Standard Chartered has just launched the X Card with a 100,000 miles sign up bonus, the largest we’ve ever seen in Singapore.
Details have been scarce so far, but now that applications are open, here’s what we know about the X Card, its features, and most importantly, how that 100,000 miles sign up bonus works.
SCB X Card Basics
|Income Req.||Annual Fee||Miles from Annual Fee||FCY Transaction Fee|
|S$30,000 (Priority Banking)
|Local Earn||FCY Earn||Special Earn||Points Validity|
|1.2 mpd/ 1.2% cashback||2.0 mpd/ 2.0% cashback||None||No expiry|
The SCB X Card is made of metal, with a S$80,000 annual income requirement. If you’re a Priority Banking client, you can get the card with just S$30,000 annual income (S$60,000 for foreigners).
The card has a non-waivable annual fee of $695.50. Paying the annual fee gets you 30,000 miles (in the form of 75,000 360° Rewards Points) in the first year. It is not immediately clear from the T&Cs whether you get the 30,000 miles from the second year onwards.
360° Rewards Points earned on the X Card do not expire, and can be transferred to miles in a minimum block of 2,500 points (1,000 miles). You’ll pay $26.75 for each points conversion.
The T&C of the card can be found here.
Spend $6,000 in 60 days to get 100,000 miles
Let’s start with the X Card’s showstopping 100,000 miles sign up bonus, by far the biggest selling point of the product.
This sign up bonus is available to both existing and new to bank customers.
To qualify for the sign up bonus, you must:
- Apply and receive approval for the X Card between 23 July and 31 August 2019
- Activate your X Card within 30 days of approval, and keep your X Card for 6 months after account opening, in good standing
- Pay the S$695.50 annual fee
- Spend S$6,000 in the first 60 days (no later than 31 Oct 2019)
|Update: SCB will be ending the 100,000 miles sign up bonus early. All X Card applicants who apply by 31 July 2019 and get approved by 31 August 2019 will still be eligible. After that, the bonus will become 60,000 miles.|
Technically speaking, the sign up bonus is 70,000 miles, not 100,000, because 30,000 comes from paying the annual fee. Here’s how the breakdown works:
- 30,000 miles will be credited in the form of 75,000 360° Rewards Points within 30 days after card activation
- 70,000 miles will be credited in the form of 175,000 360° Rewards Points by 30 November 2019
When I first heard about this bonus, I was understandably skeptical, believing that there’d be some nasty catch like “limited to the first X customers”.
But there isn’t- so long as you meet the spending criteria and pay the annual fee, the 100,000 miles are yours. It’s great that SCB didn’t go down the route some other banks have gone where sign up bonuses become a lottery.
Note that the 100,000 miles are on top of the base miles, so assuming you spent the $6,000 locally, here’s what your total haul would look like:
|Miles from first year $695.50 annual fee||30,000|
|Spend $6K within the first 60 days||70,000|
|Base miles earned from $6K spend @ 1.2 mpd||7,200|
Even after you take into consideration the non-waivable annual fee, the X Card’s sign up bonus simply blows the competition out of the water. Just take a look at the spend:miles ratio below, if you want some perspective.
Final (but important) point. Note that there are certain categories of spending which will not count towards the $6,000 spending requirement. I’ve highlighted the main ones here, but do refer to the full list in the T&Cs.
The exclusions are pretty typical, but I’m very surprised we’re seeing CardUp/ipaymy/RentHero transactions explicitly excluded from spending, given that they normally earn miles on the SCB Visa Infinite. I’m less surprised to see that Grab wallet transactions are excluded, since it seems like banks are starting to crack down on this.
What can you do with 100,000 miles? Well, assuming you transferred them to KrisFlyer, it’s enough for…
- A one-way First Class ticket to Dubai (75,000 miles)
- A round-trip First Class ticket to Hong Kong (81,000 miles)
- A round-trip Business Class ticket to Japan or South Korea (94,000 miles)
- A one-way Business Class ticket to Europe (92,000 miles) or the USA (95/99,000 miles)
Earn 1.2/2.0 mpd (or cashback) on your spending
The X Card lets you earn either miles or cashback at the following rates:
|Points||Miles Equivalent||Cashback Equivalent|
|Local Spending||3 360° Rewards Points per S$1||1.2 mpd||1.2%|
|FCY Spending||5 360° Rewards Points per S$1||2.0 mpd||2.0%|
There is no minimum spend required or cap on the miles/cashback you can earn.
In my opinion, it makes absolutely no sense to pay $695.50 for the X Card and use it for cashback, so let’s just focus on the miles earning rates. Unfortunately, these are below what other premium cards in the market are offering.
|Local Spend||FCY Spend|
|BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard||1.5||3.0|
|SCB Visa Infinite^||1.4||3.0|
|UOB PRVI Miles||1.4||2.4|
|UOB Visa Infinite Metal Card||1.4||2.0|
|Citi Prestige, Citi PremierMiles AMEX||1.3||2.0|
|HSBC Visa Infinite#||1.25||2.25|
|SCB X Card, DBS Altitude, Citi PremerMiles Visa, Maybank Visa Infinite, AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend*||1.2||2.0|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card*||1.1||2.0|
*2.0 mpd rates only apply in June and Dec
^Only applies if you spend >$2K a month, otherwise 1 mpd for both
#Only applies if you spend >$50K in a year, otherwise 1/2mpd for local/overseas
Perhaps the challenge for SCB was they couldn’t “outdo” the earning rates on their Visa Infinite card, but even so, it does seem a bit underpowered to only offer 1.2/2.0 mpd on such a high end card. I get that there’s probably a tradeoff between generosity on sign up bonuses, and generosity on everyday spend, but it does mean there’s less incentive to keep the card after the first year (see below).
Do keep in mind that SCB’s foreign currency transaction fee is the highest in the market at 3.5%, and therefore it’s advisable to hit your $6,000 sign up bonus target with local spending.
The X Card should also support SC’s new EasyBill service, which lets customers earn miles from rental, tax, insurance, and education payments for a fee of 2%. This means you’re paying 1.67 cents per mile- not the cheapest way of buying miles in Singapore, but on par with Citi PremierMiles Visa cardholders using PayAll.
New Transfer Partners include Miles & More, MileagePlus and Accor
This is a big one for me. Ever since Mileslife left the market, it’s been difficult to earn so-called “exotic” points currencies. Most banks in Singapore offer KrisFlyer or Asia Miles, but not much beyond that (with the exception of Citibank, which has 12 transfer partners).
Historically, SCB has only offered KrisFlyer. But it seems like they’re launching a whole new selection of airline and hotel(!) loyalty programs with the X Card.
Out of this selection, Miles & More, MileagePlus, and Le Club AccorHotels are the programs where it’s not been possible to earn points/miles through credit cards before. I’m particularly excited about MileagePlus, because they don’t impose fuel surcharges on redemptions, and they have a few nifty tricks like the Excursionist Perk (as those who have attended Alternative Frequent Flyer Programs will know).
Keep in mind, I’m assuming that all airlines will have the same transfer ratio, as the SCB Rewards Portal has not yet been updated with these new partners. I’ll also need to see the transfer rates to Accor and IHG before commenting further.
If indeed this card allows you to earn so many different currencies, it does somewhat offset the lower earning rates, provided you don’t use it to earn KrisFlyer miles (because then you’d be much better off using a higher earning, fewer partners card).
Use points for travel credit
One of the unique features that SCB is hyping about the X Card is the ability to use 360° Rewards Points to offset qualifying travel purchases.
These are defined as (MCC codes in brackets):
Cardholders can redeem a minimum of 250 360° Rewards Points for S$1 in credit against such qualifying travel transactions.
On the surface, this makes very little sense. The rate is exactly the same as what you’d get if you converted your 360° Rewards Points to cashback. In that case, wouldn’t you be better off simply doing that, since there’s no restriction on qualifying transactions?
The answer comes from SCB’s rewards catalogue, where we see that you need a minimum of 25,000 360° Rewards Points to redeem a S$100 statement credit. This means that the travel credit option “breaks up” the minimum block, allowing you to cash out at lower amounts.
Even so, if the goal was to save cash on travel, wouldn’t you be better off simply getting a no-cap cashback card like the SCB Unlimited Cashback or the AMEX True Cashback card?
You’d enjoy 1.5% cashback on all transactions (and 2.5% for foreign currency transactions on the AMEX True Cashback), which is a superior return to the 1.2%/2% earned on the X Card. Furthermore, that cash could be applied towards anything you want, not just travel transactions.
So this travel credit option is strange, to say the least, and I can’t see anyone using it at its current rates. In any case, based on the X Card’s points conversion ratio, opting for travel credit over miles yields an implicit valuation of 1 cent per mile, not the best use of your points (but notably on par with what Singapore Airlines would give you if you paid for revenue tickets with miles).
Two complimentary lounge visits a year
The X Card comes with complimentary lounge access, but unfortunately it’s a major weak spot in the product.
You get just two complimentary lounge visits per membership year, far below what you’d expect from a card with an annual fee of $695.50. For the sake of comparison, here’s how similar cards measure up.
|Card||Annual Fee||Lounge Visits|
|AMEX Platinum Charge||$1,712||Unlimited + 1 guest- Priority Pass, AMEX Lounges, Delta SkyClubs|
|Citi Prestige||$535||Unlimited + 1 guest- Priority Pass|
|HSBC Visa Infinite||$488 (Premier)/ $650 (Regular)||Unlimited- Lounge Key|
|OCBC VOYAGE||$488||Unlimited- Plaza Premium|
|Maybank Visa Infinite||$600||Unlimited- Priority Pass|
|SCB Visa Infinite||$588.50||6 visits- Priority Pass|
|UOB Visa Infinite Metal Card||$642||4 visits- Dragon Pass|
|SCB X Card||$695.50||2 visits- Priority Pass|
Two free visits a year is more in line with a mass market card like the DBS Altitude or Citi PremierMiles Visa, and it’s going to be difficult to convince people to pay that amount from the second year onwards, after the 100K sign up bonus is gone.
To apply for your Priority Pass, cardholders will need to send an SMS from their registered mobile number to 77222 with the format SCX<space>PP<space><last 4 digits of X Card>
They will receive a unique code that they can enter here to fill out the application form on Priority Pass’s website. This bypasses the need to send in a physical form.
My overall take on the X Card
The X Card’s marketing and hefty annual fee means that SCB clearly sees it as competing with cards in the $120K segment.
To be sure, the X Card’s sign up bonus is incredible, and that’s reason enough to get it. In fact, if you meet the income requirement, this is hands down the best card for building your miles balance quickly, and you should absolutely apply.
But I’m just wondering how much staying power the X Card has after the first year. The miles earning rates aren’t fantastic (although, as noted, the ability to earn “exotic” airline currencies could offset that), and its lounge access is way below par. Moreover, it doesn’t have an airport limo benefit, or any of the unique features that other premium cards have like airport fast track (HSBC Visa Infinite), private club access (OCBC VOYAGE, AMEX Platinum Charge/Reserve), Jetquay access (Maybank Visa Infinite), or the fourth night free on hotels (Citi Prestige).
It seems almost churlish to talk about this when there’s 100,000 miles on offer, but that’s a one-time, upfront thing. What happens after that? I can imagine a ton of people applying for the sign up bonus alone, but will they really pay $695.50 in the second year for a card with two complimentary lounge visits and a 1.2/2.0 mpd earn rate?
That’s something the X Card team will have to consider in the months to come, and perhaps we’ll see additional perks and benefits added later on that help keep the X Card competitive even after the sign up bonus ends. But if we don’t, then this could be a campaign that costs SCB a whole lot, for very little long-term payoff.
A 100,000 miles sign up bonus is something few of us thought we’d ever see in Singapore, and for those with upcoming big ticket spending, it’s an absolute no-brainer.
I’m sure there’ll be much more to say about the X Card in the days and weeks to come, but in the meantime, be sure to get approved before 31 August if you want to snag the 100,000 miles sign up bonus.
Join the SCB X Card Telegram group for more discussions about the card.
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