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AmBank NexG MasterCard

Updated October 9, 2007

Being a geek, I’m shameless consumer of geeky things.

The main problems I face acquiring the objects of my geeky desires here in Malaysia are availability and cost. Stuff comes here in limited quantities (if at all) and gets sold out quickly.

It doesn’t help matters there are jackasses here who rush to the stores, buy every hot item in stock and then sell them on eBay with scalper-riffic prices.

Cost-wise, imported merchandise is generally sold locally with at least a 20 per cent mark-up. If you’re horrible at bargaining (as I am) you may end up paying much, much more.

Those then are the reasons why I prefer buy online from foreign sellers instead of supporting local retailers as I should.

However, making purchases from foreign sellers involves difficulties as well. The main one for me is remitting funds. Until recently, I would make out an international bank draft and send it to the seller via Malaysia’s EMS mail service to ensure speedy delivery. This added both time and cost to the transaction.

Clearly, I needed to go electronic to speed things up and lower costs.


The AmBank NexG MasterCard is probably the easiest way for a Malaysian to get a card for online purchases.

It’s a prepaid debit card which means if you don’t have the necessary funds in your card account, the transaction doesn’t go through.

This may seem like an inconvenience, I know. But I like this key feature of the card since I’m only going to lose as much money as I have in my account in the event of card loss or fraud. I intend to keep only as much money as I need for an impending online transaction so I have peace of mind in terms of security.

You can get the AmBank NexG MasterCard Starter Pack for RM25 at your local AmBank branch or 7-11 outlets in the Klang Valley. The starter pack comes in a cardboard envelope that contains the AmBank NexG MasterCard itself, an application form, documentation for frequently asked questions and terms and conditions, and finally, some retail coupons.

You may fill in the form and submit it at the bank itself but I opted to take the starter pack home to read the documentation thoroughly.

Pros and Cons

The upside of the card is having the means for quick and easy internet purchases.

There are also a couple of downsides which you should be aware of.

There is a monthly RM3 account maintenance fee, which is automatically deducted whenever you top up your card account. On top of that there are also fees for foreign transactions. The foreign transaction fees include a retail transaction fee of RM1 plus 1% of the transaction amount as an administration fee. So if the foreign transaction was for RM100 you would have to have at least RM102 in your card account in order for the transaction to succeed.

AmBank’s monthly and transaction fees are significantly less than the transaction costs I previously paid so I didn’t mind paying those fees.

(Public Bank’s Visa Electron debit card has a cheaper fee structure but I was drawn to AmBank’s offering because I felt it was much easier and faster to apply for. In theory, anyway, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

The front of the card has the card number but there’s no name. There’s a space on the rear of the card for your signature. Another thing you need to pay heed to on the rear of the card is the two sets of numbers there. The first set of numbers are actually the last 4 digits of your card number. The three-digit code next to that is your Card Verification Value (CVV), a credit card security feature. Keep note of this as you may be required to enter that 3-digit CVV code when making purchases online.

I filled in my application form, made a copy of the front of my MyKad and decided to fax in the form. I was led to believe this was the fastest way to get your card registered and activated.

This wasn’t the case.

Just the fax, ma’am

My first problem was I initially had trouble getting the fax to AmBank. I couldn’t even get the bank’s fax line line the first two times I tried it and once I did so I was nonplussed to learn out the AmBank card centre had not received it. I was given another fax number (a direct one) and faxed it again.

This was irritating because I don’t have a fax machine at home and had to go to a shop to fax the form.

My irritation grew upon being informed my MyKad number wasn’t legible in the fax and I had to fax the form in again. After doing so and being told I had to fax again because the MyKad number was still illegible, I was close to … well, not being polite, shall we say, and let’s leave it at that.

I finally ended up submitting the application form to my local AmBank bank.

If you don’t have immediate access to a fax machine, I would strongly recommend buying the Starter Pack at your local AmBank, filling in the application form and submitting it immediately. You will have to bring along a photostat copy of the front side of your MyKad.


The next day, I called up the Customer Service Center and activated the card. This involved giving your name, mother’s maiden name, card number and card expiry date. (Take note the expiry date is in the Month/Year format.) This interrogation is undoubtedly meant to ensure that you are in fact you and not your evil twin from parallel dimension of a mirror universe.

Following this you’ll have to agree to whatever diabolical schemes AmBank has in store for you should you tick them off and then you will have to create a 6-digit telephone PIN. The latter confused me as the customer service representative didn’t make it entirely clear this PIN was a number I was to create myself by keying it in there and then rather than an existing number provided by AmBank.

(The reason this confused me is AmBank sends a separate PIN two weeks after registration in order for you to check your statements online.)

I was told then that my card was activated and I could top up my account in 10 or so minutes. I waited a bit longer than that and then topped up my card account at my local AmBank. Note that you don’t have to fill any forms to do this. Simply present your card to the counter. Also note you will have to deposit a minimum of RM100 if you top up over the counter.

Trying it out

Upon trying to add my card to one foreign merchant’s system, I was stumped when I was unable to key in my name. It turns out the “a/l” (“anak lelaki” or “son of”) between my name and my father’s name was confounding the system. I omitted the “a/l” and the card was accepted.

I then applied for a PayPal account and tried to get my card verified. To get verified with PayPal, you’ll have to allow the company to charge a refundable USD1.95 to your card. You then key in the 4-digit code that shows up in your card statement.

Here’s another minor issue with AmBank NexG MasterCard.

You don’t have any immediate access to your card statement. AmBank sends you a PIN two weeks after registration which allows you to check your statement online but before that, you can only check your statement by telephone. I did this a few hours after I attempted to verify my card with PayPal and got my 4-digit PayPal verification code from the customer service representative over the phone.

Another possible downside of using NexG MasterCard for online purchases is you may have to call up the Customer Service Centre before you make a foreign transaction. My first attempt at using PayPal to pay for an eBay purchase failed despite my having sufficient funds in my account. Horrified, I called up the CSC immediately and was told I had to ask for access for foreign transactions to go through. I duly asked and five minutes later, my second attempt at payment got through.

I was puzzled why PayPal’s verification charge went through without any intervention on my part earlier in the day and doubly puzzled when I was informed a few days later I wasn’t required to call the Customer Service Centre before making a foreign transaction. Regardless of the reason, I mention this just in case it happens to you as well.

Thus far, I’ve been satisfied with the AmBank NexG MasterCard. There are some things that could be done better but overall, I’m satisfied I now have the means to make online transactions with minimum risk.

Oct 9, 2007 The AmBank NexG MasterCard cannot be used to withdraw PayPal funds.


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