Choosing the best credit card in Malaysia is like choosing dates on Tinder. Sometimes, you accidentally ignore the good cards (fast left swipes). Sometimes, the cards themselves beg for your attention (superlikes). And sometimes, the cards you want are not available to you (they didn’t swipe right for you..).
It can be a frustrating search process. You thought you have a lot of choices, but why is none of them suitable? But eventually you’ll find that perfect match for you, and you’ll never imagine life without them. Amirite, Tinder couples reading this?
Tinder analogy aside, credit cards really are great financial tools. I use them to earn points, shop (online and offline), make instalments on larger purchases and top up e-wallets (usually for the discounts). If you can practice these habits that make you a responsible card user, I’d recommend you to get one. They can help you build a good DSR score, too – good if you’re planning to buy a house in the future.
Here are some lesser-known tips I can offer you.
Tip #1 – Always start with the process of elimination
It’s a two-step process, let me explain.
The first step is to use credit card comparison platforms to whittle down your card options. Go to a website like BBazaar and follow their credit card search instructions. Usually, they will ask you about card preferences – some common types include cashback, airmiles, shopping rewards, groceries, petrol, dining, entertainment and student.
If you don’t know which one to pick, cashback-type credit card is a good start. You can check out some of the best cashback credit card options in Malaysia here. I own two of the credit cards in the list.
The second step comes after you get a list of recommended cards from the platform(s). By this step, you’ll still have around ten or so cards to pick from, but at least it’s not hundreds of options.
To narrow down your choices from this smaller selection, start with your own personal ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ list. The former is non-negotiable while the latter is negotiable, somewhat. This can differ greatly based on your lifestyle, but mine looks like below:
- Must be Islamic card (not conventional)
- Must be a cashback card
- Must be available for my monthly income level (no point if not eligible for it)
- Must give me cashback for RM1000-2000 spending on credit card per month (see tip #2)
- Must give me cashback for categories I spend the most on
- Must not have annual fee OR have low annual minimum spend for fee waiver
- (Nice to have) Good points reward system
- (Nice to have) Have good design
So when I survey cards on credit card comparison platforms, I check which of the recommended cards best fits the above requirement. Like dating, do not expect to find a card that fits all requirements. If that happens, great! If it doesn’t, the next best thing is good too.
GenXGenYGenZ, Malaysia’s undisputed credit card sifu have a preference for travel cards, because he travels a lot. So I’d imagine his ‘must-have’ or ‘nice-to-have’ list would include things like access to airport lounges and bonuses for overseas spending.
Tip #2 – Know more or less how much you’ll spend on the credit card
Some cards say they have high cashback/rewards, but really it’s high cashback upon hitting a minimum monthly spend on selected categories. This rule annoys me but it’s there and it’s common, so what to do.
Examples are cards which give you 5% cashback only if you spend RM3000 and above per month on selected categories. I know how much I spend on my credit cards because I track my expenses religiously, but an estimate here will do.
I usually use my credit cards to pay for the following expenses:
- TNB bill
- Postpaid bill
- Monthly braces payment
- Making instalments on large purchases (now servicing 12-months instalment for my Surface Pro 4)
- Online spending, including travel and services
- Business expenses
- Tickets to events
- Steam games
- Book purchases
Combined, the above total to around RM1000-2000 per month – so I know I shouldn’t get a cashback credit card that only gives high cashback upon hitting RM3000 per month. No point.
The same principle applies if you’re looking for other types of credit cards, like petrol and groceries. Know how much (more or less) you spend on those categories before you apply, in case the card you want imposes a minimum spend to reap maximum benefits.
Tip #3 – Do you have a business?
If you have a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability partnership, or a Sdn. Bhd, I’d recommend you to dedicate at least one credit card for business-related expenses. Same goes for those of you who can claim expenses for work. You shouldn’t use it for personal use, like for buying groceries (unless that is a work-related expense for you, Idk).
I dedicated one of my three cards for business expenses only. Transportation costs to go to meetings get charged there. Website-related expenses get charged there. And so on and so forth.
What type of credit card works best as a business credit card? Hate to say this, but it depends. I don’t have many business expenses that I can put on the card, maybe less than RM500 in a usual month. So I don’t really prioritise cashback or rewards for it – they’re a nice bonus, if available.
I guess if you spend more than I do for business expenses, get a cashback card with good points reward system. If you travel a lot for work, get a travel or petrol card. If you have to entertain people for work, then get a dining or entertainment card.
I’d say the most important feature for work-related credit cards is it has to be either Mastercard or Visa, because not as many places accept Amex.
Tip #4 – Seriously, keep it simple. The best credit card in Malaysia is the one that doesn’t overwhelm you
Some people really stress about credit cards. They want the perfect one for each type of spending. I know someone with more than ten cards from various banks – not judging, but doesn’t that get mentally taxing for you?
Even remembering the T&Cs of my three cards from two banks can be overwhelming, sometimes. This one, weekend spending only. That one, cashback for groceries and mobile only. That one’s minimum monthly spend for cashback eligibility is RM1500. I want to maximise my cashback and rewards, sure, but not at the expense of my mental well-being!
I don’t plan to have more than three credit cards. Maybe I’ll even downsize it to two. But I also like the idea of having one Visa, Mastercard and Amex card each – to take advantage of their specific deals and offers.
I also don’t want to have too many bank accounts to keep track of. I use only two banks now, and even then it can be mafan to login each banking platform to make the payments.
Plus, annoyingly, sometimes banks change their T&C. Even the most perfect system you have for your credit card usage won’t last for very long. One of my credit cards used to give 5% cashback for ANY online spending, but they have since changed the terms 🙁
So yes, unless you enjoy doing credit card strategies and you spend enough on your credit cards for it to have a significant impact on your finances, I wouldn’t sweat it too much.
To recap, here’s how to choose a credit card that works for your lifestyle.
- Step 1: Check your spending, see what you can pay via credit card. Make sure you have enough income to pay off the balance every month
- Step 2: Make your ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ list
- Step 3: Use credit card comparison platforms like BBazaar to reduce your options
- Step 4: See which credit card offerings are closest to your list and apply (get sign-up bonuses if you can!)
To be frank, there are other credit card comparison platforms in Malaysia.
But what I like about BBazaar in particular is you can do the eligibility test and it’ll show you ONLY the cards you’re eligible for! No more ego getting bruised and being told you can’t get the cards you want AFTER you applied for it!
I can recommend doing the eligibility test (click ‘Check Eligibility’ in the link below). It’s pretty straightforward. Plus they don’t force you to put your phone number and email to view the results – I appreciate that.
Apply now for a Citi or a Standard Chartered Bank credit card on BBazaar, and get a Tesco voucher worth RM120 or a 20” 4-wheeler ABS Cabin Bag, absolutely FREE, upon card approval. T&Cs apply.
These are my lesser-known tips when choosing the best credit card in Malaysia for you. Your turn. What are YOUR best lesser-known tips? Add them in the comments section below!