Monday, 19 March 2018

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,, 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.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

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.


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 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