Here’s the MileLion’s review of the BOC Elite Miles Card, which believe it or not, was hands down the best miles card in all of Singapore when it launched in 2018.
Oh, those were heady days. 2 mpd on all local spend. 5 mpd on all foreign currency spend. No minimum spend, no caps. Hardly any exclusions categories (not even for YouTrip top-ups). 4x Plaza Premium visits as the icing on the cake. My word, what a time to be alive.
Naturally, that couldn’t last forever, but even at its regular earn rates of 1.5 mpd (local) and 3 mpd (FCY), the BOC Elite Miles Card was a force to be reckoned with. It wasn’t perfect by any means— there were some truly peculiar practices with regards to interest charges, annual fee waivers — but the earn rates meant it was the sort of thing you could wink at.
Then on 15 June 2020, BOC cut the earn rates by a third to 1 mpd (local) and 2 mpd (FCY). It added numerous exclusion categories. It increased the number of BOC points required to redeem a block of miles.
And just like that, the winking stopped. Miles chasers, as I can attest from personal experience, will put up with a lot of nonsense- provided the reward is worth it. We’ll fill out your paper-based forms. We’ll tolerate your multi-month processing times. We’ll visit a branch, take a queue number, and patiently wait to perform basic tasks like linking a card to internet banking.
But take away the miles, and the good humour vanishes alarmingly fast.
|BOC Elite Miles Card|
|🦁 MileLion Verdict|
|☐ Take It|
☐ Take It Or Leave It
☑ Leave It
|What do these ratings mean?|
|With dismal earn rates, arbitrary rules, antiquated processes, and dysfunction at every turn, the BOC Elite Miles Card is best suited for fans of Marquis de Sade.|
|👍 The good||👎 The bad|
|💳 Full List of Credit Card Reviews|
Overview: BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard
Let’s start this review by looking at the key features of the BOC Elite Miles Card.
|Income Req.||S$30,000 p.a.||Points Validity||12-24 months|
|Annual Fee||S$205.20||Min. |
|Miles with |
|FCY Fee||3%||Transfer Fee||S$30.28|
|Local Earn||1 mpd||Points Pool?||No|
|FCY Earn||2 mpd||Lounge Access?||No|
|Special Earn||N/A||Airport Limo?||No|
|*Refers to Asia Miles. For KrisFlyer, minimum is 45,000 points (10,000 miles)|
|Cardholder Terms and Conditions|
How much must I earn to qualify for a BOC Elite Miles Card?
The BOC Elite Miles Card is an entry-level offering with a S$30,000 income requirement, the MAS-mandated minimum.
To my knowledge, BOC does not offer the option of a secured credit card in Singapore.
How much is the BOC Elite Miles Card’s annual fee?
|Principal Card||Supp. Card|
The BOC Elite Miles Card has an annual fee of S$205.20 for the principal cardholder, and S$102.60 per supplementary card. This is waived for the first year.
There is no automatic fee waiver in the second year, but as with all cards, you’re welcome to appeal for one.
Here’s where you need to be careful, because BOC is fond of taking pages from the UOB playbook. Back in 2019, some cardholders were told that their fee waiver had been approved, only for BOC to quietly deduct 95,000 points (worth 31,667 miles at the time)!
I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but when customers ask for a fee waiver, they typically don’t mean “can you deduct my points instead”. It’s just plain sneaky, and ironically, the value of the miles deducted would be much more than the annual fee.
For what it’s worth, BOC now deducts “only” 30,000 points (6,667 miles at current rates) for an annual fee waiver, so, erm, hooray?
What sign-up bonus or gifts are available?
When the BOC Elite Miles Card launched, cardholders could claim this charming “20-inch vintage-style luggage bag.” as a sign-up gift. Vintage indeed, because nothing screams “old world romance of travel” like a sturdy, machine-moulded plastic case, forged in the bowels of Tianjin Industrial City. I never got mine, and never bothered chasing it up.
(Un)fortunately, that gift is no longer available. BOC did briefly offer a 20,000 miles sign-up bonus from December 2022 to April 2023, and the T&Cs were really a thing to behold:
- Available to first 230 applicants only
- New-to-bank definition excluded current and existing supplementary cardholders
- Supplementary cardholder spend excluded from qualifying spend
- Bonus points awarded via physical redemption letter, which needs to be completed and returned for crediting
You want to talk vintage? That is vintage BOC right there, from the gotchas in the T&Cs right down to the physical redemption letter.
Since then, things have gone quiet and there’s currently nothing on offer.
How many miles do I earn?
|🇸🇬 SGD Spend||🌎 FCY Spend||⭐ Bonus Spend|
|1 mpd||2 mpd||None|
The decline of the BOC Elite Miles Card’s earn rates could be an epic Greek tragedy in itself.
When the card first launched, it offered an unbelievable 2/5 mpd on local/FCY spending, without any cap. That was a limited-time promotion, but even the regular earn rates of 1.5/3 mpd on local/FCY spending were very competitive.
Then one fine day, BOC decided to nerf the earn rate to:
- 4.5 BOC points per S$1 spent in Singapore Dollars (1 mpd)
- 9 BOC points per S$1 spent in FCY (2 mpd)
So in the space of less than two years, the BOC Elite Miles Card went from hero to sub-zero. These rates are among the lowest of any card in Singapore.
|💳 Earn Rates for General Spending Cards|
(income req.: S$30K)
|Cards||Local Spend||FCY Spend|
|UOB PRVI Miles||1.4 mpd||2.4 mpd|
|HSBC TravelOne Card||1.2 mpd||2.4 mpd|
|DBS Altitude||1.3 mpd||2.2 mpd|
|OCBC 90°N Card||1.3 mpd||2.1 mpd|
|Citi PremierMiles||1.2 mpd||2 mpd|
|StanChart Journey||1.2 mpd||2 mpd|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend||1.2 mpd||2 mpd*|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Credit Card||1.1 mpd||2 mpd*|
|BOC Elite Miles||1 mpd||2 mpd|
|KrisFlyer UOB Credit Card||1.2 mpd||1.2 mpd|
|*In June and Dec only, otherwise 1.1 mpd|
All foreign currency transactions are subject to a 3% fee, so using your BOC Elite Miles Card overseas represents buying miles at 1.5 cents each. That’s actually better than the Citi PremierMiles or StanChart Journey Card, both of which offer 2 mpd with a 3.25% fee.
Be advised, however, that BOC has followed the lead of UOB in defining overseas spending as “transactions made at merchants with payment gateway outside of Singapore”. It’s a frustrating restriction to deal with, particularly because the customer has no way of knowing where a payment gateway is located.
For example, if you’re buying tickets on the Singapore Airlines website for a flight out of Singapore and choose to pay in USD, you’ll earn miles at the local earn rate of 1 mpd instead of the FCY earn rate of 2 mpd.
When are BOC Points credited?
BOC Points are credited when your transaction posts, which generally takes 1-3 working days.
How are BOC Points calculated?
For all its sins, at least the BOC Elite Miles Card has the most straightforward points calculation: simply multiply your transaction value by 4.5 (local) or 9 (FCY). The absence of rounding means you earn points right down to the very last cent. Heck, you even earn fractional BOC points, which are shown in your internet banking.
Here’s how BOC Points on your BOC Elite Miles Card are calculated:
|Local Spend||Multiply transaction by 4.5|
|FCY Spend||Multiply transaction by 9|
This means the minimum spend required to earn miles is S$0.01.
If you’re an Excel geek, here’s the formulas you need to calculate points:
|Local Spend||=X * 4.5|
|FCY Spend||=X* 9|
|Where X= Amount Spent|
For the full list of formulas that banks use to calculate credit card points, do refer to these articles:
What transactions aren’t eligible for BOC Points?
When the BOC Elite Miles Card first launched, it was really open season. Rewards exclusions were non-existent. You could earn points on government transactions, utilities bills, charitable donations, even YouTrip or GrabPay top-ups.
Over time, however, BOC added exclusions that brought its card in line with others on the market. As of today, the following transactions are ineligible for BOC Points:
- Educational institutions (MCC 8211, 8220, 8241, 8244, 8249, 8299);
- Hospitals (MCC 8062)
- Insurance (MCC 5960, 6300, 6399)
- Financial Institutions (MCC 6010-12, 6050-51, 6211)
- Real Estate Agents and Managers (MCC 6513)
- Gambling (MCC 7995)
- Government Institutions (MCC 9211, 9222, 9223, 9311, 9399, 9402, 9405)
- Money Transfers (MCC 4829)
- Utilities (MCC 4900)
- Charitable Donations (MCC 8398, 8661)
- Prepaid accounts (MCC 6540)
- AXS/SAM payments
Both RentHero and ipaymy transactions are ineligible to earn points, but CardUp transactions are.
What do I need to know about BOC Points?
|❌ Expiry||↔️ Pooling||✈️ Transfer Fee|
|⬆️ Min. Transfer||✈️ No. of Partners||⏱️ Transfer Time|
BOC Points are valid anywhere between 12-24 months, depending on when they were earned.
|1 Jul 2021- 30 Jun 2022||30 Jun 2023|
|1 Jul 2022- 30 Jun 2023||30 Jun 2024|
|1 Jul 2023-30 Jun 2024||30 Jun 2025|
BOC Points don’t pool across cards, but in any case, BOC only has one points-earning card of note.
Transfer Partners & Fees
BOC points can be transferred to either KrisFlyer or Asia Miles, both of which adopt the same 4.5 points = 1 mile ratio. However, the minimum transfer block for Cathay Pacific is smaller at 27,000 points.
|Frequent Flyer Programme||Conversion Ratio |
(BOC Points: Partner)
Each transfer costs S$30.28, but here’s where another BOC shenanigan strikes: you can only transfer a maximum of 10 blocks at one go, either:
- 100,000 KrisFlyer miles (450,000 BOC points), or
- 60,000 Asia Miles (270,000 BOC points)
Why? Because they said so. There’s absolutely no technical reason for this; it’s a pure money-grab. I can tell you right now that 60,000 miles isn’t a lot, especially if you’re redeeming long-haul premium cabin travel for more than one person. There is no other bank in Singapore that limits the number of points you can redeem at one go- this is a BOC special.
Oh, and all BOC points transfers must be done via this manual form; there’s no online rewards portal. Naturally.
BOC says that conversions will take 14-21 working days.
There are no recent data points on BOC transfer times (understandable, because most users have abandoned this card!), but based on past experience, you should allow for at least three weeks for your miles to show up. A quick source of miles this ain’t!
Other card perks
OK, fine, there is one perk.
BOC SmartSaver bonus interest
Spending on the BOC Elite Miles Card enables you to earn bonus interest on the BOC SmartSaver account, but not a lot.
Cardholders will earn bonus interest of up to 0.8% p.a. if they spend S$1,500 or more on their card each month.
|Monthly Spend||Bonus Interest|
|S$1,500 and above||0.8%|
|S$500 to S$1,499.99||0.5%|
Since the bonus interest is capped at S$100,000, we’re talking an extra S$67 of interest each month. But that comes with an opportunity cost, because by using the BOC Elite Miles Card, you’re diverting spend away from 4 or 6 mpd cards.
One caveat: I stopped using the BOC Elite Miles Card a long time ago, so I can’t say how many of these issues still exist. That said, I’m now convinced that they’re all part of the grand BOC experience, and should be embraced as features, not bugs.
Processing times with BOC are painfully slow. When the card first launched, it took up to 3-4 months to process applications. Far from just teething problems, these delays continued long after- when my wife lost her card in July 2019, it took 36 working days to replace.
Then there’s the antiquated IT setup. Let’s leave aside the fact that the BOC web setup looks like something from the early 2000s, complete with SimSun-esque fonts and menus that were obviously machine-translated. To even access ibanking, you need to head down to a physical BOC branch to set it up. Then, when you get your BOC credit card, you need to go down again to link it to your account.
Started using your card? Great. Now beware of mysterious interest charges. Suppose you make two purchases of S$50 and S$100, and receive a refund of S$30 from a previous transaction. All-in-all, you owe the bank S$120, which is duly deducted through the GIRO arrangement you set up. Next month, however, you see interest on your account. When you call up the bank, you’re told you underpaid your balance by S$30!
Yes, that’s the reality of the BOC payment system, which does not see refunds as a contra to the amount due. In August 2019, I stumbled upon this practice that had presumably been going on for a while already. It was only after calling in that BOC refunded the excess interest- one wonders what would have happened if I didn’t call.
What’s crazy is that BOC hasn’t actually fixed the problem. Their SOP now is to still charge interest, but refund it automatically the following month.
One can only hope their systems aren’t reporting this to CBS as an incomplete payment…
Oh, and those points you’re earning? They may be worth a lot less tomorrow, if BOC decides to devalue the points transfer rate again. Now, banks can and do change earn rates for cards. But those changes affect your future spending. Devaluing the points transfer rate has implications for spending you already made.
Previously, BOC used the following conversion rates:
- 30,000 BOC points: 10,000 KrisFlyer miles
- 18,000 BOC points: 6,000 Asia Miles
Those rates have now become:
- 45,000 BOC points: 10,000 KrisFlyer miles
- 27,000 BOC points: 6,000 Asia Miles
BOC did give a month’s notice, but even if you cashed out as much points as possible, there’d almost certainly be orphan points left behind, which would be worth less under the new rates.
It’s scary that I’m barely scratching the surface of all the shenanigans that BOC Elite Miles Card members have encountered. I could talk about the points clawbacks, the fact you have to fill, scan, and email a form to transfer miles, or how the card didn’t get added to the BOC website for more than a year, but I’m pretty sure posts over 100,000 words don’t do well for SEO.
Let’s just say this card isn’t for the faint of heart.
Summary Review: BOC Elite Miles Card
|🦁 MileLion Verdict|
|☐ Take It|
☐ Take It Or Leave It
☑ Leave It
There is absolutely no reason to get a BOC Elite Miles Card. None.
Its earn rates are mediocre. It has no sign-up bonus. Its exclusion list is like any other bank. It has no lounge privileges. It caps the maximum number of points you can convert in a single transaction. It has paper-based conversion forms. It has painfully long transfer times. It has expiring points. It will cause you to question the meaning of existence.
It’s basically all the annoyance of UOB cards, without the balm of the upsized earn rates.
Oh, I have good memories with this card, no doubt about that. Like a new relationship, the early days were wild. I brought her everywhere- on fancy holidays, on candlelit dinners, on shopping sprees. I ravished her; some of the things we got up to were decidedly X-rated (good luck getting that image out of your head).
But as time went by, she changed. That youthful exuberance and joy gave way to steely-eyed cynicism. She told me we needed to reassess the terms of our relationship, that she no longer had much love to give, that she was pretty sure earning points on YouTrip top-ups was against the laws of man and God.
And so we went our separate ways, though for the record: it’s not me, it’s you.