How Much To Give In Your Lunar New Year Hongbao – A Handy Guide

Whether you’re giving out red packets for the first time, or aren’t sure if the market rates have changed, this guide will come in handy.

By Mandy Lim Beitler      11 February 2021

Facebook: Not sure how much to give your neighbour’s kids, or your younger cousin-in-law? Take a quick look at our guide!

The first thing to keep in mind is to stick to even number amounts. Odd numbers are considered inauspicious and typically reserved for funerals. That means steering clear of amounts such as $5, $15, and $30. To be on the safe side, you may also want to avoid $4, which despite being an even number, sounds like the word for ‘death’ in many Chinese dialects.

The amount to give each person generally depends on how close you are to them. “Blood is thicker than water” applies, so a rule of thumb is that (unmarried) relatives and family members get more than friends’ kids, for instance. Still, there are no hard and fast rules, so give only what you can afford. At the end of the day, it’s the thought – and well wishes that go with each hongbao – that counts.

(Grand)Parents And (Grand)Parents-in-Law: $88 And Up

Your parents and grandparents are the ones who gave you life, so they rank tops on the hierarchy of hongbao rates. Also, they are pretty much the only generation who receive red packets despite not qualifying as ‘unmarried’. Put big smiles on their faces with auspicious amounts like $88, $168, $288, and so on.

Your Own Children: $60 To $100

They’re your offspring, so the decision is entirely yours. Again, it depends on your financial situation, and you may also see it as helping to grow your kids’ savings account. On average, most parents these days tend to reward their kids with at least $60 – together with a reminder to be good and study hard!

Younger Siblings And Siblings-in-Law: $60 To $100

If they’re still single, your younger brothers and sisters come next. However, if they are already working adults, then you can choose to give them either a smaller token amount, or not at all. It comes down to individual family practices, but many unmarried folks in their thirties find accepting red packets awkward and prefer to decline.

Younger Cousins: $20 To $28

Are they your brothers and sisters from another mother, or practically strangers you meet once a year? How much to give unmarried younger cousins depends on how close you are to them, but $20, $24, or $28 are commonly chosen amounts. Just like with your siblings, the same principles apply if they are working adults.

Younger Nieces And Nephews: $10 To $20

Again, they may be the darlings you babysit all the time for your sibling, or your cousin’s kids you hardly know. How much to give depends on how much you love! Do take care to give the same amount to sets of siblings, however, just in case they compare. Generally speaking, $10, $12, $18, and $20 are popular choices.

Other Kids On The Block: $6 To $20

These can range from a neighbour whose grandma plies you with curry chicken to random kids you meet while visiting relatives. Yup, you guessed it – amounts can vary accordingly to how well you know them. $6 is a safe place to start, but you may choose to give your best friend’s little one the same ‘rank’ as a nephew or niece.

Give E-Hongbao Instead

In light of the current social distancing requirements this Chinese New Year, catching up with all your relatives may not be possible. But if you’d like to still give out red packets for good luck, consider jumping on the digital hongbao bandwagon. All major banks in Singapore are offering some form of e-hongbao, with funds transferred via PayNow. However, do note that some elderly folk may still prefer to receive crisp new notes for their auspicious symbolism. For everyone else, why not take the opportunity during this season of abundance to go green?

How much do you give in your hongbao? Share your views with us at