Picture this: you decide to throw a huge blowout party, the likes of which the world has never seen. You spare no expense, and everyone says it’s the best party they’ve ever attended.
But as the night goes on, the budget starts to run dry, and to keep the festivities going, you have to make changes. So you swap the champagne with prosecco. You impose a “one per attendee” limit on the goodie bags. You replace DJ Marshmello with, I dunno, DJ Dee Kosh. In the end everyone hates you for it, and you feel rather aggrieved. After all, no one’s talking about how great the first few hours were!
That’s kind of the situation that Instarem finds itself in right now with Amaze. Once upon a time, Amaze was truly amazing: Excellent exchange rates, 1% cashback on virtually anything, and regular credit card rewards. Demand was so off the charts that Instarem had trouble shipping out physical cards in time for year-end VTL travel in 2021.
Since then, however, a whole lot has happened.
|💳 Amaze: A timeline of nerfs|
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 default choice for overseas spending (and sometimes local too, for reasons we’ll cover later).
And yet, the fact that I need to publish an updated review less than a year after the previous one suggests how fast things are changing. The music’s still going, but Marshmello’s got one eye on the exit.
Overview: Amaze Card
|Use code 7HK2A2 for 225 bonus InstaPoints|
|💳 tl;dr: Amaze Card|
The Amaze Card is available to anyone with an Instarem account, and has no minimum income requirement nor annual fee.
Physical cards take a bit longer to arrive; it was as much as a month during the early days, but should be within a week now.
If you’re waiting for the physical card but want to spend in-store, you can do so by adding the virtual card to your mobile wallet. Both Apple and Google Pay are supported.
How does Amaze work?
The Amaze Card is a debit card, which funds transactions from one of two sources:
- Amaze Wallet
- Debit or Credit Card
|Amaze Wallet||Debit or Credit Card|
|Conversion rate||More favourable||Less favourable|
|Lock in rate for future spend?||Yes||No|
|Earn credit card rewards?||No||Yes|
Do note that you cannot combine the two sources in a single transaction. For example, if your payment source is the Amaze Wallet, and the balance is insufficient to cover the cost of a given transaction, the transaction will be declined.
The Amaze Wallet is conceptually very similar to Revolut or YouTrip, allowing you to lock in a favourable rate today for spending in the future.
The following currencies are currently supported:
|👛 Amaze Wallet: Supported Currencies|
|🇦🇺||Australian Dollar (AUD)|
|🇨🇦||Canadian Dollar (CAD)|
|🇨🇭||Swiss Francs (CHF)|
|🇬🇧||British Pounds (GBP)|
|🇯🇵||Japanese Yen (JPY)|
|🇳🇿||New Zealand Dollar (NZD)|
|🇸🇬||Singapore Dollar (SGD)|
|🇹🇭||Thai Baht (THB)|
|🇺🇸||United States Dollars (USD)|
A few points to note:
- Amaze Wallet top-ups code as MCC 6540 (POI Funding Transactions), so just like Revolut or YouTrip, you won’t earn any credit card rewards for top-ups
- A 1.5% fee applies to any Amaze Wallet top-ups using a Visa card
- All Amaze Wallet top-ups must be at least S$20; however, there are no fixed intervals beyond that; e.g. you could top-up S$20.76 or S$43.25
- The maximum amount that can be stored in the Amaze Wallet at any time is S$5,000, and the maximum amount transacted through the Amaze Wallet is S$30,000 per calendar year. These are hard limits set by MAS
You do not need to pre-select a currency before spending; Amaze will automatically deduct the relevant currency, and make instant conversions from your other Wallet balances to top-up the difference if needed.
Any balance you hold in the relevant transaction currency will automatically be debited first, to minimise your conversion costs (e.g., if you are making a payment in Europe, your EUR balance will be debited by default). If you do not hold any balance in the relevant transaction currency, or the balance you hold in the relevant currency is insufficient, your balance held in other currencies will be debited, starting from your SGD balance, followed by EUR, USD, JPY, THB, GBP, AUD, CHF, NZD, and CAD, in this order.
If the transaction currency is a currency other than SGD, EUR, USD, JPY, THB, GBP, AUD, CHF, NZD, and CAD, your SGD balance will be used to make the payment. If your SGD balance is insufficient, your balance held in other currencies will be converted to SGD to make the payment, in the following order: EUR, USD, JPY, THB, GBP, AUD, CHF, NZD, and CAD.
For example, if I have S$100 and 1,000 JPY in my Amaze Wallet, and I make a transaction that costs 1,500 JPY:
- 1,000 JPY will first be deducted from my JPY balance
- The equivalent of 500 JPY will be converted from my SGD balance and immediately deducted
For what it’s worth, the exchange rate used for transactions funded by the Amaze Wallet is better than that for debit/credit card-funded transactions.
Here’s an example of two transactions, made minutes apart. The one on the left is with a linked credit card, the one on the right is with the Amaze Wallet. Notice how the Amaze Wallet rate (98.8811 JPY) is 2.37% better than the card rate (96.5857 JPY).
Amaze Wallet balances cannot be withdrawn to a bank account. If you wish to cash them out, one option is to use the Amaze Card (with the Amaze Wallet selected as the funding source) to top-up an e-wallet such as GrabPay, then transfer the GrabPay balance to your bank account.
However, do note that ever since 5 July 2023, Amaze charges a 2% fee (min. S$0.50) for all GrabPay/e-wallet top-ups, which means this isn’t an entirely frictionless affair.
Amaze Cardholders can link up to five Singapore-issued Mastercard debit or credit cards, and designate a default card to be charged during a transaction.
Every time a transaction is charged to the Amaze Card linked to a debit or credit card, two things happen:
- Amaze converts any foreign currency (FCY) amounts into Singapore dollars based on its internal exchange rate
- Amaze then charges the Singapore dollar amount to the linked debit or credit 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.
Transactions processed through Amaze:
(1) Code as online spend
All Amaze transactions code as online spend, which means they will be eligible for the online spending bonus with the Citi Rewards Card.
(2) Are charged in SGD
Amaze will convert all FCY transactions into SGD before charging them to the linked card.
Therefore, you will earn rewards according to the local spend rate, for cards which offer overseas spending bonuses.
(3) Retain the same MCC as the original merchant
Amaze does not modify the MCC of a transaction. If you use the Amaze Card at a restaurant, the MCC will code as a restaurant. If you use the Amaze Card at a hotel, the MCC will code as a hotel.
(4) Have an AMAZE* prefix
What Amaze does modify is 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.
This means that if your credit card awards bonuses based on transaction description, pairing it with Amaze will lead to forfeiture of those bonuses. Fortunately, such cards are the minority; most cards award bonuses based on MCC.
On the flip side, if your credit card excludes merchants based on transaction description, pairing it with Amaze will lead to earning of those bonuses. The best example I can think of are UOB$ merchants. If you pair the Amaze with the UOB Lady’s Card and spend at Cold Storage, you’ll earn the full 6 mpd (subject to you choosing Family as your bonus category), because Amaze helps circumvent the UOB$ restriction.
Earning rewards with Amaze
Every time you swipe your Amaze card, you can earn two different types of rewards:
- Credit card rewards (assuming you choose a linked card as your payment method)
- InstaPoints (assuming transaction is in FCY)
Credit card rewards
Amaze transactions are eligible to earn credit card rewards with all banks, except DBS/POSB which excluded them in June 2022.
These are subject to the standard exclusion clauses, of course. For example, insurance premiums are an excluded category for Citibank, so pairing the Citi Rewards Card with Amaze does not magically enable you to earn points on insurance payments (remember, the MCC remains the same).
|❓ What about Citi and UOB?|
Both Citi and UOB have clauses in their T&Cs which exclude AMAZE*TRANSIT from earning rewards.
This does not mean that all Amaze transactions are excluded. Rather it just means you can’t use Amaze as a conduit to earn rewards on public transport-related transactions.
So which credit card should you pair with Amaze for the most miles?
|💳 Amaze Pairings|
|UOB Lady’s Card||6 mpd1||S$1K per c. month|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire||6 mpd2||S$3K per c. month|
|Citi Rewards Card||4 mpd3||S$1K per s. month|
|OCBC Titanium Rewards||4 mpd4||S$13.3K per m. year|
|KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card||3 mpd5||None|
|UOB PRVI Miles MC||1.4 mpd||None|
|Citi Prestige||1.3 mpd||None|
|OCBC 90°N MC||1.3 mpd||None|
|Citi PremierMiles Card||1.2 mpd||None|
|HSBC TravelOne Card||1.2 mpd||None|
|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. Electronics, 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)
Please make a point of reading the footnotes, because certain cards will only award bonus miles on specific MCCs. For additional information on how this works, I highly recommend reading the post below.
Amaze offers its own rewards programme called InstaPoints, which can be earned on top of credit card rewards. This was launched in July 2022 as a replacement for the previous cashback system.
|Transaction Currency||Amaze Wallet||Debit & Credit Card|
|FCY||1 InstaPoint per S$1||0.5 InstaPoints per S$1|
InstaPoints will only be awarded on FCY transactions of at least S$10, and a maximum of 500 InstaPoints can be earned on a single transaction.
This cap means that once you spend beyond S$500 (S$1,000 for linked debit & credit cards from 1 Aug 23), your effective rebate will decline for every incremental dollar you spend. In an ideal world, you’d just break up your transactions into S$500 blocks, but that won’t always be feasible.
InstaPoints are officially awarded within 3 business days of a transaction (but are typically credited much faster.
InstaPoints can be converted into cash rebates in the following denominations:
|A 400 InstaPoints = S$5 option exists, but that’s not cashback. Instead, it’s a discount voucher for your next Instarem FX transfer|
1 InstaPoint is therefore worth 1 cent, which means the Amaze Card offers a up to 1% rebate on FCY spending (up to 0.5% for linked debit & credit cards come 1 August). However, because of the minimum block size, anything less than 2,000 InstaPoints becomes an orphan balance.
Any cashback from InstaPoints redemptions will be credited immediately to the Amaze Wallet.
InstaPoints earned before 1 October 2022 expire six months after date of crediting.
InstaPoints earned from 1 October 2022 expire 12 months after date of crediting.
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.
What exchange rates does Amaze offer?
Whenever 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 by the card network (e.g. Visa, Mastercard)
- An FCY transaction fee of ~3.25%, imposed by the bank
Amaze does not impose (2), which means the only “fee” you need to be concerned about comes from (1).
First things first: you should not be comparing Amaze rates to spot, unless your alternative was to visit a money changer or use a Revolut/YouTrip type product. If you want to earn miles on your overseas transactions, then the right rate to compare Amaze to is Mastercard, because that’s what you’d have incurred had you used the credit card directly.
Once upon a time, Amaze rates were almost indistinguishable from Mastercard’s. But at some point in May 2022, those started diverging, and the spread is currently ~1.8%, depending on day and currency. Amaze rates for card spending, unfortunately, are opaque- you won’t know what rate you get until the transaction is completed.
However, it should be clear that so long as you can earn equivalent rewards on Amaze + credit card versus credit card directly, Amaze still makes sense so long as the following equation holds:
Amaze spread vs. Mastercard (A) – InstaPoint rebates (B) < Bank FCY fee (C)
(A) is currently 1.8%, (B) is up to 0.5%, and that’s less than (C)’s value of 3.25%.
To illustrate, suppose you have an online transaction at Amazon USA, for which you could earn:
- 4 mpd with Citi Rewards Card, with 3.25% fee
- 4 mpd with Amaze + Citi Rewards Card, with 1.3% fee (1.8% spread – 0.5% rebate)
Amaze is obviously the better solution, and will be until the spread with Mastercard approaches 3% or more.
Put it another way: if you were OK with paying a 3.25% fee to earn 4 mpd prior to Amaze, there’s no reason for you to not use Amaze, since the rewards are the same and the net fees lower.
|Use code 7HK2A2 for 225 bonus InstaPoints|
While the Amaze party is starting to wind down, there’s still some punch in the punchbowl, if you follow my drift.
The way I see it, Amaze has three main use cases:
- It turns offline transactions into online ones, making it easy to earn 4 mpd with the Citi Rewards Card
- It allows UOB cardholders to earn UNI$ at UOB$ merchants
- It’s still cheaper than using a credit card overseas, because of identical rewards, smaller spreads and InstaPoint rebates
Of course, this won’t last forever. 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 operations via rewards. And when they pull the plug, Amaze basically becomes another Revolut or YouTrip.
So my advice from day one still stands: make hay while the sun shines. Every month that you can earn 4-6 mpd for less than the banks charge is a good month, and when the party finally ends, at least we’ll always have the memories.