UAE certainly has the highest credit card, internet and e-commerce penetration in the MENA region. However, a significant percentage of transactions are still made through cash. Visa and Mastercards are popular and are widely accepted by merchants in the region.
There have been several changes in recent years, which are moving the needle on credit card usage in the market. Some customers would have witnessed their credit cards being reissued by the issuers with a chip around 2016/17. This was due to a mandate from the Central bank of UAE for the issuers to comply with EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa global standard for chip-secured credit cards) standards a few years ago.
Credit cards are extremely convenient, secure and what’s more also reward cardholders on usage as well. There are more than 200 credit cards issued by banks and financial institutions in the UAE. While the number of banks is shrinking with the recent M&A announcements, there are several new credit cards which keep popping up with innovative and irresistible offers to the customer.
Many of us would have had a difficult experience with our first credit card. Not understanding differences between a credit or debit card, we would likely have dashed to the nearest ATM to withdraw some cash and spend on stuff which we really did not have any plans of buying. A scenario which would most likely have ended finally with some sort of settlement with the bank after weeks and perhaps months of painful collections calls and negotiations.
As we got a little more aware of how credit cards work, we generally end up with one or two cards (ideally issued to us by the banks where our salary gets credited) and have built some sort of loyalty to these cards over the years.
This article gives a credit card user 5 useful tips on how to use a credit card and maximize savings. These are simple and proven steps which can help one save thousands of dirhams:
No one Credit Card is best suited for everyone
Credit cards are diverse in their offerings. One must understand that 200+ credit cards in the market come with several differences. Some of them being:
Fees and Charges: Annual Fees, Interest rates, International transaction charges, cash advance charges and so on.
Reward Features: Cashback, Airmiles, Reward Points, No Rewards no fee, Reward earn rates, Redemption or burn rate etc., Note- The value of the rewards might vary based on spend amounts, type, location etc.,
Features: Airport Lounge, Free Cinema, Complimentary Golf, Valet Offers etc.,
Apart from the above there are also credit limits, co brands (Skywards, Etihad and so on) etc., which differentiate cards.
With so many differences among them it is important to spend a few minutes to compare the features and identify the most suitable credit card for your specific needs.
One will also get a good indication of annual saves in dirhams earned through credit card rewards. Do check how your current credit cards stack up against the ones which are best for you. Click here to find out.
Also, do look at the feature wise rankings to find out which is the best card for your favourite credit card feature (Cinema, Golf etc.,)
No one Credit Card can give you the best value
Why do banks have multiple credit cards under their offering? These are typically to cater to different segments of customers who are keen on a specific feature or a reward program. Cashback and Airmiles are couple of popular reward categories.
After evaluating credit cards in the UAE and the reward offering across their products, it is quite evident that there is no one card which may fit in the best for you. In order to optimize your savings (reward value for the transactions you make on the credit card), you probably might have to keep 2 or 3 credit cards in your wallet which satisfy all your requirements with a high rating.
For example, John travels frequently. He spends his weekends generally watching movies with his wife and two school going children. The best option for John is to look at the below combinations:
Credit cards that:
- Reward him with maximum reward rates for a) School Fees b) Grocery expenses c) Travel spends
- Includes complimentary features such as a) Cinema Offer b) Airport Lounge c) Airport Transfer
- Has low international (foreign currency) transaction charges.
The answer might be more than 1 card and if the saves are significant, why not?
Pay on time and if possible, in full
Making payments on time is probably the most important criteria which helps build one’s credit score. Having a healthy credit score means keeping your credit options available. There is always going to be a need for some sort of credit requirement, for example a home loan, salary transfer loan and so on. Find out more on Credit scores in the UAE.
Making your credit card payments on time is extremely critical and if possible, try to make them in full. This means one would save money on interest which can be in thousands of dirhams.
Most banks have options such as Standing Instructions (from your bank account to your credit card if both are with the same bank), Direct Debit (a standard transfer instruction on your bank account), exchange house payments etc. One has an option of setting this up for a minimum payment or full and sometimes a fixed recurring amount as well. Enquire with your bank and set up a payment instruction which will ensure you don’t miss a payment date.
Regular payments build one’s credit history well and allows banks to re-underwrite your credit lines periodically and automatically.
Balance Transfer – If you are incurring interest by not paying your credit card dues in full each month
Balance transfer in simple terms is moving debt from one credit card to another. If you are not paying the total outstanding and incurring interest on your statement balance, a balance transfer is a smart and easy method to save money on interest.
Balance transfers normally come with an interest free offer period. This is a no brainer – it can help you save interest that you would otherwise end up paying on your current card for 3 to 12 months (and more in most cases), depending on the balance transfer offer period.
Example: If a cardholder has an AED 5,000 balance on a credit card with a 20% interest rate. Such a balance would incur an interest of approximately AED 1,000 in a year. By transferring his credit card balance the card holder can save on the AED1,000 of interest with only a small balance transfer fee instead.
- Balance transfer does not earn you rewards on transferred debt.
- Once you have transferred your balance to a low interest card, do review the need of continuing to keep the high interest credit card active. Any unnecessary spend on this open credit card can delay your payoff on the new card.
- Defaulting on the new credit card might trigger standard or higher interest rate as per banks policies.
- Before you make the balance transfer move, do the math to ensure that you end up saving. Points to consider are Annual fees, Interest rates etc.,
Change with the industry- Adapt to smarter payment methods
In recent years, banks have evolved and are continuously evolving in the digital space to stay updated and relevant to the future customers. Smart payment methods have gained a lot of momentum and acceptance among UAE consumers. Apple pay, Samsung pay are already common names and are quite popular.
These smart payments make the process seamless and are focused primarily on convenience and security. While Apple and Samsung are already building the culture of adapting and shifting to newer technologies in the mobile space, one must be more adaptive and embrace future technologies to leverage upon the benefits available.
Credit cards are convenient and a popular payment method for purchasing products or services. While it is quite a privilege to flash a prestigious credit card from your wallet for a purchase, it is important to make sure that the credit card works best for you..
As a personal finance aggregator Soulwallet has analysed various credit card features and rated them to identify the best credit cards for each feature.. Be it golf offers, complimentary airport transfers, valet services or even cinema offers, one can easily find the best credit cards with the ratings provided. For more details visit us www.Soulwallet.com.