I was wondering why I didn’t receive my NS FIT and IPPT payment after 2 weeks so I went to check my bank account. I then realised that I actually received S$40 less than what I was supposed to. After doing more digging and research, the S$40 was automatically deducted directly from my IPPT incentive after passing my IPPT for the first time to automatically renew my SAFRA membership for a year. There were also no notifications or invoices sent to let me know that my membership has begun.
While doing my research, I have seen a few forum threads talking about this auto-deduction since 2011.
For those that were lucky to come across those threads or are diligent readers of terms and conditions and managed to cancel the auto-renewal, good for you.
For the rest of you that might still be silently getting charged for something that you don’t even know exist, this is a public service announcement for you to check your payments and to cancel the autorenewal function of your SAFRA membership.
The army had a similar scheme year ago called the PIONEER magazine where they automatically charged you for it as it is an auto-subscription. You also had to write in to cancel it.
I made this infographic for you to share this information with your friends, family, colleagues and army mates.
I did sign the agreement and I didn’t read the T&Cs carefully, so I will have to suck it up but I disagree with how SAFRA does things. And since nothing can be done about my loss, what I can do is try to make sure as many people as possible don’t suffer the same losses as me.
Update 7/4/2023: SAFRA has reached out to clarify certain points.
- Complimentary NS55 SAFRA membership will not be subjected to auto-renewal. However, if you ever paid to sign up or extend your membership, you will be subjected to auto-renewal.
- Refunds will be processed via PayNow from April 2023 onwards.
You can read them below.
SAFRA Membership Auto-Renewal In The T&Cs
You might ask, “How can they do that?”. However, this is something that they placed in the Terms and Conditions when you signed up for a SAFRA membership. Here are the clauses in question.
Membership is renewed automatically within three (3) months before expiry regardless of whether the Member uses SAFRA facilities/benefits. All subscription dues shall be settled at the time of resignation. To opt out from auto-renewal of membership, a Member must submit in writing his/her intention at least three (3) months before membership expiry.
SAFRA will make deductions from a Member’s pay with a Ministry/Statutory Board or from the member’s National Service Make-up Pay or from the SAFRA DBS Credit/Debit Card, where applicable. The deduction will cover the current and advance subscriptions.
At the very least these clauses are at the top of the document and not buried deep inside the T&Cs. On the PDF and physical forms, they also bolded these specific clauses.
But the standard is a little low, don’t you think? I feel that more can be done as I believe that most people do not read any T&Cs.
Why do we need to write in 3 months in advance? Is your organization so inefficient in processing cancellations while being so efficient in deducting funds?
I also wonder why these clauses are bolded in the first place. Could it be that they know that these clauses are contentious?
Renewed Even After Membership Lapsed
Even if your SAFRA membership has lapsed for months or years, once they have the opportunity to deduct from a source of funds, your funds will get deducted without any notifications and your 1-year membership will start without even you knowing it exists.
Since there is already a lapse, it is reasonable to infer that if I didn’t renew, it means that I did not use your services for at least some time (in my case, 9 months).
They say that the auto-renewal is for our convenience, but without any notification that our membership has been renewed even after a long period of lapsing, what is the use? On top of that, 1-year memberships are worse off than multi-year renewals. I don’t think I am the only one that feels that SAFRA’s actions are questionable at the very least.
They actually have a clause that states the following
SAFRA reserves the right to terminate the Membership due to non-receipt of subscription fees.
Unfortunately for me, they did not use their right to cancel my membership when it lapsed and decided to immediately renew my membership once they had access to a source of funds.
Free Membership Or Free Trial?
Giving out free 1-year membership to reward our NSmen sounds great but when you include the auto-renewal, it really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I believe people will view the free membership as a gift, instead of a free trial where we can be expected to pay for it after that. The free SAFRA membership is not unlike free preview software that will charge you after the free trial. There is truly no free lunch in this world.
Silent and Direct Deduction
The fact that they can claw the amount directly from your wages, make-up pay and credit/debit card is ridiculous. How SAFRA managed to get a direct integration with Government departments to deduct our funds for a club membership renewal is absurd.
As far as I know, there is no notification or invoice sent, that any amount is deducted or when your membership is active. If you do not know how much you are supposed to receive or don’t check your card bills regularly, it is easy to miss out on the deductions.
For example, I wouldn’t know how much exactly I am supposed to receive for my reservice so they managed to silently deduct this amount. As for my recent IPPT with incentive, I know I am supposed to get S$224 but I receive much less, and this triggered my investigation.
Above are the two deductions SAFRA managed to deduct from me in the last three years. NS portal only has 3 years of history so I am unable if they have deducted funds from me beyond the three years of transaction history.
Who Could Be Affected By This?
As long as you held a SAFRA membership in your life, the auto-renewal via auto-deductions will kick in when the following conditions are met. First, if you remember ever signing up for the SAFRA membership while in the army or the free memberships given out during various NS celebrations like NS50 or NS55, you would have agreed to the clauses mentioned above when you signed off on the application form.
Update 07/04/2023: SAFRA has reached out to clarify regarding the auto-renewal.
Although their T&Cs say that all members will be subjected to the auto-renewal, they claim that auto-renewal will not be applied to those that sign up for the free SAFRA membership. Do take note that as long as you paid to sign up or extend your membership, you will still be under the auto-renewal scheme. I suggest just writing in to cancel the auto-renewal regardless.
If any of you face any discrepancies, do reach out and let me know.
They have also since updated their FAQs to include this.
Source: SAFRA NS55 FAQs
The second part of the formula is that they will need a source of funds to deduct automatically for the renewal. Here are some examples
- Working for the government or statutory board
- Receiving NS Make-up Pay during ICT
- Receiving IPPT incentive
- Owning a SAFRA DBS Credit/Debit Card
The last part of the formula would be that you will need your SAFRA membership to be expiring. Renewal will occur after the membership expires.
If you meet these three criteria, auto-renewal should kick in.
Where To Check If Money Has Been Deducted?
Three main groups of people will be affected by SAFRA’s auto-renewal and there are different methods how you can check. There might be scenarios where you fall into two or more groups. I don’t have insights on which case has priority so you can check all three.
The amount to look out for is S$40. So if this amount appears on your bill or is missing from what you are supposed to receive.
Government/Statutory Board Employee
From what I understand, they will deduct this amount from your salary if you work in a Government or Statutory Board.
If your salary is straightforward without reimbursements etc, once you see an amount lesser than usual, you should be able to flag it out and investigate. Otherwise, you can look at your itemized payslip and check if there are any unusual deductions.
They will either deduct from your NS Makeup Pay from attending ICT or from IPPT incentive awards. Here are the steps to check
- Log in to NS.sg
- Click on “Access eService” under “Manage NSmen Payments”
- Click on “View Payment History”
- Scroll through the three pages and click on the dates with amounts more than S$40
- If there is any number under “Total Deductions”, you can investigate further
If the paid amounts are below S$40 (e.g. allowance for NS FIT sessions), I suspect it does not reach the threshold for them to make the deductions. As far as I know, they are unable to make partial deductions.
The trap card is that “Amount Paid” in the table does not correspond to the actual amount paid. What is shown on the top level is the gross amount. It is only when you click in for more details that you will see any deductions. Although I only received S$184, it shows that I was paid S$224. This is extremely misleading.
SAFRA DBS Credit/Debit Card
The renewal fees will be charged to your card if you own this specific card. If not already doing it, you should check your card statements regularly. If you own a debit card, tough luck as it is directly removed from your bank account. However, if you own a credit card, you might have a chance to dispute the transaction and get it cancelled.
What HomeTeamNS Does Instead
What about SPF and SCDF’s counterpart, HomeTeamNS? The SAF has SAFRA while the SPF and SCDF have HomeTeamNS. Both organizations serve our NSmen, providing similar lifestyle perks and facilities for them and their friends and family.
According to HomeTeamNS’s FAQs, they do not have an auto-renewal clause. Instead, members will need to log in to the membership portal to renew their membership. If HomeTeamNS can have such a consumer-rights-centric policy, I don’t see why SAFRA can’t be held accountable to a similar standard.
So Is The SAFRA Membership Bad?
I am not saying the membership is expensive or the perks are bad. In fact, I would say the membership fees are very reasonable for the perks and access to facilities. However, this is argument only valid IF you made the active decision to sign up with them. If you don’t even know your membership exists or if you don’t plan to use any of the facilities, even paying S$1 is a waste of money. It is unfortunate that they have such an exploitative autorenewal and deduction policy that many people do not know about.
My Suggestions On How They Should Change Things
First, they should make the auto-renewal an opt-in or do it the same way as HomeTeamNS where we need to log in to renew. I know that there will be a lower rate of subscription, lowering their revenue. However, this is the morally right way to do things. How many people actually read every T&C they come across?
Next, they should at the very least let the members know via email, SMS or even a physical letter that their membership is now active. Without this notification, how would one know that they now have an active SAFRA membership? They should also send an invoice for the amount paid and membership duration for the record.
At least let me know that my membership is active so that I can make use of it and not just let it silently lapse till it is time to renew. I checked my email and the only notification regarding membership I got from SAFRA is that it is expiring. Fantastic.
Last but not least, they should remove the auto deduction from salary and ns make up pay. The integration should never be there in the first place.
Why Should You Write In And Cancel SAFRA’s Auto-Renewal?
Even if you want a SAFRA membership, you should ALWAYS opt out of their auto-renewal program. Here are three reasons why.
Please take note that the prices and free gifts will be subject to changes.
There are promotional prices when you sign up for multi-year packages or when there are special occasions like NS55.
|Standard 1-Year Auto-Renewal||S$40 / Yr|
|3-Year Manual Renewal (NS55 Promotion)||S$40 / 3 Yrs
S$13.33 / Yr (66.7% Cheaper)
|2-Year Manual Renewal||S$80 / 2 Yrs
S$40 / Yr
|5-Year Manual Renewal||S$155 / 5 Yrs
S$31 / Yr (22.5% Cheaper)
|10-Year Manual Renewal||S$270 / 10 Yrs
S$27 / Yr (32.5% Cheaper)
You get a bad price if they auto-renew your SAFRA Membership at S$40 a year.
No Free Gifts & Vouchers
On top of the worse prices, you also lose out on vouchers and free gifts.
|Membership Renewal||Free Gifts|
|Standard 1-Year Auto-Renewal||Nothing|
|3-Year Manual Renewal (NS55 Promotion)||Free 1-Month STAYTION Membership|
|2-Year Manual Renewal||Nothing|
|5-Year Manual Renewal||Timberland Northbridge Collection Watch “worth” $189|
|10-Year Manual Renewal||Aviator F-Series GMT Chronograph Watch “worth” $299|
To be honest, I think that these watches are not sold in retail and are created just to be gifted out as freebies. You should take the values with a huge grain of salt. If you enjoy the design or just want to sell them off for cheap on Carousell, at least you have the choice to do so.
Take note that the free gifts and price are subject to change. Check with SAFRA for the lastest deals.
Prevention Of Auto-Renewal
Last but not least, it is to prevent any auto-renewal and auto-deduction of funds. If you actively or plan to make use of your membership, you should do it manually to get better prices and free gifts as mentioned above. Alternatively, if you don’t even know your membership exists or have no plan on having a SAFRA membership, you wouldn’t want your money to be deducted for nothing without your notice.
How To Cancel SAFRA’s Auto-Renewal?
To opt out of auto-renewal, we will need to email firstname.lastname@example.org at least 3 months before the expiry of your SAFRA membership.
Your email should include the following details
- Full Name
- Date of Birth
- Last 4 Characters of NRIC (e.g. 123A)
You will need to wait for a confirmation from them before the auto-renewal is officially cancelled.
If you truly want to renew your SAFRA membership, they should send you a reminder a few months before expiry via email or physical mail. You can renew then to get a better deal with better prices, vouchers and free gifts.
Although they have already charged you, you can try to get a refund if detected early enough. I managed to request a refund in the middle of March 2023 although the membership started on 1 March 2023. According to them, it will be within 6 – 10 weeks for the cheque to be sent to me. I will update this article when I receive the cheque.
Update 6/4/2023: I just received the cheque about 3 weeks after I asked for the refund. It was dated late March 2023. I didn’t check my letterbox every day so the cheque could possibly arrive earlier. I also received an email from SAFRA saying that refunds from April 2023 onwards can be processed via PayNow, which is a great improvement.
SAFRA might be silently deducting S$40 from you yearly just because of some clauses in the terms and conditions that you probably missed out on. There is a clause that your SAFRA membership will be automatically renewed and they have the power to deduct the fees from several sources like wages and if you hold their SAFRA debit/credit card. HomeTeamNS, a similar organisation, does the right thing where they only allow members to renew manually. The perks and access to facilities are actually good but auto-renewal is bad for consumers. There is no reason for auto-renewal as you get a worse price and miss out on vouchers and free gifts if you manually renew.
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