Nerfed: Major BOC Elite Miles devaluation taking place on 15 June

Batten down the hatches and cash out all your BOC points before 15 June 2020.

Oh boy.

Bank of China has announced some major changes to the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard that take place from 15 June 2020. These, in my opinion, effectively nerf the product, and I’m none too pleased about how one of them has been implemented.

tl;dr
No two ways about it- the BOC Elite Miles has been nerfed. Cardholders will not only earn fewer miles going forward, the points they earned in the past will be worth less. Add in the new exclusion categories, and it’s bye bye for me.
The goodThe bad
  • Annual fee waivers now cost fewer points. Whoop de doo
  • BOC has devalued your historical spending with its conversion rate cut
  • Local earn rate cut from 1.5 mpd to 1 mpd
  • Overseas earn rate cut from 3 mpd to 2 mpd
  • No more points for hospitals, education, insurance and more
New T&CsExisting T&Cs

BOC has reduced the earn rate to 1 mpd for local spend, 2 mpd overseas

When banks want to tweak the miles that cardholders earn, the most common approach is to change the earn rates. That’s never a good thing, but it’s still acceptable, insofar as it affects your future patronage.

I’ve never seen a bank take the reverse approach, which is to change the conversion rates. And yet, that’s exactly what BOC is doing.

From 15 June 2020, BOC will revise the conversion rates from points to KrisFlyer and Asia Miles as follows:

CurrentFrom 15 June 2020
30,000 points
= 10,000 miles
45,000 points
= 10,000 miles
18,000 points
= 6,000 miles
27,000 points=
6,000 miles

The cost of miles increases by 50% for both KrisFlyer and Asia Miles. This reduces your earn rates as follows:

CurrentFrom 15 June 2020
Local1.5 mpd1 mpd
Overseas3 mpd2 mpd
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What irks me is that devaluing the conversion rate discounts your past patronage. When I decided to spend on my BOC card, it was with the understanding that I’d be earning 1.5 mpd locally, 3 mpd overseas. That decision has been made; it’s in the past and I can’t go back and change it.

For BOC to turn around and say “yeah, that spending you did previously? We’re going to make it as if you only earned 1 mpd locally, 2 mpd overseas” is just not the right way of going about things.

⚠️ I realise that’s what airlines do when they devalue award charts, but I’m generally more accepting of that given it’s an accepted rule of the game for frequent flyer programs. Conversely, I’ve never seen a bank in Singapore adjust its points conversion rate like this- they only make changes on the earn side. I don’t want a trend starting where we have to worry about devaluations on both the bank and airline side. 

Of course, you’re perfectly at liberty to cash out all your points before 15 June 2020 at the existing rate, but unless you manage to hit the conversion block exactly, you’ll still have some orphan points, which value will be diminished under the new rates.

BOC seems to have no compunctions about this, stating clearly that the conversion rate applies also to existing points.

The above conversion rate will be applicable to all new and existing BOC Bonus Points which are accumulated to date, with effect from 15 June 2020. BOC reserves the right to amend, vary or modify the Miles Conversion Rates at any time from time to time at its sole and absolute discretion.

tl;dr: if you have any existing BOC points, you need to earn up to the next transfer block and cash out before 15 June 2020. 

We know BOC points transfers can take up to 3 weeks, so they’d better honor the rate based on the date you submitted the form.

⚠️ Do remember that BOC has a ridiculous policy of capping the maximum miles you can transfer at one time to 10 blocks (100,000 KrisFlyer miles, 60,000 Asia Miles). To transfer more than this, you’ll have to make a separate request and pay a second fee.

New rewards exclusion categories

From 15 June 2020, BOC will add the following rewards exclusion categories:

  • Payments to educational institutions
  • Payments to hospitals
  • Insurance payments
  • Payments to financial institutions (including banks and brokerages) for
    financial services;
  • Payments to real estate agents and managers; and
  • Payments for betting through any channel (including but not limited to
    lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, off-track betting and wagers at race
    tracks)
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BOC has provided specific examples in the detailed T&Cs:

CategoryExamples
Educational institutionsNUS, NTU, SMU, SUSS, SUTD, SIM, SIT, Institute of Technical Education, CardUp (for payment to educational institutions)
Hospitals Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Parkway Shenton Hospital, National University Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Farrer Park Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital
Insurance PaymentsAIA Insurance, AIG, AVIVA, AXA, Great Eastern, Manulife, MSIG insurance, NTUC Income, Prudential, QBE Insurance, Sompo Insurance, TM life insurance, CardUp (for insurance payments)
Financial institutions
for Financial Services 
IC Markets, Pepperstone, Plus500, City Index, AxiTrader, OANDA, IG Asia, Saxo Capital Markets, Revolut
Real Estate Agents and
Managers
RentHero, ipaymy, MCST, ERA Singapore,
CardUp (for payment to real estate agents and managers)

What’s interesting to me is that they’ve excluded both private and public hospitals from earning points. When OCBC made their recent T&C changes, they only excluded public and non-profit hospitals, while allowing you to continue earning points at private facilities like Gleneagles.

It also looks like all rent payments are out of the picture now, as CardUp, ipaymy and RentHero all get excluded.

The BOC Elite Miles was one of the last remaining cards that awarded points for insurance payments, so it’s sad to see that go too.

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I’m assuming these rules are applied prospectively and not retroactively. It seems almost ridiculous I have to say that, but some cardholders have complained about retroactive points adjustments made by BOC, for transactions which were not excluded at the time they were made. I’d keep a very close eye on my points balance, in any case.

Points required for annual fee waiver have been cut

When is a fee waiver not a fee waiver? When they deduct your points

As some cardmembers learned the hard way last year, BOC charges a hefty amount of points in lieu of an annual fee. Cardholders were told they received an annual fee “waiver”, then were docked 95,000 points (31,667 miles, under the existing conversion rates) the next month.

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Most people would say that 31,667 miles were definitely worth more than a S$190 annual fee, so it’s as if the annual fee “waiver” ended up costing you more!

For what it’s worth, BOC is reducing the number of points needed for an annual fee waiver from 15 June 2020.

CurrentFrom 15 June 2020
Principal Card95,000 points30,000 points
Supplementary Card45,000 points15,000 points

You’ll now pay 30,000 points (6,667 miles) for an annual fee waiver, which is a hefty 68% reduction.

Whee.

Conclusion

My frustrations with BOC are well documented, and the only reason I’m holding on to the card is because it:

  1. offers an objectively good earn rate of 1.5/3.0 mpd on local/overseas spending
  2. offers points on transactions like insurance, hospitals and education
  3. counts towards bonus interest on my SmartSaver account.

Points (1) and (2) are now gone, which only leaves me with (3). But with a nerfed earn rate and more exclusion categories, is it really worth keeping around just for some bonus interest? Given all the usual BOC aggravation, I’d say no.

I’m out.

(HT: Sbux)

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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LionDen

Wah!!! Jialat liao!!
Thanks for the heads up!!

Syok

Yeah, I converted my points months ago, was trying to see what change it may have, and now is the time to cut it into 2 pieces.
I just spent 80 SGD in foreign currency to utilize my orphan points, got say goodbye ASAP, stupid BOC

Yiwei Gu

Wow, to think I was sad when my re-application for the card in Feb was treated as non-existent, no rejection letters nor card in the mail (It is weird because I applied for Family Card at the same time and that was promptly mailed to me). It may have been a blessing in disguise…

Eddie

You are lucky. I reapplied after cancelling the card in Feb. Waited for 1 month for the card to be issued. Spent $30k on the card in the past 2 months and now it’s useless.

HZ

“Batten”, Sir.

Happy Camper

“Overrode“, Sir.

😆

H L

If you want to have smooth life, simply avoid everything made in China

Guest

Good luck in doing that, you will just have no life

Hello from Shen Zhen

The computer you’re typing this on is probably made in China

J

Soon, more products might be made in India and other southeast Asia countries. Companies are making moves out of China. So ya, might still need to use made in China product for a little while longer. But banking related matters, will take your advice.

Eddie

That would include all iphones, majority of the Andriod phones and also loads of electronics
items 😉

Paul

i can feel the seething anger in every word lol

Adam

This is probably the last straw for Aaron. He was already borderline annoyed with them with the annual fee point deduction and mysterious interest rate fiascos.

E S

Airlines are all bleeding now so i do wonder if it has anything to do with them charging banks more $$ for the miles… if that’s the case then such devaluations will not be the last one we’ll see unfortunately

Adam

Banks losing money too. OCBC already did a stealth devaluation by changing the rounding policy for the 90N, Titanium and VOYAGE. But that was still bearable, if annoying. This is straight up terrible. A devaluation to 1 mpd is bad enough; for it to apply retrospectively is infinitely worse.

Ed

Thanks so much for this!

JH

Am I glad I didn’t apply for this shitty card

Renz

Lucky I have cashed out everything and terminated the card last year lol

yar

Aaron, curious who will you be switching your BOC savings account to?

mOjO jOjO

Similar question. Does it still make sense to stick with BOC smartsaver? If not, what is a good alternative?

Gladys

Yes I am curious about this too. I have been using BOC elite miles card and pair it together with the smart savings account which doesn’t seem to have any incentive from 15 June onwards.

Barry Allen

Mad, simply mad. So glad I got out when my AF was due.

Tom

It is for precisely this reason I never signed up for the card. The insane rollout delays, dodgy fee waiver issue, retrospective points adjustments and now this?

That’s what you get for getting into bed with bank of China and believing they will honour a deal!

Ben

Exactly. Remember how some readers here were unable to live with criticism of the card back then. Snap.

cheesecake

Terrible call center with incredulously long waits – when I called a year ago they only had a grand total of 8 CSOs serving all of Singapore spread across shifts. Terrible product fulfilment time – if you think their 30+ days card issuance makes you hold your breath, wait till you experience their mortgage process that makes you grip and rip off the edge of your seat as you wait for their tardy responses while you almost breach lawyers’ deadlines! Terrible technology – archaic internet banking experience from setup procedure to UX. Horrible fraud control – SMS alert only when… Read more »

cheesecake

After clearing my final balance by GIRO, I called up this week to cancel my card. The conversation went like this.

CSO: Would you consider retaining the card if we offer you some vouchers?
Me: What vouchers are these?
CSO: We have Cold Storage and SPC. Which voucher would you like?
Me: How much exactly are you giving?
CSO: $10
Me: (silently) $10 voucher in return for paying annual fee for another year?! Er, you can shove it up your…
Me: (verbally) No thanks, please proceed to cancel!

sc

Hi
can share the link to the site for the new terms and conditions?
cant find it on BOC website?

Gladys

bit.ly/EMTnC20

Ben

It is ultimately the bank of CHINA. Whatever head office says is the gospel truth and only way. Won’t be surprised if some people’s transfers out are delayed so badly that it occurs after 15 June…

Happy Camper

180,000 BOC pts = 60,000 KF Miles
54,000 BOC pts = 18,000 Asia Miles

Balance: 000,025 BOC pts 🥳

Steven

When I make a transaction on the card, say on Monday morning. How long does it take for the points to appear? Ive made a transaction but my points haven’t increased after 5 business days.
 
Trying to spend just enough to redeem orphans pts. Thank you.

Joshua T

I had the same question and was told by their CSO that the points typically appear in 2 to 3 working days. But the caveat is that it depends on when the merchant bills them too.

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