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Bank of China introduces Elite Miles card, possibly the best miles card ever

Banks are probably one of the last few advertisers who still believe and benefit from print ads in newspapers, because this caught my eye today:

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Bank of China is relatively new foreign retail bank operating in Singapore. They offer a very decent banking account offer for customers but in terms of credit cards, they have predominantly been offering in cash back cards.

Exceptionally high earning rates

So what is BOC Elite Miles card offering?

  • Local spend: promotional rate of 2 miles per dollar spent (usually 1.5 mpd)
  • Overseas spend: promotional rate of 5 miles per dollar spent (usually 3 mpd)
  • 4 complimentary entry to Plaza Premium lounge per year
  • And a chance to win Singapore Airlines return economy ticket to Bangkok

The promotional earn rates are valid for spend till 31 December 2018, but in any case these trump any promotions made by banks locally so far.

Miles credit card punters will be incredibly familiar that the market norm for Singapore is anything between 1 to 4 miles per dollar spent, or maybe up to 8 miles per dollar spent during exceptional promotion periods.

This is rather… alarming because in the long run this will not be sustainable. Why? For banks, they typically purchase the miles to use as rewards for their customers from airlines at rates that are typically lower than open market rates (i.e. what you pay if you buy miles directly from airlines as a member), but these are also not cheap for banks.

Also, given that banks only earn from finance charges and merchant fees (which are not great), you wonder what’s left after they factor in the costs of acquiring these miles from airlines.

What does this mean? Grab it while it’s too good to be true.

Now, the fine print

All points earned expire in less than 12 months

Update: BOC rewards points will last up to 18 months, with points earned between any programme year (from 1 July to 30 June) expiring a year from the last day of the programme year.

For illustration, see below:

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Note that BOC will issue the BOC reward points in lieu of miles, but BOC reward points have a relatively short expiry: points earned within a 12-month period from 1 July to 30 June of the following year will expire on the last day of that period (i.e. 30 June). This means that you will have to set a reminder to redeem those points every year!

Confusing rewards points conversion rate

In the credit card terms and conditions, it states that:

Cardmembers are entitled to 9 BOC Rewards Points (equivalent to 3 Air Miles) per S$1 Overseas Spend and 4.5 BOC Rewards Points (equivalent to 1.5 Air Miles) per S$1 Local Spend.

This is alright, until you do a deep dive into the redemption pages:

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So is it 6 BOC points to 1 mile, or 3 BOC points to 1 mile? God knows.

Update: I called up BOC to clarify this, and apparently BOC points and BOC reward points are completely different things. So the advertised rate prevails, 3 points to 1 mile.

So… how do I apply?

The Bank of China website is rather 1G (under developed) at the moment, and so is their marketing. There’s no microsite for the card, only two bit.ly links that lead to PDFs of the card and promotion terms and conditions.

Also, when I walked into a Bank of China branch earlier today, the staff seem to have no clue about the new card as well and suggested that I call.

So if you ask me, I’ll say, take a bit of a wait and see attitude first. Or if you can stomach the risk, you can do as the ad says, SMS BOCCARD<space>EMST<space>NAME to 79777.

Also, you can find the registration link here, which was posted on their Facebook page.

This is not a sponsored post btw.

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