I had always seen this coming. 😥
For what is effectively a liquid savings deposit, the OCBC 360 Account offered a ridiculously high interest of 3.05% for balances up to $50,000 during its introduction last year.
Therefore, during the past year, I had been one of the biggest proponents of the OCBC 360 Account. In fact, in April 2014, I wrote a comprehensive blog post advocating how AMAZING the product was and unexpectedly, the post went a little viral. So much so that someone actually emailed me to check if it was ok for OCBC to feature my site URL on their website as a referral link (although it never materialised in the end…oh well).
Just as well, since there won’t be any attachment from me to this product and no reluctance on my part to tone down my strong endorsement of this OCBC 360 Account. With the recently announced changes that apply from 1 May 2015, the promotional offer has truly ended. Let’s take a closer and fairer look at the changes before you conclude that I am just a bitter influencer. *cough cough*
The Past Promotion
When the OCBC 360 Account was introduced, critics mentioned that the product wasn’t that fantastic since conditions were attached to it. I thought that was pretty unfair. If no strings were attached, OCBC and other banks might as well have closed down their fixed deposit department.
What made this product ridiculously AMAZING was how easy it was for a household to qualify for those conditions. Yeah, the hoops were not difficult to jump through EVERY month. 0.05% interest was given to all balances and each condition fulfilled (below) enabled one to qualify for an additional 1% of bonus interest.
First $50,000 of balances:
1. Credit your salary to this account (1% bonus interest)
2. Pay any 3 bills using this account (1% bonus interest)
3. Spend at least S$400 on your OCBC Credit Cards (1% bonus interest)
The first two were really no-brainers. If you were employed, you just needed to inform your HR personnel about your account change. Perhaps buying her a drink and sharing this good deal with her would make the additional workload a little easier to swallow.
And seriously, 3 bills isn’t hard if you are running a household like what I do. But in case you aren’t, fret not. Just sign up for 3 credit cards and spend 10 bucks on each of them to qualify for a freaking additional 1% on $50,000 which equates to $500 for the year. Yes, your $360 of expenditure is literally entirely paid for by the bank.
With our frivolous expenses in the restaurants of Singapore and us charging the household’s mobile and broadband bills to the OCBC 365 Credit Card, we have also never failed to meet the 3rd condition during any of the months last year.
The Present Offer*
Changes in blue.
First $60,000 of balances:
1. Credit your salary to this account (1.2% bonus interest)
2. Pay any 3 bills using this account (0.5% bonus interest)
3. Spend at least S$500 on your OCBC Credit Cards (0.5% bonus interest)
4. Purchase $40K of unit trust/structured deposits or pay $8K of annual premiums for endowments (1% bonus interest)
*Apparently, there’s also another 1% paid on monthly incremental balances but that’s really too insignificant to merit a detailed discussion.
Largely because of Condition 4, OCBC had the cheek to announce that OCBC 360 Account Just Got Better. That really got me shaking my head at their audacity.
Yes, theoretically, if one can fulfil all four conditions, he/she can achieve 3.2% of bonus interest on an increased limit of $60,000. But Hoop 4 is such a difficult and high hoop for one to jump through. With the high sales charges and commissions associated with those investment products, it simply does not make sense to do it just to qualify for an additional 1% of interest.
Seriously, if you’re playing a game, would you invest in $1,000 on a jetpack just to jump through a high hoop that pays you $100?
Therefore, although the limit has increased to $60,000, the effective interest for the bulk of account holders has dropped to 2.2%.
The New 15HWW OCBC 360 Strategy
From the glass is half full angle, we are quite glad to have enjoyed most of the ridiculously high interests for the past year. But the strategy is going to change quite drastically on this front.
Some readers who are more CSI-oriented (through my comments on this site and other blogs) have probably found out that Mrs 15HWW has left her job and is currently into the first month of her sabbatical. (Yeah, it’s spreading and more on that in another post.) So no 1.2% for her account from this month on.
Coupled with the halved bonus interests on Conditions 2 and 3, it just doesn’t make sense for both of us to maintain two separate OCBC 360 accounts anymore. In the next few weeks, both of us will probably go down together to OCBC to close her account and amend some instructions to ensure that my account can easily earn 2.2% of bonus interest.
2.2% is still very much possible as we have to hit $600 of expenses for the OCBC 365 Credit Card to qualify for the cash rebates. Therefore, the stricter criteria for Condition 3 has no material impact on us.
If this change had happened half a year before, my heart would probably have been even heavier when writing this post. But with new bond offerings in the market (I will get down to writing them soon, do stay tuned.), there will soon be equivalent or higher-yielding instruments for us to park our cash in.
Instead of being heads and shoulders above its competitors, the OCBC 360 Account is now just marginally better than let’s say, the more complicated UOB One Account. In a way, that’s also saying that it’s probably still the best SGD deposit product and although it’s no longer AMAZING, it’s still good.
But DEFINITELY NOT BETTER than its original form.