On 15 March 2019, BOC introduced new T&Cs for the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard. The main changes included:
- Requiring overseas spending transactions to be processed by a payment gateway outside of Singapore
- Capping the maximum points per transfer to 60K Asia Miles/ 100K KrisFlyer miles
- Adding new rewards exclusion categories such as government institutions, utility bill payments and charitable donations
For your reference
I had a chance to chat about these changes with my contacts at BOC, and here’s some takeaways I got.
Redefinition of overseas spending
Effective 15 March, BOC has adopted UOB’s definition of overseas transactions. For a transaction to count as overseas (and hence earn 3.0 mpd instead of 1.5), the payment processing must be done overseas.
My main objection to this (which I shared with the team) is that it unfairly puts the onus on the customer to figure out where a given merchant processes payments- not exactly the kind of thing that one can easily learn.
If it’s any consolation, BOC told me that it’s possible to verify payment processing location, albeit after the fact. Look at your transactions in your credit card statement- you’ll see three letters at the end. This refers to where the payment was processed.
Using my statement as an example, you can see that with the exception of Amazon web services (USA) and Siteground (GBR), all of my other transactions were processed in Singapore (SGP).
I always thought the three letters after every transaction referred to the transaction currency, but Siteground actually billed me in USD and processed the payment in GBR, so that’s something to take note of for future reference.
I’m not thrilled about this change, but at least there’s a way of reconciling your points.
Capping the maximum points per transfer
From 15 March, BOC is capping the maximum number of points that can be transferred in a single transaction.
Each transaction costs a total of $30, and given that a round-trip Business Class ticket can cost as much as 198K KrisFlyer miles (or 170K Asia Miles), a couple traveling together may have to pay up to $120 in conversion fees (or $180 if you opt for Asia Miles).
BOC tells me that the purpose of this cap is to deter gamers by raising their cost of cashing out. But that really doesn’t make sense to me. If the objective is to deter gamers, the way to do so is via exclusion categories (see below) rather than conversion caps. The former is more specific, the latter acts as a blanket penalty for everyone, including those who earned their points legitimately.
BOC says they will review this cap when their new rewards program goes online, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
New rewards exclusion categories
Of all the changes to the T&Cs, this is probably the one that made people the most worried.
The updated T&Cs redefined the types of transactions that were ineligible for earning rewards points. Although the initial text looks largely similar…
…BOC added new verbiage further down that excluded additional categories of spending:
The new T&Cs exclude government institutions, utility payments and charitable donations from earning points. They also further clarified the sorts of prepaid account top-ups that would not earn points.
BOC is enforcing these T&Cs prospectively, not retroactively (as well they should). This means that if you used your BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard to make government, utilities or charitable donation transactions prior to 15 March 2019, your points will not be clawed back.
However, any points earned from YouTrip, GrabPay or Dash etc. top ups before 15 March 2019 will be clawed back. BOC pointed out that the original set of T&Cs already excluded the “loading of a prepaid account”, so that’s fair enough in my opinion.
Regarding Grab, BOC has confirmed that although GrabPay top ups will not earn points, ad-hoc Grab payments such as GrabFood, Grab rides and Grab parcel delivery will continue to do so.
Another hot button topic is that of Cardup and ipaymy transactions. I’ve confirmed that these transactions are eligible to earn points, and there is no clawback of previous transactions.
I understand from the Telegram group that some customers have been told otherwise by CSOs. I’ve let BOC know, and they’ll be retraining the CSOs once more about the changes so hopefully there’ll be no further misunderstandings.
If anyone strongly believes that their points for Cardup/ipaymy/utilities/government services/donations were clawed back, do call up BOC and ask them to open a case for you.
Hopefully this clarifies some outstanding questions around the new BOC T&Cs. If there was anything else you were wondering about, you can leave a comment below and I’ll try to ask them about it as well (no promises).
If you’re looking for a general spending card, then objectively speaking the BOC is still the best performing option at the $30K income level with 1.5/3.0 mpd on local/overseas spending. Fair warning, however- you can’t expect the same level of IT and process efficiency as other banks (the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard doesn’t even have a website yet, for crying out loud). The good news is that I understand points transfers are taking place a lot faster now, and hopefully we’ll see some significant IT upgrades this year.