When BOC announced its entry into the miles game on 23 July with the launch of the Elite Miles World Mastercard, everyone sat up and took notice.
I mean, with the product on offer, it was hard not to. Prior to BOC’s entry, the best rate you’d get on general spending was 1.4 mpd (1.6 if you had a very high end credit card) for local spending and 4.0 mpd overseas (requiring a minimum of $1K overseas spending and capped at $2K per statement preiod)
- 2 mpd on local spending, no min spend, no cap, until 31 Dec (1.5 after)
- 5 mpd on overseas spending, no min spend, no cap, until 31 Dec (3.0 after)
These were showstopping numbers. Throw in 4 free lounge visits a year for an entry level $30,000 p.a card (competitors only offer 2) and you had what was undoubtedly the best general spending offering in the market.
Miles chasers made a beeline to roadshows and branches to apply. Forms were filled, documents were furnished, applications were submitted, and then everyone sat back and waited for their cards to arrive.
Underpromise and overdeliver
When the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard first launched, card promoters were advising customers to wait up to one month for applications to be approved. At the time, I assumed this estimate was an attempt to “underpromise and overdeliver”.
Unfortunately, based on the evidence so far it appears that one month might be overpromising. Anecdotally, I know of people who applied at roadshows during the first couple of days (and submitted complete applications) who are still waiting for their cards to arrive.
My BOC contact has told me that the response has been way beyond what they initially forecast, and the estimated waiting time for new applicants is now 4-6 weeks. That’s simply not good enough in a market where people can apply for a card in the morning and get it in the afternoon. Expecting customers to wait 4-6 weeks, even for a great card, is asking a lot.
But perhaps the protracted wait times shouldn’t be that surprising, given that BOC has always been one of the smallest players in the Singapore credit card market. It’s quite clear that’s this launch is swamping the limits of their consumer operations.
What little we can see of BOC’s back-end doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either. Case in point: as of today, BOC’s website hasn’t even been updated to list the Elite Miles World Mastercard. Heck, the website doesn’t even list the Qoo10 card, which was launched back in May this year.
Similarly, the BOC internet banking portal feels clunky and awkward to use, with confusing instructions and badly-translated phrases. Clicking on “credit card online application” merely leads you to an error page.
Another hint at BOC’s relative lack of IT prowess is the fact that your credit card isn’t even automatically accessible through internet banking. You need to physically go down to a branch to apply for internet banking and link your credit card. Opening a SmartSaver account, applying for a supp. card and getting my BOC card linked to internet banking took just under 2 hours at the BOC AMK branch, even with no queue, an experience I’m not keen to go through again anytime soon.
All in all, it’s safe to say that BOC’s consumer-facing ops aren’t exactly robust, and nowhere near the level of larger, more established banks. The sudden influx of BOC customers thanks to the Elite Miles World Mastercard has only served to make this painfully apparent.
Is it possible to expedite your application?
In theory, yes. My BOC contact told me that applicants who are heading overseas and need the card urgently can call up customer service and ask for their card to be expedited.
That sounds good, but I’m a bit skeptical as to whether that really helps. In the Telegram Group many people have attempted to ask for faster processing with few reported cases of success. It can’t hurt to try, but I wouldn’t expect too much.
Will the launch promotion be extended?
Some people asking whether BOC is playing tricks by deliberately delaying the processing of Elite Miles cards, in order to minimize the amount of time to accrue miles during the promotional period.
I’m sorry, but that just makes no sense at all. Call me naive, but BOC has very little to gain from a stunt like that. If anything, these delays are costing it a lot of goodwill from customers who would not have otherwise considered banking with BOC.
More crucially, the longer applications remain unfilled, the more time BOC’s rivals have to launch a competitive response. It’s in BOC’s interest to get cards out as quickly as possible and get customers locked into the BOC ecosystem. And that’s what’s so frustrating. The BOC cards team has has created a great product, but they’re being let down by the inability of their ops team to get it into the hands of customers.
A better question would be whether BOC will extend the promotional period, given the delays in applications. My contact was tight lipped on this, only saying that they’d re-evaluate the promotion closer to the end of the year to decide what to do next.
Conclusion: your guess is as good as mine
When will you get your card? No one knows. For those of you wondering, there’s no connection between when BOC does your credit check and when your card comes. There’s no (apparent) link between where/when you submit your application and when it gets approved. Right now that whole process is a big black box, and customers are getting restless.
If you ask me whether you should still bother applying for a card, my answer is still “yes”. The BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard is a fantastic offering, and I really want to see it succeed. Unfortunately, with every week that goes by with no card in sight, more and more would-be customers turn from promoters to detractors. It would be very sad if the card went down as a textbook example of a great product hamstrung by poor execution.
It’s not too late to turn things around, but BOC really needs to step things up if it wants to make a mark for itself in the mile game here.