About a week ago, I wrote about some changes to the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard T&Cs that Cheaponana had spotted. At the time, it appeared like BOC was bringing (1) forward the expiry of rewards points, (2) removing Plaza Premium Lounge access and (3) changing the definition of overseas spending.
My BOC contact confirmed the first two weren’t happening, but did mention that they’d be updating the definition of overseas spending and “a few other things” in a set of new T&Cs to be published shortly.
Those new T&Cs have quietly appeared on BOC’s webpage, confusingly future-dated as 15 Mar 2019. It appears there are now three sets of T&Cs floating out there, which I’ve documented here for posterity.
- 23 July 2018 T&Cs (the time the card was launched)
- 28 Dec 2018 T&Cs (the focus of last week’s article)
- 15 March 2019 T&Cs (the focus of today’s post)
We do not know yet when these new T&Cs will be effective from. My best guess is 15 March, but I’m waiting for official confirmation.
Here’s what’s changed.
Overseas spending redefined: payment gateway clause added
A bit of context here first. In my previous article on the BOC T&C changes, I mentioned that the 28 Dec 18 T&Cs had updated the definition of local and overseas spend.
In particular, “overseas spend” had been changed from “card transactions posted in foreign currencies” to “all card transactions made overseas”. I speculated that this could mean one of two things:
- Only transactions physically carried out overseas would earn foreign currency spend rates
- Only transactions physically carried out overseas or by an overseas-based payment processor would earn foreign currency spend rates
(2) seemed more likely than (1), given the precedent that UOB had set. Indeed, it seems like BOC has gone down that route:
Perhaps BOC saw that too many people were making purchases on Singapore sites and opting to pay in foreign currency (e.g. the SQ website lets you select what currency to pay in) to enjoy the upsized miles.
Still, I dislike this approach because it’s fundamentally unfair to the consumer, who has no way of knowing which websites process payments inside or outside of Singapore. Sometimes it’s clear cut- if you’re buying from the US version of an e-commerce site like Amazon or eBay, that’s obviously processed outside of Singapore. But other times, it may not be readily apparent. How’s the customer to find out?
Additional exclusion categories added: GrabPay, YouTrip, SP Services and more
The BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard has been a great “miscellaneous” card for me, thanks in a large part to the absence of exclusion categories. I’ve been using it for payments that I know other banks exclude from rewards earning, such as government payments, utility bills, and charitable donations.
It seems like BOC has decided to tighten its rewards categories, however, as the new version of the T&C has added numerous exclusions:
BOC has provided some specific examples of excluded merchants, and it’s hard to argue with most of them, given that other banks have similar exclusions.
However, the one that really gets me is GrabPay. I can understand removing merchants with the potential for manufactured spend (hello YouTrip and TransferWise), but GrabPay for me has always been a legit expenditure. People top up their account to spend on F&B and taxi rides. If those are legitimate categories for earning points, why shouldn’t GrabPay? It’s not like your GrabPay balance can be cashed out to a bank account.
I’m reaching out to BOC to find out when these new exclusion categories will take place from, and will update the article when I hear back.
Mileage conversions capped at 60K Asia Miles/100K KrisFlyer miles per transfer
Here’s a puzzling new addition that I totally don’t understand. The new T&Cs add a restriction to the maximum number of miles that can be transferred at one time. You can now transfer a maximum of 10 blocks, i.e. 60,000 Asia Miles or 100,000 KrisFlyer miles at one go. I realise that may sound like a substantial amount for some people, but if you’re looking to redeem premium cabin travel then it’s really nothing at all (especially for Asia miles).
Moreover, it seems like an arbitrary restriction. Why would you cap the number of points that people can transfer at one go? I can’t imagine there are IT restrictions limiting the number of points that can be transferred at one go (although with BOC you never know), and BOC’s transfer fee of $30 is already slightly above the market rate of ~$25. Therefore, it’s hard to see this as anything other than an attempt to earn more from transfer fees.
I am also checking when the new transfer restriction comes into play and will update this post when I know.
You can now redeem 95,000 points for your card’s annual fee
A new clause has been added that allows cardmembers to redeem 95,000 BOC points (31,667 miles) to cover the card’s annual fee. This is a pretty abject valuation of 0.6 cents per mile, but so long as they don’t automatically deduct people’s points to cover the annual fee ala UOB, I really couldn’t care. Don’t like it? Don’t use it.
BOC reserves the right to reverse points “found in respect of excluded transactions”
In case you hadn’t gotten the sense by now, the new clause 6(b) should really drive home the point that BOC is starting to tighten the screw on this once-generous card. Have a read below:
Now, I know that most banks have a clause that says something to this extent, but the fact that this did not appear in any of the previous versions of the T&Cs suggests that BOC is wising up to the fact that some users were earning miles on pretty questionable transactions.
Clause 6(b) gives BOC the power to retroactively reverse points awarded on charges related to excluded transactions. I believe those who have been indulging in YouTrip top ups have found themselves on the receiving end of this newly-added clause. I’m sure people doing bona fide transactions have nothing to be scared of, but the broadness of this clause might make them nervous anyway.
The BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard represents BOC’s first crack at introducing a miles card in Singapore. I was always of the quiet opinion that the original T&Cs were generously broad in their interpretation, which made the card so useful in my opinion.
However, this also meant the card was vulnerable to gaming and abuse, and it’s probably gotten so bad that the team is starting to crack down. That’s sad for those of us who were using the card for legitimate (but often unrewarded) spending like parking, utilities, government agency payments and donations, but it’s ultimately BOC’s prerogative what categories they award points for.
What I find hard to accept is the seemingly arbitrary restriction on the number of points that can be transferred in a single transaction, and the shifting of the onus onto the customer to know which websites process payments in and out of Singapore. Both strike me as consumer-unfriendly, and really not the direction the bank should be heading.
I’m keeping my BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard for now, as the general earning rates remain the best in the market. That said, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the T&Cs to see if anything fundamentally changes the value proposition of the card.
Signing up for cards or making purchases through the links in this article may generate a referral commission that supports the running of The Milelion. Found this post useful? Subscribe to our Telegram Channel to get these posts pushed directly to your phone, or our newsletter (on the right of your screen) for the latest deals and hacks delivered to your inbox.