What is Amaze’s real foreign currency transaction fee?

Amaze may have no explicit FCY transaction fee, but its rates are higher than Mastercard's. Is it still worth using?

Amaze’s claim to fame is that it offers the opportunity to earn credit card rewards with no foreign currency transaction fees. Simply put, it wants to make swiping your card overseas as stress-free as swiping it in Singapore.

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💳 tl;dr: Amaze Card
  • Link up to five Mastercard credit/debit cards
  • Overseas transactions are converted into SGD (no FCY transaction fees, but subject to FX spread) and charged to the underlying credit/debit card
  • Transaction MCC remains the same, offline transactions charged to Amaze become online transactions for the underlying credit/debit card
  • Earn 1 InstaPoint per S$1 spent on FCY transactions of at least S$10 (except exclusion categories), capped at 500 InstaPoints per transaction
  • Redeem InstaPoints for cashback in blocks of 2,000 InstaPoints= S$20

That’s a pithy summary, but it’s not entirely accurate. Instarem has to earn money, after all, and the way they do is through the spread on foreign currency transactions. 

Historically, Amaze used rates that were equal to or very close to Mastercard’s rates, but at some point in 2022, those started diverging noticeably. What this means is that even though it doesn’t call it as such, Amaze really does have an FCY transaction fee of its own.

How much exactly is that, and does it negate the benefits of using Amaze over credit cards?

What rates does Amaze use?

It’s important to remember that Amaze never actually promises to give spot rates, or even Mastercard rates for that matter. In the FAQs, Amaze promises to give “competitive FX rates”.

Amaze offers competitive FX rates, unlike banks which typically add a substantial markup and FX admin fee. Thus, you get the best possible value for your FX transactions and overseas purchases with amaze.

Until recently, an additional paragraph was appended to that particular statement:

Exchange rates and applicable FX fees are available in-app after you initiate a transaction. Amaze offers competitive exchange rates which are very close to the published rates you can see on Google or other financial sites.

That paragraph has been removed, however, suggesting where this is heading. 

But before we look at the actual rates Amaze charges, here’s a PSA:

!!!Stop comparing Amaze rates to Google/XE.com rates (aka mid-market rates)!!!

Seriously, just stop. I get far too many messages complaining that Amaze is a rip-off because “it’s more expensive than the Google rate”. That’s fundamentally the wrong basis of comparison.

The only time when mid-market rates become relevant is if your alternative were Revolut or YouTrip, since the express purpose of those cards is to reduce the cost of an FCY transaction as much as possible.

With Amaze, the idea is to earn rewards while still paying less than a traditional credit card, and since no credit card offers mid-market rates, our basis of comparison should be the Visa/Mastercard rates.

Do I want mid-market rates and credit card rewards? Sure, in the same way I want birds to poop on the heads of people who watch videos in public without headphones. Sadly, what I want and what I get are two very different things. 

Amaze’s current FCY fee

Here’s a brief reminder of how foreign currency transactions work. Suppose I spend US$100 overseas:

  • If I use a traditional credit card, US$100 will be converted into SGD at the prescribed Visa/Mastercard rate, with a further FCY transaction fee (usually 3.25%) levied by my bank
  • If I use Amaze, US$100 will be converted into SGD at Amaze’s rates, and charged to the linked card in SGD.

Therefore, when comparing Amaze to traditional credit cards, we need to see how much more Amaze charges compared to Mastercard, because that’s the true “fee”.

I went to look at the rates I’ve been charged in Amaze, versus what I would have paid if using a Mastercard credit card (via Mastercard’s online currency converter). I was then able to calculate the implicit FCY fee:

DateFCY AmountInstaremSpread vs MC
(FCY Fee)
18 Mar 23GBP 404.51S$675.451.7%
15 Mar 23THB 450S$17.971.6%
14 Mar 23THB 1,477S$59.011.9%
14 Mar 23THB 9,700S$387.571.9%
14 Mar 23THB 195S$7.791.9%
9 Mar 23US$439S$605.841.8%
4 Mar 23US$11.99S$16.471.8%
1 Mar 23US$5.87S$8.071.8%
27 Feb 23US$132S$180.721.3%
23 Feb 23US$10S$13.611.2%
23 Feb 23€7.50S$10.891.5%
22 Feb 23€15S$21.831.7%
22 Feb 23€7.60S$11.061.7%
20 Feb 23CHF 40S$58.951.6%
15 Feb 23CHF 28.37S$41.981.7%
7 Feb 23US$14.92S$20.131.5%
5 Feb 23US$87.40S$117.151.4%
4 Feb 23US$25.66S$34.241.0%
1 Feb 23US$4.03S$5.381.5%
31 Dec 22A$14.95S$13.851.5%
30 Dec 22A$111S$102.781.4%
27 Dec 22A$150S$138.411.2%
26 Dec 22A$38.22S$35.181.1%
22 Dec 22US$138.60S$190.291.4%

The fee varies by date and currency, but the median works out to be around 1.5% (there is some evidence that the fees may be inching closer to 1.8% in March, though nothing conclusive at this point). 

What about InstaPoints?

InstaPoints are equivalent to a 1% rebate, albeit restricted

There’s one more piece to the puzzle that people often forget: InstaPoints.

Foreign currency transactions on the Amaze earn 1 InstaPoint per S$1, subject to the following conditions:

  • Transactions must be at least S$10
  • A maximum of 500 InstaPoints can be earned per transaction
  • No InstaPoints are earned on exclusion categories such as education, hospitals and charitable donations

InstaPoints can be redeemed for cash rebates at a rate of 2,000 points= S$20, so this is equivalent to a rebate of 1%. That said, you get no rebate if you spend <S$10, and your effective rebate will be <1% for any transaction above S$500 (because of the cap).

Therefore, assuming the implicit FCY fee charged by Amaze through its spreads is 1.5%, the nett fee here is at least 0.5%. That still compares extremely favourably to the banks, where you won’t pay anything less than 3% with Mastercard (really 3.25%, since BOC and CIMB don’t have any decent miles cards).

💳 FCY Fees by Issuer and Card Network
Issuer↓ MC & VisaAMEX
Standard Chartered3.5%N/A
Citibank3.25%3.3%
DBS3.25%3%
HSBC3.25%N/A
Maybank3.25%N/A
OCBC3.25%N/A
UOB3.25%3.25%
BOC3%N/A
CIMB3%N/A
American ExpressN/A2.95%

So the tl;dr is that Amaze, paired with the right card, is still worth using, though it’s obviously not as good a deal as it was before. 

What card should you use with Amaze?

As a reminder, only Mastercard credit or debit cards can be paired with Amaze.

You can therefore consider the following pairings to maximise the miles you earn (DBS excluded Amaze in June 2022).

💳 Suggested Amaze Pairings
CardEarn RateCap
UOB Lady’s Card6 mpd1S$1K per c. month
UOB Lady’s Solitaire6 mpd2S$3K per c. month
Citi Rewards Card4 mpd3S$1K per s. month
OCBC Titanium Rewards4 mpd4S$13.3K per m. year
KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card3 mpd5None
1. Pick 1: Beauty & wellness, dining, entertainment, family, fashion, transport, travel (T&Cs)
2. Pick 2: Beauty & wellness, dining, entertainment, family, fashion, transport, travel (T&Cs)
3. All transactions except travel (airlines, hotels, rental cars, tour agency, cruises etc) (T&Cs)
4. Clothes, bags, shoes and shopping (T&Cs)
5. Dining, shopping, travel, transport. Must spend at least S$800 on SIA Group transactions in a membership year (T&Cs)

The recent enhancement of the UOB Lady’s Cards means they’re hands down the best option to pair, earning 6 mpd on up to S$3,000 of monthly spend for up to two selected bonus categories. 

Assuming you don’t qualify for those, then the Citi Rewards Card remains a solid option with 4 mpd on the first S$1,000 per statement month, except on travel-related transactions. 

Conclusion

While Amaze does not have an explicit FCY transaction fee, it does have an implicit spread of ~1.5% over Mastercard rates (offset by a 1% cash rebate in the form of InstaPoints).

The spread is naturally causing some unhappiness, but let me put it this way:

  1. Did Amaze use to give rates that were closer to mid-market? Yes.
  2. Is Amaze still worth using now? Also yes. 

So long as Amaze offers the same rewards you’d get from using your credit card directly, plus lower FCY fees than the bank, then using it over a credit card is a no-brainer. The fact that it used to be an even better deal is lamentable, but entirely irrelevant to the discussion at hand. 

Put it this way: let’s suppose that instead of nuking JAL awards from Singapore to Tokyo, Alaska increased them modestly from 25,000 miles to 30,000 miles (psst..there’s a way!). That would still be a good deal, in and of itself.

If you said “well, now I’m not going to do it because 30,000 miles is worse than 25,000,” you’d be correct…and also cutting the nose to spite the face. 

In the same way, Amaze isn’t the screaming good deal that it was a couple of years ago, but it still remains the best option for earning miles overseas. So long as banks keep the rewards flowing and the implicit FCY fee, net of InstaPoints, remains south of 3.25%, I see no reason to abandon ship. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Kelvin

How about Trust card? Seems to indicate that they use the Google rates. Would it not be a better option?

Last edited 11 months ago by Kelvin
jw.

If 1. you don’t have a good general spending card for Amaze (e.g. Citi rewards), 2. you maxed out your credit card rewards, or 3. don’t have a credit card, then Trust card is probably a good alternative. Good rates + 0.22% back in Linkpoints.
With amaze, while the rate is slightly poorer, as mentioned in the article, you get back 1% in points + earn credit card rewards. If you use a 4mpd card, it’s probably much more worth it than trust.

ksp210

Trustbank specifically says it uses the Visa exchange rate, not the spot rate. Also, for non-USD amounts, you’ll get double-conversion, first to USD, then to SGD.

ksp210

If you are considering Trust (for instance, when you’ve maxed out your 4mpd rewards), you may also want to consider ICBC’s Global Travel Mastercard. 2.5% FCY fees (above the MC rates), but 3% cashback, earning you a net 0.5%.

Bobby

Realised the amaze rates were exceptionally low when I used it on Friday, not sure if it was because paired with my amaze wallet (left-overs from Insta Points)?
It was 1 SGD : 3.24MYR compared to Youtrip with 1SGD : 3.34MYR.

Mark

The rates using a wallet currency (of which there are a few now) are way better than using a card (e.g a EUR transaction last week cost SGD460 on the card, but would have been SGD448 using the wallet). The ONLY time you would use a paried card for a wallet currency is if the card is going to earn 4mpd. And given there is a hack that I am sure you would be aware of that does allow you to earn miles on a top-up of the wallet, you are much better off topping up the wallet, earning miles… Read more »

Bryan

I don’t think you earn miles for topping up the wallet because of the quasi cash MCC?

Polo

Keen to know about that too….

Bobby

The prev transactions (end Feb) using the Citi rewards paired with Amaze card got me a fairly similar rate to Youtrip. The difference in SGD/MYR rate was like 0.05-0.07. so really not sure if the rates just went bad with amaze or was it cuz I used the wallet balance!

Kelvin

How about UOB PRVI Master card? Is this card now excluded from
pairing?

lifeonthego_k

Why would you pair Amaze with a card offering anything less than 4mpd?

Jerm

Because the only 4mpd possibility has a cap of $1k per month

Miles

I always thought the ~3.5% FCY bank fee was including the 1% Visa/MasterCard fee. Are we paying 4.5% on foreign currency charges?

Kai

Sorry, at the risk of sounding silly – is there a reason why “Travel” is omitted from the UOB Lady’s X Amaze suggested parings in the footnote?

Lifshitz

After having been hit with fraudulent transactions on Amaze that only went away because of citi (Instarems reaction, I kid you not, was “sorry we can only dispute up to 20 transactions” – they charged about 40 going up from 5$ to 150) I’ve stopped using them except for big ticket items that are worth taking out the phone and unlocking the card. Granted, thanks to the wife I have access to US cards that offer MC rates and points, but even without these I’d likely just stomach the 3% fee rather than keeping an unlocked amaze card

jw.

that dispute limit is probably one of the most stupid things i’ve ever heard of. then again, can’t expect any better from instarem’s customer service.

Mark

That is one of the nice things about Amaze in my view. It is so easy to control it via the app. What is the big deal about locking/unlocking the card? I usually unlock it in the time the sales person takes to get their device ready for me to tap. And it is a 1 second job to lock it again as soon as the transaction has gone through. When not in used it is ALWAYS locked.

Lifshitz

For real life this works. For online it’s tricky as for example Amazon for confirmed payment methods sometimes charges hours after you clicked buy. It’s of course not a major deal though absolutely not a 1 second thing – logging in takes more like 20 seconds, and you need to be online which abroad I nowadays usually buy not always am. As you said, no biggie but also not really that competitive. I won’t do this to save 20c on a McDonald’s meal, and with my wife’s US citi card which gives me 3 mp(US)d on hotels without any fee… Read more »

Jake

This is such a bad post. Of course **you compare with Google/XE.com rates**, that *is the only* rate that matters. From there you calculate that Mastercard steals x%, and that Amaze steals x+y%.

But benchmarking a thief to another thief, which is what you do in this post, is criminally ridiculous (pun intended).

Makes me seriously wonder if you’re on the take (i.e. corrupted).

But yes, let’s continue to use *real* rates as benchmarks. Amaze does steal quite a lot.

haha

and from where are you able to exchange currency at XE.com rates may I ask? or do you consider every money changer/bank/financial institution thieves?

Lifshitz

*steals* lol. So NTUC also steals money from you when they charge you for rice more than the wholesaler?

Polis

please call the cops then 🤣

Logan

MaStErCarD SteAlS 3% of OuR MonEy iN FoReiGn TraNsaCtiOns!!

wait till he learns the government *steals* up to 22% of our income in taxes, followed by 20% for CPF, followed by 8% on everything we consume.

G___

This is such a stupid take, that’s why you stay in school, kids.

Rondo

Good Lord Jake, so much retardation in one post. Please remember to take your medicine.

LOLOL

Yes I agree. LV, Hermes, Prada should sell you bags etc at the cost price too.

I see on google that an equivalent size of calf hide, threading, metal, fabric and old French man’s working wages for 40 hours (yes a birkin is up to 40 hours) is is about $950.

You definitely should go into Hermes to expect to pay only $950.35 for a birkin… yes I included the refreshment that Hermes serves you (at cost prices of course!) Not at their marked up prices. They are thieves if they charge you more.

Lol

Thepoint

The point is the comparison should be made between the net benefit i.e. miles/points – amaze rates – google rates. If that is more than zero then there is a net benefit. If it is less than zero, use youtrip. Google rates are relevant.

Tony

My Korea trip charges around 950 KRW per SGD while at the same time Revolut is giving 975 KRW per SGD. That is approximately 2.5%…not too far from what the banks are charging. As far as I am concerned…I try not to use Amaze card in Korea.

Cheston

I have recently faced multiple decline using the Amaze Card when traveling (USA) using both chip and contactless, linked to both OCBC N90 and Citi Rewards. Contacting instarem, they stated it is the banks that are declining, despite having enabled Overseas use for both cards. Super annoying.

Wondering if anyone has faced issue of Amaze Card getting declined? It only started happening recently, maybe the banks are clamping down?

HHH

Seems the bank side has gotten stricter on overseas transactions recently. Had transactions on Amazon US rejected by OCBC through Amaze, and HSBC and DBS directly via CC. Instarem also told me it’s the bank side declining which was true. Had to call up the bank to tell them to let the transaction pass through. I think maybe it’s because of the increase in fraud cases they are extra cautious these days rather than any clampdown on Amaze.

RRR

The real question is, are your credit card points worth the amaze spread and the mental anguish if you need to deal with Instarem’s CS (god forbid).

Youtrip gave me better rates than google/XE when I was in Japan recently.

Anything more than 5k (thank you MAS), you’re right to compare against other cards (and your 1% rebate becomes 0.1% or less here). But anything less, google/XE is absolutely relevant.

mavick

on the contrary, your well researched article confirms my suspicions and i can finally delete the app and revert back to revolut/youtrip after using it exclusively since post-covid travel!

Alice

Instarem rate seem to be really low. Just booked 2 tickets from the same airline, 1 charged via Amaze linked with UOB Lady’s, one direct from UOB Lady’s.
The one via Amaze was SGD1 = KRW 952.3336643
The one charged direct was SGD1 = 969.4726574
XE rate was SGD1 = 976.9768

Guess I won’t be using the Amaze card anymore.

Zoro

What I found was that after you did a fx transaction, then you check internet banking, you saw that pending transaction with a SGD amount, that is NOT the final amount (in fact this should be pre-3.25% FCY fee amount), once the transaction is posted, you would find that UOB charged 3.25% and the actual SGD amount is higher. I guess your 969.4726574 was MA rate and Amaze rate was 952.3336643, which was 1.77% spread. This looks normal nowadays and still better than 3.25% FCY with UOB direct transactions.

Stala

Is there a reason the Citi PremierMiles / UOB PRVI Miles card are excluded from the list of pairings?

James

It might be useful to compare to Wise or Revolut to see if the cost per mile is worth it, as per your article of a value of a mile.

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