Effective today, Standard Chartered has cut the X Card’s 100,000 miles sign up bonus to 60,000 miles. To those who applied on or before 11.59 p.m on 31 July, relax- so long as your approval comes by 31 August, you’ll be eligible for 100,000 miles. For everyone else, 60,000 miles is the new reality.
We’ll talk more about the new offer in a moment, but let me begin by saying that the X Card launch appears to be a classic case in expectations mismanagement.
SCB certainly grabbed the headlines with the 100,000 miles sign up bonus, but the way in which they abruptly canned the offer just five days after launch (and a full month before it was originally set to expire) came off as panicky and disorganized, and attracted its fair share of ridicule from the public. More than that- after initially showing the market 100,000 miles, the revised 60,000 miles offer, generous though it may be, was always going to be viewed unfavorably.
What could have been done differently?
Well, I know that a 100,000 miles offer will be extremely attractive, and extremely expensive to fulfill. I (rightly) don’t want to do a UOB-style promotion that caps the bonus to “the first X customers who spend $Y”, yet I need to limit my maximum exposure.
So when the X Card launches, I’d openly advertise that the regular sign up bonus is 60,000 miles- but for the next 5 (or whatever) days, anyone who applies will be eligible for a 100,000 miles offer. That would create a sense of urgency, plus prewire the market to know that 60,000 miles is the business-as-usual offer, so it won’t come as a shock when the bonus reverts to that level.
If sign ups during the promo period go beyond my wildest expectations, then I grin and bear it, knowing that I’ve at least capped my damages to five days. If sign ups fall below, then I can play the good guy by saying “we’ve eXtended the 100,000 miles offer for a further (insert number) days, act now!” (yes, even in my hypothetical scenarios I think about marketing fluff)
This approach would help the bank hedge its bets, not to mention save face. By positioning 60,000 miles as the default offer and 100,000 miles as an upsized deal, no one can say you didn’t warn them. As it is, I can imagine there must be quite a few people who read about the X Card’s initial launch, saw that the 100,000 miles offer was valid till 31 August, and went away thinking they’d apply later. Assuming they don’t follow the news (and most people don’t track this kind of thing daily), they’re in for a rude shock, because it’s not like SCB sent a mass email alerting its customers to the early demise of the offer.
By setting an initial 31 August 2019 deadline, SCB created the expectation in the minds of the consumer (reasonable or not) that the offer would go on for a full 37 days. Of course it’s within the rights of the bank to pull the offer early- no one is disputing that. It just generates an unnecessary amount of ill will. Why play the bad guy by pulling a good offer early, when you can play the hero by extending it?
I’m going to caveat the above by saying I’m not privy to the inner workings of the launch. For all I know, that option was considered but abandoned for legal or other perfectly valid reason. All I’m saying is that optics aren’t good: SCB got everyone excited about 100,000 miles, then yanked the carpet abruptly.
Final point: I’ve seen some people comparing this X card launch to the Huawei $54 phone, and I think that’s the wrong comparison to make. There’s a subtle but important difference: with Huawei, the promotion was limited quantity. With SCB, the promotion was limited time. No matter how you feel about the limited time getting even more limited, if you sent in your application on or before 31 July, you’d still get your 100,000 miles. That is a crucial distinction to make, and we should recognise and commend banks for not resorting to UOB-style sign up promotions.
So, with all that said, what if you missed the boat?
How does the new sign up offer work?
The new X Card offer applies to anyone who submits an application from 1 August 2019 onwards. If your card is approved by 30 September 2019, and you spend S$6,000 in the first 60 days after approval and pay the S$695.50 annual fee, you’ll receive:
- 30,000 miles in the form of 75,000 360° Rewards Points within 30 days after card activation
- 30,000 miles in the form of 75,000 360° Rewards Points by 30 November 2019
Once the base miles are included, you’ll have a total of 67,200 miles, broken down as follows.
|Old Offer (ends 31 July)||New Offer (ends 30 Sept)|
|Miles from $695.50 Annual Fee||30,000||30,000|
|Spend $6K within first 60 days||70,000||30,000|
|Base miles earned on $6K spend @ 1.2 mpd||7,200||7,200|
In the cold light of day, it’s still a good offer compared to what the rest of the market has. 100K was a phenomenal offer; but 60K is a good one.
Paying S$695.50 for the right to earn 60,000 miles is equivalent to paying 1.16 cents per mile (I don’t count the S$6,000 spending, because that should be spending you would needed to have done anyway).
You’ll of course want to adjust this for opportunity cost, given that you’re committing to spend S$6,000 at the X Card’s middling 1.2 mpd rate. The opportunity cost really depends on what you were planning to spend the S$6,000 on, and what your alternative card would have been:
|General Spending||Specialized Spending (e.g shopping, online)|
|Alternative Choice||BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard (1.5 mpd)||Citi Rewards Visa/ Citi Rewards Mastercard/ UOB Lady’s Card/ DBS Woman’s World Card|
|Miles earned from spending $6K on alternative card||9,000||24,000|
|Miles earned from spending $6K on SCB X Card||7,200||7,200|
|X Card Adjusted Sign Up Bonus||58,200||43,200|
|Cost Per Mile, given S$695.50 fee||1.2 cents||1.6 cents|
It’s still good, but obviously not as good as before.
Put it another way: if you met a miles chaser who had no idea what happened over the past week and showed him the 60,000 miles offer, he would probably go for it. I realise it’s quite different for someone who knows they just took a 40% haircut, however.
I’m sure there must be some psychological study that deals with whether people will take a good offer, knowing a better one just slipped away, but I can’t recall it now (help me if you know).
New exclusion category: education
I ran the T&Cs through a comparison checker, and apart from the change to the sign up bonus, most of the fixes were typos. There is an important change to the exclusion categories that will not count towards the S$6,000 spending, however:
In the new T&Cs, education institution payments are now excluded. Based on how the sentence is structured, I’m assuming this refers to educational institutions which are affiliated with the government, not all education institutions in general (because it’d make more sense to put that as a separate bullet point).
If you’ve already made a big payment to an education institution, you really should get on the phone and clarify with customer service what this means for you. Private institutions should be fine, but I’d be a bit worried if I made a payment to a government-affiliated one. Remember to get whatever response they provide in writing, because you don’t want to be riding on a single big tuition fee payment to get your 100,000 miles only to end up disappointed later.
It’s noteworthy that the “education institutions” exclusion only appears in point 57 of the T&Cs where it’s addressing what doesn’t count towards the S$6,000 spending. It does not appear in point 26 where it’s addressing what doesn’t earn points, full stop. So my guess is that education payment fall in the same category as CardUp/ ipaymy/ RentHero- they earn base miles, but they won’t count towards the sign up bonus.
Despite four applications and a last minute appeal to my RM, I didn’t get the X Card. It’s certainly not an income requirement thing, and I’ve got a credit score of AA, so I’ll attribute this to
Russian interference cosmic randomness.
|Edit: My RM contacted me on 2 August and told me he managed to get the card approved, plus the 100,000 miles sign up bonus. It seems like they do have some flexibility for Priority Banking customers, so if you’re one and got rejected on or before 31 July, it’s worth seeing what he/she can do|
To those of you who got in on the 100,000 miles offer, congratulations! We’re not going to see something like this again for a long, long time, and I hope you’re well on your way to hitting the S$6,000 spending requirement. Check out this article if you need some ideas on where to transfer your sign up bonus.