added Amaze to its rewards exclusion list in June 2022
Such a lengthy list of nerfs would torpedo any other product, but it speaks volumes about how good Amaze used to be that even after all this, it’s still my first choice card for overseas spending. And while it may be dying the death of a thousand cuts, there’s little reason not to use Amaze so long as the banks keep the rewards tap on.
Even if it’s less amazing than before.
|💳 tl;dr: Amaze Card|
Overview: Amaze Card
|Use code 7HK2A2 for 225 bonus InstaPoints|
|Income Req.||Annual Fee||FCY Fee|
|Local Earn||FCY Earn||Points Expiry|
|None||1 InstaPoint per S$1||6/12 months|
The Amaze Card is available to anyone with an Instarem account, and has no minimum income requirement or annual fee.
Amaze Cardholders will receive two cards:
- a virtual card for online transactions
- a physical card for in-store spending
If you’re waiting for your physical card, you can still spend in-store by adding the virtual card to your mobile wallet (only Google Pay is supported at the moment).
Amaze Card transactions can be funded through:
- Amaze Wallet
- A credit or debit card
Let’s ignore the wallet for a moment and focus on cards, because that’s the main draw of Amaze.
Amaze Cardholders can link up to five Singapore-issued Mastercard credit or debit cards to Amaze, and designate a default card to be charged during a transaction.
Every time a transaction is charged to the Amaze Card, two things happen:
- Amaze converts any foreign currency (FCY) amounts into Singapore dollars based on its own internal exchange rate
- Amaze then charges the Singapore dollar amount to the linked credit/debit card
In that sense, transactions are a two-step process, with Amaze working like a passthrough. At the end of each month, there’s no Amaze bill to pay; instead, you settle any outstanding amounts on the credit card you linked to Amaze.
While Amaze’s internal exchange rates entail a spread, there’s no additional FCY fee charged on top of it (using a credit card usually entails a spread plus 2.8-3.25% FCY fee). This isn’t novel, in and of itself. Other multi-currency cards like Revolut and YouTrip have given customers the convenience of cashless spending sans FCY fees for a while now.
But why Amaze is so revolutionary is that unlike Revolut and YouTrip, which require customers to trade credit card rewards for zero FCY fees (you can’t earn points for topping up a Revolut/YouTrip wallet), Amaze cardholders enjoy both credit card rewards and zero FCY fees.
In fact, when you spend with Amaze, you earn two types of rewards:
- Credit card rewards
- Amaze rewards
Credit card rewards
Amaze transactions earn regular credit card rewards (with the exception of DBS cards), just like any other retail transaction.
Transactions processed through Amaze:
- Code as online spend
- Retain the same MCC as the original merchant
- Have an AMAZE* prefix added to the transaction description
For example, here’s how a Lazada transaction looks like when paid with Amaze. Notice how the MCC remains the same, but AMAZE* is added to the transaction description.
The upshot is that if a credit card awards bonuses for online transactions or based on MCCs (e.g. Citi Rewards), you can pair it with Amaze and earn bonuses as per normal.
However, if a credit card awards bonuses based on transaction description (e.g. Maybank Family & Friends), pairing it with Amaze will lead to forfeiture of those bonuses. Fortunately, such cards are the minority.
Here’s the cards I’d recommend pairing with Amaze (remember: you can only pair Mastercards).
|Citi Rewards||4 mpd||S$1K per s. month||Except travel|
|UOB Lady’s Card||4 mpd||S$1K per c. month||Selected MCCs|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire||4 mpd||S$3K per c. month||Selected MCCs|
|OCBC Titanium Rewards||4 mpd||S$13.3K per m. year||Selected MCCs|
|KrisFlyer UOB Card||3 mpd |
(min. S$500 SIA Group spend per m. year)
|UOB PRVI Miles MC||1.4 mpd||None|
|Other general spending options: Citi PremierMiles Card (1.2 mpd), OCBC 90°N Mastercard (1.2 mpd)|
For additional information on what card to pair with Amaze for different types of spending, refer to the article below.
In addition to credit card rewards, Amaze also offers its own rewards system.
Historically, Amaze transactions would earn 0.5-1% cashback, credited directly to the Amaze Wallet every quarter. However, Amaze scrapped the cashback system from July 2022 and introduced its own rewards currency called InstaPoints (T&Cs).
- No InstaPoints for spend in SGD
- 1 InstaPoint per S$1 spent in FCY, subject to a minimum transaction of S$10, and capped at 500 InstaPoints per transaction (i.e. S$500)
The minimum spend and cap are certainly annoying, since S$10 would rule out points on smaller items like public transport rides or snacks. Likewise, a cap of 500 InstaPoints per transaction would require you to break up any transaction larger than S$500 (which won’t always be possible).
InstaPoints are awarded immediately upon the transaction posting.
The expiry of your InstaPoints depends on when they were earned:
- Points earned before 1 October 2022 expire six months after date of crediting
- Points earned from 1 October 2022 expire 12 months after date of crediting
InstaPoints can be converted into cash rebates in fixed blocks of 2,000 points= S$20. This is a decidedly inferior system to the previous cashback scheme, because it creates orphan points and effectively slows the rate at which you can claim your cashback (you’ll need to assemble blocks of 2,000 points/S$2,000 spend).
The InstaPoints rewards portal went live on 1 October 2022.
What FCY rates does Amaze offer?
When you make a foreign currency transaction on a credit card, you normally incur two kinds of fees:
- An implicit fee arising from the spread between the spot rate and the actual rate used
- A FCY transaction fee of 2.8-3.25%
Amaze avoids (2) altogether, since your credit card is charged in Singapore dollars. You will still incur (1), but the idea is that Amaze’s spread is relatively modest.
In the first edition of this review (dated July 2021), Amaze rates were very close to the actual spot rate. Since then, they’ve diverged somewhat. Here’s a sample of transactions I made on Amaze over the past six months, in a mixture of currencies. I’ve included the official Mastercard rate, to facilitate comparisons with a regular credit card.
What I’m seeing is a spread of up to 0.55%. It’s certainly more than a year ago, but you’re still better off using Amaze than a credit card with a 2.8-3.5% FCY fee.
One annoying thing about Amaze is that the rate is opaque until after making the transaction. In other words, you can’t check the rate beforehand; you’ll only know what rate you got once the transaction is completed.
What about the Amaze Wallet?
As an alternative to credit/debit cards, Amaze transactions can also be funded through an Amaze Wallet balance.
- Amaze Wallet can be topped up with a Mastercard or Visa card, with PayNow support coming soon
- A minimum top-up of S$20 is required
- Top-ups to the Amaze wallet code as MCC 6540 (POI Funding Transactions), and therefore don’t earn rewards with any card in Singapore.
Any cashback from InstaPoints conversions will also be credited to the Amaze Wallet. Your Amaze Wallet balance can be used for local or overseas spending via the Amaze Card, at the prevailing FCY rates.
|❓ How is this different from Revolut or YouTrip?|
Revolut and YouTrip also utilise a wallet system, but there’s one key difference.
With Amaze, your wallet balance is maintained in SGD. Any foreign currency transactions will be converted into SGD based on prevailing rates at the time of the transaction.
With Revolut and YouTrip, your wallet balance is maintained in any supported foreign currency. Any foreign currency transactions will be deducted from the relevant wallet. This allows you to lock in a favourable FX rate today, for use in the future.
An Amaze wallet balance cannot be used for partial payment. For example, if you have S$20 in your Amaze wallet, you cannot pay for a S$30 transaction (the system is not clever enough to deduct S$20 from your wallet, and charge the remaining S$10 to your card).
An Amaze wallet balance cannot be cashed out to a bank account, but a simple workaround would be to top-up a GrabPay account using the Amaze card, then withdraw the GrabPay balance. Do note that the minimum GrabPay top-up amount is S$10.
If you’re stuck with an odd balance in your Amaze Wallet, one idea is to top it up with a card and then cash out the whole amount. For example, suppose I have S$8.29 in my Amaze Wallet. This is insufficient for a GrabPay top-up, but I can:
- Top-up S$21.71 using my credit card (Amaze requires a minimum top-up of S$20)
- Use the S$30 Amaze Wallet balance to top-up GrabPay
- Cash out S$30 from GrabPay to my bank account
What transactions are excluded?
The following transactions do not earn InstaPoints:
- Any transaction in SGD
- Any foreign currency transaction smaller than S$10
- Any transaction with the following MCCs
|4111||Railroads, Transportation Services|
|4784||Tolls and Bridge Fees|
|4900||Utilities: Electric, Gas, Water, and Sanitary|
|5047||Medical, Dental, Ophthalmic and Hospital Equipment and Supplies|
|5199||Nondurable Goods (Not elsewhere classified)|
|5960||Direct Marketing: Insurance Services|
|5993||Cigar Stores and Stands|
|6012||Financial Institutions: Merchandise, Services, and debt Repayment|
|6300||Insurance Sales, Underwritting, and Premiums|
|6513||Real Estate Agents and Managers: Rentals|
|6540||Non-Financial Institutions – Stored Value Card Purchase/Load|
|7299||Other Services (Not elsewhere classified)|
|7349||Cleaning, Maintenance and Janitorial Services|
|7523||Parking Lots, Parking Meters and Garages|
|8211||Elementary and Secondary Schools|
|8220||Colleges, Universities, Professional Schools, and Junior Colleges|
|8244||Business and Secretarial Schools|
|8249||Vocational and Trade Schools|
|8299||Schools and Educational Services|
|8398||Charitable Social Service Organisations|
|9211||Court Costs, including Alimony and Child Support|
|9223||Bail and Bond Payments|
The exclusions list more or less matches the ones published by banks, with education, insurance, government payments and hospitals all ineligible. This means you won’t earn any InstaPoints should you use the Amaze to pay for overseas school fees, visa applications or medical treatment.
|Use code 7HK2A2 for 225 bonus InstaPoints|
Should you still be using the Amaze card? The answer is a resounding yes.
Even though its cashback system has been nerfed, even though its FX rates aren’t as good as before, even though it’s got additional rewards exclusions, it’s still hands down the best option for overseas spending or for turning offline transactions into online ones.
Will it last forever? Clearly not. DBS was the first bank to exclude Amaze transactions, but it certainly won’t be the last. Sooner or later, banks will start to question why they’re letting Amaze eat their FCY fees while subsidising its operation via rewards. And when they pull the plug, there’ll be very little reason to choose Amaze over Revolut or YouTrip.
The lesson here is to make hay while the sun shines. Every month that you can earn 4 mpd with no FCY fees is a good month, and when the party inevitably comes to an end, well, at least we can smile because it happened.