A couple of weeks ago I discussed the difficulty of finding a good rewards-earning Visa or MasterCard to use in places where American Express cards are not accepted. Serious miles and points collectors like to earn rewards whenever they pay by card and there are still many places that don’t take Amex.
Why would you specifically want to pay with an Amex card? As I said in that article:
“In the UK, you will earn the highest number of reward points be it Avios, Virgin, Etihad or Emirates miles by using an American Express-branded card – end of.”
Today, I will be reviewing the card with the highest airline miles earning rate on a non-Amex card in the UK.
That card is the HSBC World Elite MasterCard.
There is currently a limited time special offer running on this card.
The ordinary welcome offer on this card is 40,000 HSBC Reward points upon spending £2,000 within the first 3 months. I will discuss what these are worth and how they can be used below.
However, if you apply before 31st August 2017, you will receive an extra 10,000 Reward points when you are accepted for the card and spend £2,000 on your card in the first 3 months. This means the sign-up bonus is actually worth 50,000 Reward points.
To clarify, there is no extra spending required to trigger the special offer – the £2,000 spend is the same amount that required for the regular (40k) bonus.
What is an HSBC Reward point worth?
HSBC Reward points are a flexible currency. They are similar to American Express Membership Rewards points and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points in that they can be converted to a variety of different airlines.
You can currently transfer points to:
- Avios (British Airways Executive Club)
- Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific)
- Etihad Guest (Etihad Airways)
- KrisFlyer (Singapore Airlines)
Following a fairly big devaluation of the HSBC reward points (‘HSBC points’) scheme in 2015, the conversion rate is now:
2 HSBC Reward points = 1 frequent flyer mile.
It is by far the most generous airline miles offer on a non-Amex card currently available in the UK.
Day-to-day earnings rate
This card earns 2 HSBC points per £1 spent on the card. As noted above, you are therefore earning 1 Avios per £1 spent, which, for a non-Amex card is a terrific return.
You earn a further 2 HSBC points for every £1 you spend abroad. That means it is on par with the Preferred Rewards Gold card which also earns double points on spend abroad. Bear in mind though that HSBC charges a 2.99% non-sterling fee for all transactions made abroad and that may well wipe out the value of the extra points earned.
If you are looking for a no-fee card to use abroad, check out our: “What is the best card to use abroad?” feature article.
1.) Additional 40,000 HSBC points (20,000 Avios) upon spending £12,000 – within your card membership year. Reports suggest that these are only being awarded after your card anniversary, despite suggestions in the T&C’s to the contrary. This is NOT a repeatable perk and is offered in your first year of card membership only.
2.) Travel Insurance – This comes as a standard perk with an HSBC Premier account (which is required to apply for the World Elite MasterCard).
4.) Free unlimited WiFi – Via the world’s “largest WiFi network” iPass. This is an interesting perk. Amex offers a similar perk on their Platinum card, with customers having complimentary access to Boingo Hotspots Worldwide.
5.) £20 Uber credit when you purchase £500+ of airfare – If you regularly (or even semi-regularly) use your card to purchase tickets, this is a nice little rebate.
6.) Hotel Discounts – 10% discount on selected hotels booked through Expedia and Agoda. Cardholders also benefit from 12 months complimentary Expedia+ Gold Membership. Not sure I would place much value on this, I’ve never really heard anyone rave about the benefits of the Expedia+ program.
7.) World Elite Card benefits – As this card is a World Elite MasterCard, you would have access to a range of ‘World Elite MasterCard VIP privileges and offers’.
These include perks at:
- The Leading Hotels of the World
- Raffles Hotels
- Small Luxury Hotels
- Fairmont Hotels
- Gieves and Hawkes
- Turnbull & Asser
- Chic Outlet Shopping Villages
The annual fee on this card is £195.
Unlike directly issued American Express cards, this fee is not refundable (pro-rata) should you choose to cancel at some point during your card membership year.
There is one exception. One of the perks of Jade by HSBC Premier is the waiving of the annual fee on the World Elite MasterCard. Supplementary cards are ordinarily charged at £60 per additional card, this fee is also waived for Jade members.
Representative 59.3% APR variable and 18.9% p.a (variable) for purchases, based on an annual fee of £195 and an assumed credit limit of £1,200.
Who is eligible for this card?
In order to apply for this card, you must be an HSBC Premier account holder.
Per the HSBC website, these are the requirements to become a Premier account holder:
HSBC Premier is available to you, as long as you pay your annual income into your HSBC Premier Bank Account and either:
1) Have savings or investments of at least £50,000 with HSBC in the UK; or
2) have an individual annual income of at least £100,000 and one of the following products with HSBC in the UK:
- a mortgage;
- an investment, life insurance or protection product;
Or, qualify for HSBC Premier in another country.
Once you are a Premier customer, you can then apply for the Premier World Elite MasterCard. In fact, you can even do it in the same phone call/meeting as setting up your Premier account.
Is this card for me?
If you meet the stringent eligibility criteria, I would have no hesitation in getting this card – provided you believe you can put through £12,000 during the year. Even without the excellent day-to-day earnings rate, the 50,000 points (25,000 Avios) welcome bonus + 40,000 points (20,000 Avios) bonus for spending £12k justifies the first year £195 fee.
In truth, if you place value on any of the other card perks I have run through above, you may be able to rationalise the annual fee, even without those extra 40,000 bonus points for hitting the £12k spend.
The main drawback of this card for me is the lack of incentive to keep this card for the second year. They have given me numerous reasons to take out this card and use it…but only for a year. After that, there is not enough added enticement to keep using this card as your main Visa/MasterCard.
This card is worth it in the first year, that I think is a no-brainer. Your first-year equation would ordinarily be £195 for 52,000 Avios*. It is hard to argue with that sort of bottom line!
Persuading me to keep it for a second year, while having to pay another £195, would be far more difficult.
*20,000 welcome bonus + 12,000 base miles earned on 12k spend + 20,000 bonus for that £12k spend = 52,000 miles.
Disclaimer: The above information is intended solely as a helpful guide to the relevant card products on the market and their various features. You should, of course, always conduct your own research as the recommendations provided may not be suitable for your personal financial requirements.
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