Bank of China has historically not offered a miles card in Singapore, preferring to stick to the dark, fetid corners of cashback. That’s all about to change, and potentially shake up the miles game in Singapore.
Here’s an ad from Page 5 of the Straits Times today:
Yes, BOC is entering the Singapore miles game with a bang. There’s no landing page for the card on the BOC website that I can find, so all analysis is based on the information in the ad plus the T&C.
A market-leading 2 mpd on local spending, 5 mpd on overseas spending
When I first saw this, I assumed there must be some sort of minimum spend/maximum spend catch. But the ad is very clear- holders of this card will earn 2 mpd on local spend and 5 mpd on overseas spend with no cap until 31 December 2018. To enjoy these rates, your card must be approved by 15 December 2018.
After 31 December 2018, the rates drop to 1.5 mpd on local spend and 3 mpd for overseas spend. These reduced rates would still make the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard the best general spending card in Singapore, as the table below shows.
|Local Spending||Overseas Spending|
|KrisFlyer Blue||1.1||2.0 during June/Dec|
|KrisFlyer Ascend||1.2||2.0 during June/Dec|
|DBS Altitude/Citibank Premiermiles Visa||1.2||2.0|
|OCBC VOYAGE||1.2 (1.6 on Premier and Private Banking versions)||2.3|
|UOB PRVI Miles||1.4||2.4|
|Standard Chartered Visa Infinite||1.4 (min spend $2K per month)||3.0 (min spend $2K per month)|
|DBS Insignia/ Citi Ultima/ UOB Reserve||1.6||2.0|
|BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard||2 (before 31 Dec 2018)|
|5 (before 31 Dec 2018)|
This earn rates are exceptional for a general spending card. 5 mpd on overseas spending would even exceed the 10X rate that you could earn by using the UOB Visa Signature.
It’s not like the foreign exchange charges will be insane either- the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite offers up to 3.0 mpd on overseas spending, but has an insane 3.5% transaction fee. The UOB PRVI Miles offers 2.4 mpd on overseas transactions, but a hefty 3.25% fee. The BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard fee will be 2.5%, which is in line with most other banks.
2 mpd on local spending will be your best option once OCBC ends its 4 mpd mobile payments promotion on 4 August.
Points expire in 12-24 months
There’s been some confusion about this, because when the T&Cs first came out this morning, here’s what they said:
During lunchtime, however, a swarm of Milelioners descended upon the Chevron House roadshow, and met a corporate representative from BOC. After a bit of back and forth, the T&Cs were updated to reflect this:
That’s a real improvement- in the incorrect version of the T&Cs, your points were valid for 12 months maximum. In the corrected version, your points are valid for a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 24 months.
(Remember that once you transfer your points to KrisFlyer or Asia Miles, you get an additional 3 year validity).
Here’s how that compares to other general spending cards:
|KrisFlyer Blue/ KrisFlyer Ascend||3 years||Credited directly to KrisFlyer account|
|DBS Altitude||No expiry||DBS points earned on Altitude card do not expire|
|Citibank Premiermiles Visa||No expiry||Premiermiles do not expire|
|Citi Prestige||No expiry||Citi Dollars earned on Citi Prestige do not expire|
|UOB PRVI Miles||2 years|
|Standard Chartered Visa Infinite||No expiry||360 Rewards points earned on the SC VI do not expire|
|BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard||12-24 months||Points expire on 30 June|
The BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard will support mileage transfers to KrisFlyer or Asia Miles with a minimum block of 10,000 and 6,000 miles respectively and a conversion fee of S$32.10. Assuming you were gunning for KrisFlyer and did all your spending by 31 December 2018, you’d hit the minimum block with
- $2,000 of overseas spend
- $5,000 of local spend
If you do intend to get this card, you need to be wary of orphan points- nothing would be more frustrating than seeing your points go up in smoke on 30 June because you don’t have enough of them to cash out. It’s good to note that BOC points can be redeemed for GV vouchers, Grab vouchers (snigger) and other gifts, so even if you can’t hit the minimum balance for miles you’ll still have some options at least.
Lounge benefits from Plaza Premium and LoungeKey
Mastercard offers a service known somewhat convolutedly as Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey. This allows holders of selected Mastercards to access over 1,000 lounges worldwide, with additional dining, retail and spa offers. It’s not free for BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard holders, however, with access fees of US$27 per person per visit applicable.
What is free is 4X visits to Plaza Premium lounges for principal cardholders between 23 July and 30 June 2019. To enjoy this, you need to register your BOC card via this link (the link appears to be automatically redirecting to the Arrture homepage for now, which leads me to believe it’s not ready yet) and download the Arrture app.
Your 4X lounge passes can be utilized by either you or your travelling companions.
Win a return SQ ticket to Bangkok
The top 100 eligible applicants (i.e. those whose cards are approved by 15 December 2018) with the highest qualifying spend between 23 July and 31 December 2018 will win a return ticket to Bangkok on Singapore Airlines Economy Class.
This prize does not include airport taxes, and you must redeem it between 1 Feb 2019 and 30 April 2019 with travel by 31 October 2019.
It’s not the most generous of gifts, and the mechanics are more in line with UOB’s terrible sign up promotions, but let’s be honest- this is a sideshow. The real hero here is those incredible general spending rates. I certainly wouldn’t sign up for this card just because of free ticket prize.
Annual Fee of $190 waived for first year, $30,000 income requirement
Thanks to the digging of reader Nobody Nobody, we know the card has a $190 annual fee which is waived for the first year, and an annual income requirement of $30,000. This only adds to the card’s overall attractiveness, because other miles cards at this price bracket earn fewer miles and offer fewer lounge visits (eg 2 with the DBS Altitude and Citi PremierMiles).
The income requirement is actually lower if you’re aged 55-65; just $15,000 is required.
Conclusion: miles wars heating up?
For the longest time we’ve seen the general spending rates stagnate at around 1.2 to 1.4 (with up to 1.6 if you own some high end cards), but BOC’s new miles offering blows the competition out of the water.
I’ll be very interested to see how the other banks respond to this entry- BOC has not been a player in the miles game up till now, but nothing like some fresh blood to shake things up.
As I mentioned at the start, the card does not have its own landing page just yet, so if you want to apply you’ll need to SMS BOCCARD<space>EMST<space>NAME to 79777 or visit any BOC branch to apply. The Milelion does not have an affiliate arrangement with BOC.
Isn’t it amazing what competition in a market can do?