Category: SG Budget Babe

How to avoid the hidden charges in your online shopping

How many of you have realised that whenever you shop on an international website and pay via your credit card, you’re actually being charged more?
Yes, this is the case for all your favourite websites overseas – Airbnb, Expedia, Hotels.com, Taobao, Amazon, ASOS, Colourpop and what not.

It gets worse when you opt to check-out and pay in SGD, which is what most of us do, while not realising that we’ve just effectively chosen to be charged for:



·       Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) – a practice where your card transaction is converted to Singapore dollars through a DCC service provider used by the merchant

·       (Double) forex fee (FX) – (i) most credit cards convert all foreign currency transactions (i.e. anything that isn’t USD) into US Dollars before (ii) being converted again into Singapore dollars.

·       Visa / Mastercard processing fee – usually anywhere between 2.5% to 3.5%

·       The bank’s administrative fee

When you total up all of these charges, these can easily set you back up to about 15% of your entire purchase (that’s $150 extra if your bill is $1000). In fact, when my husband and I booked our hotels for our Hanoi trip online last year, we compared the USD and SGD charges and decided to check out in USD instead because it was lower.

However, our final bill ended up being higher than what we had expected, due to DCC and FX conversion charges that we forgot to account for. We opted to pay via my credit card in USD because we knew we’d be charged double FX conversion fees otherwise, but even then it wasn’t the best rate still. It would have been perfect if we had a local US credit card to pay the bill, but that just isn’t practical. There just wasn’t a way for us to avoid the fees, other than trying to reduce it.

And this is why I believe the DBS Multi-Currency Account is the solution to getting around these fees, because of how it allows us to transact in the local currency.

Here’s how to best take advantage of your DBS MCA to save money whenever you shop online:

·       Set up alerts so you’re notified when the currency drops to your preferred (low) rate. You can even apply the dollar cost averaging (DCA) method, just like how my friend has been changing and stashing away a lot more USD almost every month in preparation for his upcoming trip ever since it fell below 1.35.

·       Buy and lock the rates into your local currency account (choose from 12 different currencies). Change your SGD only when the rates are low.

·       Pay using your DBS Visa Debit Card – linked to your DBS MCA – in the local currency (I’ve also previously reviewed this card as the best cashback debit card in the market).
Check the HQ of the online e-commerce store and use their corresponding local currency.

·       Make sure you have enough funds in your local currency wallet.

·       Sit back and watch your funds being deducted directly from your foreign currency wallet, knowing that you’ve just bypassed sneaky DCC + FX + admin fees!

Using this method, your MCA + DBS Visa Debit Card now fulfills the role of that local (country) credit card that I wished I had earlier. When you click to pay for a USD 100 item, you’ll see exactly USD 100 deducted from your USD wallet, and nothing more.

What’s the trade-off?

Ah, if you were sharp-eyed enough, you might have noticed that the DBS Visa Debit Card is ultimately a debit card, so you naturally won’t be able to get the usual miles or cashback rewards that come with using your credit cards.

But is that a cause for concern? Not really, because when you’re losing up to 15% to foreign currency conversion and processing charges, you’ll need a lot more than the usual 5 – 6% of cashback offered by most (or anything less than 10X rewards) to even balance off those extra costs you’ve paid.

For those of you playing the miles game, don’t forget that if you opt to pay in SGD or did not realise you were charged in SGD (instead of foreign currency through DCC), then you will not receive the bonus miles because your credit card may not count this as a foreign currency spend anymore. Confused? That’s why you should always just choose to pay in the local currency when you can and avoid DCC whenever possible. (The thing is, if you were paying overseas and got a physical receipt, then you’ll be able to identify the DCC charge, but online merchants almost never disclose whether they use DCC.)


The choice is yours. Cashback and rewards get reduced changed all the time (and are always subject to so much T&Cs) whereas fees are a permanent fixture. I don’t know about you, but it certainly makes a lot more sense to minimize my fees each time instead.


Don’t forget to keep at least S$3,000 in your daily average balance as well, because there will be a fall-below fee of $7.50 monthly if it falls below the minimum sum. This fee is waived if you’re under 29 years old.

How do I get my DBS MCA account?

You can first learn more about the account here, or if you’ve an existing DBS Autosave account, you can simply convert it to a DBS eMulti-Currency Autosave plus via your digibank app.

Remember to link your DBS Visa Debit card and select MCA as your primary account for the card so that you get to tap on all these savings and benefits. With this, you no longer have a reason to pay for all those nasty extra fees anymore!


This article is written in collaboration with DBS. All opinions are of my own.

ICO Review: CloudMoolah

Democratizing the gaming industry by unlocking global game payments and distribution.

What’s the problem CloudMoolah is trying to solve?

Game developers currently pay a hefty amount in distribution and marketing fees to incumbent app stores (eg. Apple App Store, Google Play). Furthermore, more than 50% of total mobile game revenue is currently earned by less than 2% of all app developers, particularly those with big advertising budgets.

SEA is the world’s fastest-growing mobile gaming market (69% y-o-y growth), but is currently fragmented, consisting of 11 countries with a fragmented payment landscape and low credit card penetration.
Game developers currently need to undergo lengthy and cumbersome integration processes to publish their apps in various app stores. Most in-app purchases currently utilize credit cards for processing, but not every gamer owns a credit card.

Within the Southeast Asia market, credit card penetration is still under 3%, so there is a need for gaming payments to be integrated with telco top-up cards, pre-paid cards, e-banking, or through other current localized modes of payment.

The existing solution is to integrate with multiple Software Development Kits (SDKs) with local payment companies, a process which takes months to complete as developers have to undergo negotiation and integration testing process with different vendors for the different markets.

The Solution

Utilize blockchain technology to faciliate gaming payments, which will help developers save on intermediary costs (such as retail margins and currency conversion fees). CloudMoolah will be a payment aggregator integrated within the Unity game development software.

What used to be months of payment integration across different country markets can now be completed in 10 minutes, and within a single CloudMoolah integration through the Unity Editor, game developers can now access more than 100 million gamers in Southeast Asia from over 500,000 retail point of sales.

As of October 2017, the CloudMoolah payment aggregator has been launched and successfully integrated into the Unity Editor. It is currently available alongside global titans such as Apple, Google Play, Amazon, Facebook, Xiaomi and Samsung:

I was also able to verify this directly from a Unity source here, where you can find proof in their manual for game developers on how to configure and integrate with CloudMoolah for in-app payments.

Over 300 game developers have already expressed an interest in integrating the CloudMoolah payment system and are currently in process of onboarding to the system.

In the next phase, Cloud Alliance, the team behind CloudMoolah aims to “build the best 3rd party Android App Store” i.e. the MOO Store, which will simplify the mobile app publishing process as it allows developers to directly publish their games from the Unity platform. The MOO Store will also offer value-added publishing services for game developers such as content localization.

Transactions on the MOO Store will be facilitated by CloudMoolah Points (CMP), which can either be purchased with fiat currency at USD 0.01 per CMP or using the MOO Tokens (at 20% bonus).

With a unified in-app currency, game developers do away with forex conversion costs and the hassle of managing currencies for different games. Game developers can easily consolidate revenues from their various games — providing operational efficiency and transferability of game economics, hence incentivising them to use and integrate this form of payment gateway into their games.

You can think of it as the “Mobile gaming Steam Store for Southeast Asia, with an in-built Kickstarter for game developers and virtual items marketplace”. (taken from their Telegram)

How does this compare with other payment competitors?

CloudMoolah is currently the only company offering an aggregated localized payment solution directly within the Unity editor. Instead of competing, they work alongside local payment incumbents and game developers.

Partnerships

To achieve their mission in democratizing game publishing and monetisation, Cloud Alliance has partnered with Unity Technologies, which many independent game developers swear by.

Unity Editor is the world’s largest video game development engine used by over 5.5 million developers today. The development of multimillion-dollar games such as Pokemon Go, Super Mario Brothers and Assassin’s Creed were supported by Unity. The Unity development platform is used to create 2D, 3D, VR and AR gaming experiences.

CloudMoolah is currently Unity’s exclusive partner in Southeast Asia. In addition, they have partnerships with the following major payment partners in SEA and Taiwan:

How impressive is the team behind CloudMoolah?

The founding team has experience and a proven track record in the gaming industry, particularly in publishing popular games such as FIFA Online 2, World of Warcraft, Counterstrike Online, Starcraft 2, etc.

What’s the value of the MOO Token?

Gamers who have purchased the MOO Token will be able to exchange their MOO Token for more CMP in the MOO Store than if they were using fiat currency. Gamers can also support the games they love using the MOO Token through crowdfunding as well as trading of services and items on the MOO Store. 

For developers, use cases of the MOO Token include: (i) Paying for game publishing services to grow their games; (ii) Receiving incubation support from Cloud Alliance; (iii) Obtaining support through crowdfunding and (iv) Trading various services and items on the MOO Store.

My Q&A with the team

1. CloudMoolah previously raised USD 5 million from Aetius Capital, of which the funds was supposed to be used to develop the product and market it worldwide. Why raise $30 million more through an ICO? Or have you already run out of the original $5M funding?

The original $5m was primarily used to develop the CloudMoolah system which we have already integrated within the Unity Editor and launched. Because of the success of the CloudMoolah project, we signed a new deal with Unity to develop an App Store called the MOO store. This is a much bigger project which requires more resources. We realise that raising the funds via an ICO would therefore make the most sense because it also draws in the community into supporting the project, which is crucial as we are ultimately about engaging the game community.

2. Given that many members on your current team have other existing commitments outside of CloudMoolah, how will your team intend to balance this out?

Of course most active and energetic people would have other interests in life outside of their core work, likewise for our team members. But our key work commitment now is CloudMoolah & MOO store. Rest assured we are expending all our efforts and time on making it a success.

3. Focusing on the Asian market first will eliminate a large majority of gamers who are based in US and Europe. Wouldn’t this limit your sales and returns?

Our business model is about improving monetization from emerging markets. We technically bridge content from advanced game-manufacturing markets such as US/Europe/Korea to SE Asia markets. Next up, we would be looking at including new payment gateways from other emerging markets as well. If you look at the SEA online gaming market alone, it is potentially a $10b market by 2025, and staying focused on this market alone can reap huge rewards.

4. “More than 100 million gamers…in Southeast Asia and Taiwan” was mentioned in your whitepaper as your target market, as well as a revenue projection of “the MOO store may generate revenues of USD 295 million by the year 2022”. Can you explain if these statistics covers all gamers in SEA, or whether it excludes gamers who use iPhones?

SE Asia markets are about half the size of China and with a red-hot growth rate of +40% as a whole. Our projections cover SE Asia alone and only on the Android users (which is also gaining market share aggressively).

5. Games downloaded from the Apple App Store will have to be paid through Apple as well. Given that many gamers also download apps from the Apple App store, how do you intend to overcome the issue of not being able to target these consumers?

Our current focus is on emerging markets where there are pent-up demand for games that is hindered by access to the centralized financial system. Android-based smartphones dominates these market – in Southeast Asia alone, Android market share (by game installation) is close to 90% – that is why we decided to target this market first.

Just the Android market itself is already a sizable potential. Also, our target audience are the non-credit card users in emerging markets, which are largely served by Android-based smartphones.

6. Adding on to the above, how will the games be distributed then? How will the game developers market and promote their games?

Our MOO Store! And we intend to put in tools to help them market and promote their games “kick-starter-style.” Having met hundreds of Unity developers in the past year, we discovered that they are their own best person to sell their game.

7. How many % of market share are you targeting for CloudMoolah, especially given that you’re competing against already established payment channels of Amazon, Google Play, Samsung Galaxy and Xiaomi?

We would prefer to see ourselves as a complement to what these established companies are providing. Realising untapped revenue for indie game developers means survivability and motivation (a great deal).

8. Regarding your whitepaper and Appendix A, how many of the 300 developers mentioned have committed to building and integrating with CloudMoolah store for payments? Will this be exclusive, or will they be integrating CloudMoolah simply as an additional payment method on top of Google Play / other competitors?

100% of them. Every developer we spoke to at the game conferences loves what we are doing. We are giving them access to a market opportunity they would most likely miss (outside of their comfort zone markets). We help them save time and effort. We help them pay their bills. In short, we help them get the “Moolah”!

TLDR Conclusion

After successfully launching their payment aggregator solution for Southeast Asia, Cloud Alliance is trying to raise USD 30 million through their ICO to now finance and develop the MOO Store, which will serve to democratize the gaming industry. Their exclusive partnership with Unity, as well as with local payment providers in SEA, will serve them well.

After an in-depth review, I’ll be putting some ETH into this ICO, and am excited to see what the team can achieve with the MOO Store!

If you’ve any thoughts to add on, I’ll love to hear them in the comments below!

With love,
Budget Babe

Here’s how I watch movies on budget flights without paying extra

The airlines business is a competitive one, especially with travel deals and budget fares promotions ongoing all the time.

So when I travel, I never believe in paying more than I absolutely have to. And given that most of my flights are to short-haul locations (under 7 hours), I’m a huge fan of always going with budget airlines whenever I have to fly.

I’ve shared previously about tips on how to pay less for budget flights here and that I typically avoid all the frills that budget airlines try to charge for, in order to earn an extra buck.

  • Travel insurance? No thanks, I’ll buy my own or claim it for free via my credit card.
  • Food? No thanks, I’ll eat before the flight (or pack my own snacks discreetly)
  • Drinks? No thanks, I’ll bring a water bottle and fill it at the airport’s water coolers.
  • Internet? No thanks, I can survive without it for a free hours.
  • Eye mask, blanket or neck cushion? No thanks, I’ll bring my own.
  • In-flight entertainment? No thanks, I have my own.
ScooTV costs USD 11 (SGD 15) which gives me entertainment access for those few hours before my flight lands, and there’s only so many movies I can squeeze in within that time. If I take 4 Scoot flights in a year, that will already cost me SGD 60 which I don’t feel is worth it at all!

In the past, I used to either bring my Kindle or download movies from my laptop onto my phone to watch them while up in the air. Yet, nowadays when we’re always rushing to pack for a flight, I really just don’t have the luxury of time to find, download to my laptop and finally transfer it to my phone -.-

However, a few months ago I was introduced to Viu Premium, compliments of my friend (whom I’ve known for over a decade) who works there. This app has made a huge difference in my life!

I was already familiar with Viu because I used them to watch Descendants of the Sun back in 2016 when they first launched, but never really bothered upgrading to a paid subscription to Viu Premium because the only benefit then was to watch the episodes earlier, and I figured it wouldn’t kill me to wait.

But ever since Viu included free unlimited movie downloads, I was in!


How I use Viu to save on entertainment costs

Considering how I’m used to watching movies at least 2 – 3 times every month in the cinemas, that’s $20+ every month. In addition, I sometimes watch Youtube shows while commuting to work, and that causes me to easily exceed my monthly data limit, so it easily costs me $10 – $30 extra every month if I’m not careful.

And here’s how Viu stacks up against the other entertainment options that I could go for:

Netflix’s standard subscription (for HD) costs $13.98 / month
Toggle Prime costs $9.90 / month
All 3 options come with unlimited films and TV programmes in HD, but Viu Premium is the most affordable at only $5.98 a month.

I can save on data by pre-downloading shows via my home WiFi and watch them offline while I’m on the go. I use this method mainly to save money while keeping myself thoroughly entertained on a budget flight (even though my phone is on airplane mode), but you can do this on your morning / evening train commute as well!
Check out all the movies I downloaded for one of my flights.
Missed catching Soong Joong Ki in cinemas? His movies are on Viu Premium too!

There’s also plenty of Asian movies on Viu Premium, even if you aren’t the biggest fan of Korean films. In fact, some of the movies that Viu has brought in were box office hits in their native countries, but never made it to Singapore shores, such as “My Annoying Brother” and “A Man and A Woman”. And much like Netflix and Toggle, Viu also has its own original productions which can’t be found elsewhere.

Key benefits of Viu Premium:

⚡Unlimited Downloads – For offline viewing 
⚡Priority Viewing – As fast as 8 hours after Korea⚡Full HD Resolution – Watch your favourite shows in full HD ⚡Casting from mobile to TV – via Chromecast & AirPlay

I’m absolutely OBSESSED with this K-drama and have been raving about it non-stop.
If you haven’t watched it yet, you’re missing out!

If you need some recommendations on what to watch, here are my personal favourites:
  • Movies:
    • The Last Princess
    • Likes for Likes
    • Miss Granny (has been remade multiple times in other countries)
    • II Mare (the original Korean movie which was later remade by Hollywood into The Lake House)
    • A Wedding Invitation
    • 200 Pounds of Beauty
    • The Truth About Beauty
    • Penny Pinchers
  • Drama series:
    • While You Were Sleeping
    • Goblin
    • Descendants of the Sun
    • Love in the Moonlight 
    • Innocent Defendant 
    • Black
The best part? The kind folks at Viu are offering Budget Babe readers a further $10.76 off, so it’ll only cost you $61 for an entire year’s worth of access!




Simply enter “SGBB15” to get a 12-month subscription to Viu Premium or click here for my affiliate link.
(Note: Promo code valid till 15 March 2018, 23:59 hours)

Now you know my secret as to how I get to watch movies on budget flights without having to fork out anything extra!

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored collaboration between Viu Premium and SG Budget Babe, where the kind folks gave me an entire year worth of free access to try it out a few months ago and I fell in love! I’ve also previously shared about them (not paid, but yes sponsored through a free 1-year subscription) here. They offered such a compelling reader’s promotion this time that I couldn’t help but share! All words and opinions here are of my own. 

With love,
Budget Babe

The SGBB Cashback App !

There’s a new app for download – one that’s designed to help you manage and maximise your cashback credit card game.

The SGBB Cashback App


Background

As an advocate of cashback credit cards, one of the most common questions I get is on how to MANAGE our cards, especially given how there are a multitude of credit cards which give varying cashback rates across different categories.

For instance, imagine if you own the OCBC 365 card and Citi Cashback Card (a pretty common combination among my friends). 

  • The OCBC 365 card gives 6% on weekend dining, but this falls to 3% if you swipe for the same dining places on weekdays.
  • On the other hand, the Citi Cashback gives 8% for dining, all days of the week.
But if you’re using your card for online shopping, you’ll be better off charging it to your OCBC 365 card which gives you 3% cashback, whereas your Citi Cashback card only gives you 0.25%.

Let’s review another combination: the DBS Live Fresh and CIMB Platinum Mastercard
  • DBS Live Fresh gives 5% for dining and entertainment
  • CIMB Platinum Mastercard only gives you 0.2% for these same categories
But if you’re shopping for toiletries and used your DBS Live Fresh card instead, you would only get 5% cashback – in contrast to the 10% you would have gotten from swiping your CIMB Platinum Mastercard.

So there’s a very real problem and pain point for consumers like myself who are trying to game the cashback rewards system here:

How do we keep track and manage our various credit cards for maximum cashback?

The truth is, credit card companies have made it extremely difficult and tedious for us consumers to keep up with all their varying terms and conditions. I’ll give you an example – consider the UOB Yolo card.

  • 6% weekend dining
  • 3% weekday dining
  • 6% weekend entertainment
  • 3% weekday entertainment
  • 3% online shopping (online fashion stores only)
  • 0.3% for all other categories
I’m not sure about you but I certainly cannot remember all of that!

The situation isn’t always as simple as a flat cashback percentage on all our spending. While there are cards like the SCB Unlimited Cashback Card which gives you 1.5% across all categories, the trade-off for this convenience is a lower cashback rate (see my review and reader’s promo here till 30 March). Remember the 10% for dining by CIMB Visa Signature?

So it got me thinking…WHAT IF I could make it easy for consumers like myself to get around this?


And then the solution hit me: a mobile app! 

Easily accessible; in your pocket anytime; captures the different categories of cashback; allows you to toggle between cards; can be updated when credit card companies change their rates…

It seemed so obvious to me that I wondered why no one else had ever done it before.

I tried building the solution myself initially through a third-party platform and completed 80% of it, but then I realised the program I was using hadn’t been very transparent about subsequent costs that needed to be paid and maintained after the app goes live. Moreover, according to their T&Cs, the data I had built would be owned by that company and I didn’t think that was right.

So I worked with a local app developer, gave him all my materials and the mock-up of the app I had built so that he would understand what I had envisioned.

After two months of working together with him, I’m proud to unveil:

The SGBB Cashback App !
If you have an iPhone, you can now download it from the App Store (search “SGBB Cashback”) for free.

(Unfortunately I only had the budget and bandwidth to do an iOS version, as the developer I worked with isn’t trained in Android, but if any of you would like to work together on this please drop me an email!)


How to use the app

You can filter by category to find out the respective cashback rates across the different credit cards. For instance, say you’re out dining at Fish & Co. on a Wednesday and cannot remember whether it will be wiser to swipe your OCBC 365 or CIMB Visa Signature. Open the app and click on “Dining (weekend)” and you’ll immediately be able to compare which card will give you the highest cashback.

In this case, the app will show you it’ll make more sense to swipe your CIMB Visa Signature!

Another way is to toggle between the different cards. Say you own 3 credit cards in your wallet but want to head out with a small clutch containing just one card.

Tap on the card you wish to view.
And the app will show you all the benefits of that card across the different categories!

Also, if you were wondering, there’s no need to worry about downloading this app because there is absolutely no catch. You’re not required to key in your personal data or share what cards you have. Heck, you don’t even need to create an account to use this app! 

There are no ads on this app and it doesn’t do annoying things like a pop-up to tell you to sign up for a new card promo, etc. I do not intend to go out there and get advertisers for this app, and neither do I have the bandwidth to do so.

This is, after all, a one-woman project (with the help of my awesome developer). And because of this, if you spot any errors in the app (especially if the cards change their rates, etc), please do let me know so I can get the changes made! It can get quite tedious for me to keep track of all the cards otherwise, especially if it isn’t cards I personally own.

(Okay, I confess – there is just ONE catch on this app…my branding, that is. Please visit my blog often for more tips and financial lobangs like this 😛 ) 

I know cards like SCB SingPost and (more recently) SCB Manhattan have been discontinued for new sign-ups, but I’ve kept them in the app because there are people I know who are still using the cards now. This may be removed in a few months time once they officially become obsolete.

So there you go guys, I hope you like this! 🙂 Go ahead and download it from the iOS App Store today!

P.S. Not sure if I still have budget leftover to pay an Android developer, but if you know of any who’s willing to work on this and charge reasonable rates, please send them my way. 😊

With love,
Dawn

ICO Analysis: Is Sentinel Chain worth investing in?


The latest crypto project aiming to provide financial services to the world’s unbanked and underbanked.
One of the latest hyped crypto projects is Sentinel Chain, which is a Singapore-based ICO due to open their public crowdsale next month. There’s presently a lot of interest as Sentinel Chain is a partner of Vechain, which is arguably the #1 supply-chain crypto right now.

If Sentinel Chain is successful, they’ll help play a crucial role in reducing the world’s income inequality and lead rural farmers to greater economic prosperity. How do they intend to achieve this? Read on to find out!

Disclaimer: I’m heavily vested in Vechain. This is my personal take (together with my friend, Tim) on the upcoming Sentinel Chain ICO and should not be miscontrued as financial advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing in anything, especially in high-risk assets like cryptocurrencies.

What is the problem Sentinel Chain is trying to solve?

Financial lending and credit is generally based on collateral. When you borrow from a bank or financial institution, they will assess your financial standing by looking at your income earnings, assets owned (stocks, property, insurance) and other factors before granting you a loan. However, a large portion of the world does not have access to such financial services because they do not have such collateral.

70% of the world’s global food production is sourced from small-scale agricultural farmers, but these same farmers are concurrently among the largest population segment globally who live on less than USD 2 a day. They may own land and valuable livestock, but are generally denied of financial credit and borrowings for their operations and scaling because their assets are generally classified as “dead capital” in the financial economy.

Most financial providers can only accept the livestock as a collateral for loan if the livestock is insured. However, insurance companies today are mostly unable to offer livestock insurance at affordable premiums because there is no “tamper-proof” identification systems to guarantee the identity and ownership of the livestock.

The Solution

Livestock will be tagged with a physically tamper-proof identity tag (through a single-use RFID chip which cannot be removed without being destroyed) and the identity data will be stored on the blockchain where it is digitally-immutable (i.e. pretty much impossible to alter the data). Together with the time-series transaction ledger, this “digital passport” will prevent fraud, and allow insurers to assess the data to verify these assets for insuring. They’ll be able to check on the blockchain if that livestock has already been pledged as well, providing a trail of credit history.

Once the livestock is insured, the banks and financial lending institutions can now accept it as collateral to grant loans to these farmers. What was previously “dead capital” can now be monetized thanks to the Sentinel Chain blockchain ecosystem and partnerships.

The CrossPay app is an Android mobile wallet that will provide the unbanked with quick access to their balances and allow for quick transactions. The blockchain will be deployed locally at the grassroots level, and the cryptocurrency to be used in the system is called the Local CrossPay Token (LTC), which will be pegged to the value of the country’s native currency. LTC will thus not be exposed to the volatilty of the cryptocurrency markets.

Partnerships

 

How impressive is the team behind Sentinel Chain?

The team spearheading Sentinel Chain have strong credentials and I’ll highlight a few prominent individuals:

Roy Lai, Founder
Has over 20 years of experience in IT and finance. Was previously responsible for leading the successful implementation of FAST (yes, that same inter-bank FAST transfers that we now use on a regular basis!) connecting 14 banks in Singapore.

Chia Hock Lai, Council Member
The founding president of the Singapore Fintech Association.

Anson Zeall, Council Member
Chairman of ACCESS, Singapore’s Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry Association. Is also an instructor of the fintech and blockchain workshop for the Asian Development Bank and other banks in SEA.

Zann Kwan, Council Member
Previously Vice-President of GIC, and her team brought in Singapore’s first public bitcoin machine.

David Lee, Senior Advisor
The famed SMU professor who promoted Bitcoin years before it gained mainstream media traction.

Bo Shen, Senior Advisor
The Founding Partner of VC firm Fenbushi Capital, which Ethereum’s co-founder Vitalik Buterin was formerly a part of.

It is not every day I come across a crypto project with a team as impressive as this one, and given their extensive experience and connections in the financial space, that could give them a huge advantage in securing the partnerships needed to make this project a success.

What’s the value of the SENC token?

The utility of the SENC tokens are:

        Used by insurance companies to purchase LCT to store and access livestock data within the CrossPay blockchain

        Used by local financing companies to purchase LCT to pay for publishing the collateralized loan agreements to the local CrossPay blockchain

        Be held in escrow via smart contracts to minimise counter-party lending risk, so that if the local financing company defaults, then the escrowed SENC will be released to the overseas financing company to be liquidated for funds and loan repayment

        Fundraising for local community projects through peer-to-peer crowdfunding platforms, including for humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and more.

        To purchase LCT for e-payments on the CrossPay mobile app


Achievements thus far

One of their most promising milestones that stood out to me is their partnership with CloudWell in Bangladesh, which offers financial solutions to the dairy farmers, herdsmen and milkmen there. Given that over 80% of households in Bangladesh own livestock, there is a compelling and immediate use case for Sentinel Chain’s solution and B2B marketplace. It seems like they’ll be working with Green Delta Insurance (which was founded in 1985) to tokenize these farmers livestock first and get them insured as the first step to opening up access to financial services.

I managed to find secondary data sources confirming the various partnerships and pilots that were Sentinel Chain claims in their whitepaper.

CrossPay was deployed as a pilot trial with local dormitory operator TS Group last quarter (Q4 2017) at a supermarket, where migrant workers were able to make e-payments. I asked the Sentinel Chain team for the results of this pilot and was told that they’ll publish it much later, so this impacted my confidence in the project somewhat as it would have been better if we already had those results to assess.

I found a photo of Roy Lai with the VeChain team as well at their office:

 

My Q&A with Founder Roy Lai

Since most of these agricultural farmers will be out in the rural areas and are already poor without Internet access or smartphones, how will they be included in this solution?

Upon discussion with my friend Tim, we realised that there is a crucial misunderstanding of the markets here. For instance, Sentinel Chain’s target market in Myanmar already has 4G networks available, and the costs of a smartphone is about $30.

Why partner with a China insurer and a Southeast Asian bank? Why not partner with insurers who can cater to the unbanked and underbanked here in Southeast Asia first?
Roy Lai: Because there isn’t many. To access an affordable microinsurance service is not easy. It requires a large scale of members in order to diversify the risk. The China mutual insurance (Zhongtopia) has a 10 million customer base that pays 7 rmb premium and insured for 300,000 rmb.

Me: Will Zhongtopia be able to insure livestock of countries outside of China then, or is your partnership with them only for the China markets for now? If it’s only for China, when will the tentative pilot and roll-out be for livestock in rural China?

Roy Lai: The partnership is to explore mutual insurance outside China – not livestocks.

Why was CrossPay’s first pilot test run on migrant workers in Singapore, instead of an agricultural pilot in either Bangladesh or Vietnam to provide an indication to investors who can then evaluate the project’s potential success in the future when rolled out on a greater scale?

Roy Lai:  CrossPay’s pilot for Singapore utilises only the payment function which is only a part of the CrossPay’s functionality. The strategic value in doing it in a Singapore foreign worker’s dormitory is that as the hub of Asia it has workers from all parts of Asia, and is easier to solve the user experience problem simultaneously across different nationalities without going through country by country.
Is the technology for the tamper-proof RFID tags already ready? Who will be manufacturing and providing these tags? Who will bear the costs of these RFID chips and be responsible for implanting it into the livestock?

Roy Lai: Yes. We have an extensive R&D partnership with another Singapore company to design the tag for blockchain use. The costs of these RFID chips are born by the insurance and loan companies. We work with partners that has extensive agent network on the ground to manage the last mile deployments. We will not be able to share the name of the Singapore company designing and manufacturing the RFID chips without NDA.

You can also check out their Livestock RFID Tag Demo using CrossPay here:

Will there be a limit to the number of LCT tokens issued in each local country? How will the team differentiate between LCT tokens for the Bangladesh market vs. the Thailand markets, for instance?

Roy Lai: LCT tokens issued in each local country has no limit but a conversion between SENC and LCT is required. LCT tokens for different market are derived from USD exchange rate for the fiat vs the USD exchange rate for SENC token.

How will Sentinel Chain decide how many to issue (i.e. the number of LCT tokens then per country?) Any metric or guideline would be helpful.

Roy Lai: Not without NDA.

Has Sentinel Chain secured any government agreements or discussions to roll this out for their country’s agricultural population thus far?

Roy Lai: Further news to be announced. The aim is to announce before the ICO crowdsale closes.

I understand that a partnership agreement was signed with CloudWell, and the same article written by Anne mentioned Green Delta as the local insurance partner. Can you clarify if Green Delta has officially agreed to partner and insure the Bangladeshi livestock that will be placed on Sentinel Chain’s blockchain, or are they merely a partner of CloudWell that you were referencing?

Roy Lai: This is a tripartite partnership with Cloudwell providing the last mile support, Green Delta as the livestock insurance provider and InfoCorp providing the CrossPay network.

Future Use Cases

Rather than solely monetizing dead capital to allow for financial inclusion of the unbanked, SENC also seeks to develop the following use cases. One of them which we were highly supportive of was the use of SENC for community projects. The users that SENC targets are the very same exact individuals who are disadvantaged in their access to basic infrastructure such as electricity, roads or clean water. Through the SENC Blockchain, third party not-for-profit organisations may purchase SENC as a medium of exchange for LCT to finance social inclusion activities such as building of infrastructure, to sending donations and offering financial aid through fundraising platforms which Sentinel Chain is looking to develop in future.


 TLDR Conclusion
I’ve also separately met up with another staff working on Sentinel Chain (Jackie), and asked about the project. After this in-depth review, it is safe to say that I’ll be putting some ETH into this.
If you’ve any further thoughts on Sentinel Chain to add on, I’ll love to hear them!
P.S. This is NOT a sponsored article. The full research was conducted together with my good friend in crypto, Timothy Ng Wen Jun. Thanks for all your help!
With love,
Budget Babe 

SG Budget Babe on Budget 2018

If you were wondering whether that girl you saw on TV yesterday night was me, yes it was!Channel News Asia (CNA) had kindly invited me to be part of their Ask the Finance Minister 2018 show, where they gathered 5 Singaporeans from different walks …

Review: Standard Chartered’s Unlimited Cashback Credit Card

How do you choose the best credit card for your lifestyle? Everyone has different spending habits, so the best credit card for you might not necessarily be the most suitable for me. As such, personalization is key.

With the growing popularity of cashback credit cards, many banks and card companies are now releasing extremely competitive cards. But with more choices come more headache as well, especially when each card comes with different cashback limits and spending requirements across various categories.

If you’re looking for a cashback card with no caps and no hassled spending requirements, there are only 2 credit cards in the Singapore market which meet this criteria – Standard Chartered’s Unlimited Cashback and the American Express True Cashback.
How do they stack up among each other?
There’s little difference in the benefits between both, except that the AMEX card may not be as readily accepted by some merchants.
For those of you who still haven’t read the Cashback Guidebook 2018, here’s a quick breakdown of how they compare against one another:

SCB Unlimited Cashback AMEX True Cashback
Cashback rate 1.50% 1.50%
Max. cashback cap None None
Min. annual income $30,000 $30,000
Minimum spend (monthly) None None
Best for Fuss-free Fuss-free
Dining (weekend) 1.50% 1.50%
Dining (weekday) 1.50% 1.50%
Entertainment (weekend) 1.50% 1.50%
Entertainment (weekday) 1.50% 1.50%
Online shopping 1.50% 1.50%
Petrol Savings 1.50% 1.50%
Groceries 1.50% 1.50%
Toiletries 1.50% 1.50%
Transport 1.50% 1.50%
Telco 1.50% 1.50%
Hospital bills
Utilities

STANDARD CHARTERED UNLIMITED CASHBACK

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No cashback cap. No minimum spend.


There are only 2 credit cards in the market which do not have a cap on their maximum cashback, and the Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback Card is one of them.


The 1.5% cashback rate is flat across all categories, so you don’t have to wreck your brains figuring out what or when to swipe your card in order to get a decent cashback rate.
If you’re too busy (or lazy) to be fussed about cashback limits and requirements on the different spending habits, this is a good card for those preferring something with no requirements and caps.

For those keen to get this, I’ve partnered with SingSaver for an exclusive gift of $100 Takashimaya vouchers on top of the bank’s welcome gift when you’ve successfully applied for the card. This promo is valid for BOTH new and existing customers!

With love,
Budget Babe

P.S. This is a post in collaboration with SingSaver, but all opinions are my own. I’ve also been promoting this card since 2017, together with the other cashback cards recommended in the Cashback Guidebook I published to kickstart 2018 with. Go have a read if you haven’t already!

How do you value crypto?

One of the most common questions I get from readers (and skeptics) is how to value cryptocurrencies.

Traditional concepts and ratios like Price-to-Earnings, Free Cash Flow and Net Profit don’t quite apply to cryptocurrencies, especially a large number of crypto projects still are in development and aren’t ready for mass adoption in the real world yet.

So what’s a crypto investor supposed to do?


We need to first understand that the crypto markets are still in their infancy. Unlike stocks (which have been around for a much longer time), there is still no universally accepted metric on how to value a crypto coin right now.

When Benjamin Graham introduced the concept of Margin of Safety, it took a few years before investors started accepting it and it became more widely used as a measurement to evaluating undervalued stocks. Similarly, we’re still years away from such valuation metrics for crypto.
Contrast this to the rise of Internet stocks and companies back in the past as well – when companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google first broke on the scene, no one really knew how to conduct financial valuations on them either. Facebook and Google assets weren’t physical, and Amazon was losing money and in the red for up till 2009. But we all know how their share prices have performed ever since.

Let’s use Amazon as an example.

  • If you had used the traditional Price-to-Earning metric to value Amazon, you would have been alarmed at its negative P/E given Amazon’s $5.78 million losses in 1996
  • Amazon returned no dividends to investors, nor did it do share buybacks

What would you have done? Probably stayed far away from this investment, because traditional valuation metrics were screaming red flags.

But today, with more Internet companies on the scene, we’ve become more familiar with growth investing and come up with other ways to value Internet companies at. Google’s IPO in 2004 seems ridiculous when you consider the fact that it was asking for $23 billion when its prior revenue was only $1.5 billion, and it had no physical assets to speak of. Facebook had a rocky start to its IPO and how do you even measure the financial value of a “like”, anyway? P/E ratios obviously didn’t work for Facebook; it was barely making money out of its billion users until Facebook ads became a norm and revenue started pouring in.

You could have waited until then to invest, but wouldn’t your returns have been infinitely more rewarding and explosive if you had bought Facebook right after listing, when valuations were still murky and uncertain?

Today, we know how to use cost-per-click (CPC) and click-through-rate (CPC) in our projections of future earnings when valuing Internet companies, but did we know that before when the Internet was still in its infancy? 

Even now, such valuations are more of an art than a science. Therefore similarly, we cannot expect to apply traditional knowledge and valuation models to crypto. They just don’t work. My friend Aaron from Mr Stingy, also raised a very good point that the model you use will probably fall flat as well if the rest of the world isn’t using it too.

But for those who insist on a numerical way to quantify exactly how much a coin is worth, there are still ways to be found. Let me illustrate with 2 examples.


Disclaimer: The below portion is purely for educational purposes, and is not a recommendation to buy any of the cryptocurrencies mentioned.

Kucoin Shares (KCS)
There are coins which can serve as a source of passive income (i.e. dividend-like investments). An example is KCS, which share a portion of its revenue from transaction fees earned through trades conducted on their exchange with its investors. There will also be buying demand for KCS as it offers discounts of up to 30% on trading fees. Hence, as Kucoin grows in popularity as an exchange, the value of KCS tokens will also go up. You could try to quantify how much it is worth by running daily trade transaction numbers, fees collected from trading, KCS buybacks, and more.

Someone even created a website for you to estimate how much your KCS tokens are worth.

Source: https://kucoinshares.com/

As more people use Kucoin, more trading fees will be collected, therefore the size of the payouts will increase over time. And because your dividends are paid in the form of alt coins, there is also a possibility that you’ll be earning as their prices go up as well.

Assuming Kucoin grows to become the top 10 exchanges and handles slightly under $1 billion of daily trade volume, we could estimate:

$0.0007 per day x 365 days x 10 (growth in trading volume) x 4 (conservative estimate of growth of coins) = $10.22

If you hold 1000 KCS, that should give you $10,220 in passive income every year. Not too bad considering how 1000 KCS costs less than USD 6000 to purchase right now. Unfortunately, the Kucoin Shares scheme has been discontinued since last month.

OmiseGo (OMG)
Another example is OmiseGo. I previously shared a financial valuation model on my Facebook page where it examines various scenario, including the price of OMG tokens if it charges X% of transaction fees assuming that it is successful in taking over Y% of the e-commerce or remittance market. The spreadsheet was created by Nodar Janashia and shared online.

Even so, that doesn’t mean this standard of valuing OMG tokens will be accepted by everyone. If your assumptions are way off, then your price estimations will also be problematic.

Source: Nodar Janashia
TLDR? 
In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a universal method to value crypto tokens, there’s none. Do not believe any investment course provider who claim that they can teach you a “reliable” method to put a price on the value of a coin, because there’s no such standard in the global crypto markets.

Trying to put a price on what a particular crypto is worth is both an art and a science today. And I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always have all the answers – neither does anyone else. In fact, I don’t usually quantify my crypto as much as I do for my stocks; instead, I look at qualitative metrics to assess if a crypto is worth my investment.

You’ve seen how I tore down Ripple (XRP) tokens previously because they failed to pass my qualitative criteria. You’ve also seen me do the same for LegitCoin and Bitconnect here.

I’ll next share on crypto projects that DO make the cut for me, so stay tuned.

Just like how the Internet changed our lives forever, I think we’re seeing the same with blockchain technology. And this is going to be one hell of a ride!

With love,
Budget Babe