Statistically, you share your birthday with at least 15,000 other people in Singapore. But it’s in most businesses’ interest to perpetuate the belief that your birthday is super duper special to them, because that’s how you get Singaporeans to overspend on “birthday treats”.
But you know, not everyone is as disillusioned about capitalism as I am, and are perfectly comfortable about claiming any free treats that brands want to give you.
Therefore, I present the most comprehensive guide to birthday treats in Singapore, featuring the 31 best freebies and discounts – yes, enough for every single day of your birthday month!
There are actually WAY more birthday freebies and discounts in Singapore, but I’ve selected the cream of the crop (i.e. minimal strings attached), because it’s your ~special day~.
To help you make sense of this heady, consumeristic frenzy of deals, I’m going to break it down into digestible sections and you can skip the ones that don’t interest you, e.g. beauty. I’ll also mention the birthday treats that didn’t make the cut in each section.
CASUAL TAKEAWAY BIRTHDAY TREATS – KOI, SWENSEN’S & STARBUCKS
I love it when a brand gives me a freebie without asking for anything in return, so my absolute favourite birthday treat is Swensen’s famous free Firehouse ice cream sundae. You have to dine in, but no one will compel you to order a full meal to accompany your ice cream here.
Koi’s 2 x free drinks deal comes close, but you do have to purchase the “KoiTHELicious” (what on earth) stored value card by topping up at least $10 in Koi credits. That’s okay though, because what kind of Singaporean has trouble using up $10 at Koi? Both you and your best BBT buddy need to be present to claim it.
For Boost and Starbucks, the freebies are for members who have actually patronised the establishment before. The Boost one is easy to score as you gain membership by buying 1 drink. For Starbucks, you need to have spent quite a lot of bucks to be a Green or Gold member.
BIRTHDAY TREATS AT RESTAURANTS – FREE BUFFETS, BIRTHDAY CAKES & MORE
Birthdays are a great time to contribute to F&B businesses’ revenue, and so it’s nice that some restaurants actually bother to give the birthday person some kind of freebie.
My favourite ones are the free buffets you can get at Shin Minori, Seoul Garden and Coca, which are really worthwhile considering a standard buffet is at least $40 or so at such restaurants. Bear in mind that they usually require X paying diners so you can’t just go in there and pig out alone.
Most other birthday treats such as free lobster, gyozas, sashimi, cake and fruit platters are more obviously marketing gimmicks. I wouldn’t specially go to a restaurant like Hai Di Lao just for the fruit platter, but it would make the birthday meal more fun. Proceed with a bit more caution, because the a la carte orders would probably add up.
A number of restaurants also have their own membership programmes, and dish out birthday freebies or discounts to members. Some of these are paid, though, so they’re only worth it if you’re a super hardcore fan of the restaurant.
Here are some of the more prominent ones:
BIRTHDAY TREATS FOR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES – FREE ENTRY TO THE ZOO, RWS & MORE
Non-dining birthday treats are harder to come by, but the best known one is free entry to Singapore Zoo, Night Safari or River Safari which has been around for ages. I did this last year to see my favourite Night Safari resident, the Indian gharial. It does require one paying visitor which basically makes it 1-for-1, but it’s still worth it.
Many of the other attractions require paid membership to programmes such as RWS Invites, NTUC Membership and even Popular Club (yes, as in the bookstore), if you happen to be one.
Notable exclusions are the GV Club membership (1-for-1 ticket) and Scoot Insider (discount voucher) which are totally free to join. Yay!
BIRTHDAY TREATS FOR SHOPPING – IKEA, MUJI & CAPITAMALLS VOUCHERS/DISCOUNTS
Loads of retailers have membership programmes, and if you happen to be a member at your favourite store already, it can’t hurt to check out what birthday perks the programme offers.
Cotton On and Kikki.K have the lowest membership requirements – both free to join with no purchase required – so if you’re looking for a ‘pure’ freebie then by all means sign up for membership with them.
Otherwise, I’ve added the more common stores where you might already be a member, such as Muji, IKEA and The Body Shop.
There are tons of birthday treats at beauty stores like Sephora and Innisfree, but these tend to be for the more VIP-type customers who have already spent a lot of money at these stores. Others with birthday rewards for top-tier spenders are Etude House, Shu Uemura, Laniege, Kiehl’s and L’Occitane.
BIRTHDAY TREATS THAT COME WITH MEMBERSHIP PROGRAMMES
The cardinal rule for birthday treats? Always check your telco, credit card/bank, insurance and any paid memberships that you’re already a part of.
These usually have a bunch of birthday promotions to incentivise you to continue giving them money, and you will probably get an SMS or email from them on your birthday month.
But there’s a reason why I put them at the bottom of this list; it’s because the promotions tend to be quite lame, e.g. 15 per cent discount at Cafe Unheard-Of.
SPECIAL MENTION: GRAB DRIVERS’ BIRTHDAY TREAT
Know someone who’s driving for Grab? Make sure they ‘claim’ their $50 birthday treat from Grab every year.
Though faceless corporation Grab isn’t exactly everyone’s dream employer, they at least have the decency to offer a small but appreciated perk for their hardworking Grab drivers by footing the bill (up to $50) for their birthday celebrations.
To qualify, you need to have completed at least 10 unique passenger bookings in the month prior to your birthday month. Then, all you need to do is take a photo of the dining/whatever receipt and upload it to Grab.
This is valid from the start of your birthday month to the end of the first week of the next month.
ALSO WORTH A TRY: AIRLINES & HOTELS BIRTHDAY TREATS
If you’re travelling for your birthday, you might miss out on some of these birthday treats in Singapore, but you can also ask for freebies on your flights and from hotels.
Some airlines and hotels – typically the more expensive ones – have an unofficial policy where they treat birthday guests to something nice, e.g. a free upgrade or a slice of cake. There are no official T&Cs for these practices but they’ve been widely reported online, such as in this travel hacking article, so it can’t hurt to try your luck.
It does take a special sort of thick-skinned person to ask for their own birthday treat though, so I suggest you get your travel companion to help you ask on your behalf (well in advance of your flight/stay, if possible). He/she will look like a total sweetheart while you neatly avoid looking like the cheaponana you really are.
This article was first published in MoneySmart.
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