The good ol’ days are over. Bank of China is now tightening what used to be a quick and easy way to earn miles.
So back in July 2018, Bank of China created an uproar in the miles chasing community in Singapore with what was possibly the best miles card ever launched in Singapore.
Of course, if you were one of those like me and applied for the card, you would have experienced the very rudimentary application process (read: paper and pen, coupled with snail mail), the incredibly long wait for the card to turn up before enjoying the absurdly good miles earning ratio.
As with many new programmes, all good things must come to an end. As MileLion have explained in a few articles, Bank of China has slowly, but surely, introduced changes to tighten the ways they dish out miles.
The latest set of terms and conditions was strangely postdated 15 March 2019, and is probably a sign of things to come.
So what have changed since the launch?
(1) Definition of local spend and foreign spend: Under the original T&Cs, foreign spend was defined as “all transactions posted in foreign currency”. Based on the latest definition, this has now changed to “all Card transactions charged overseas, including card transactions made overseas but effected/charged in Singapore dollars, and online transactions effected in Singapore dollars or foreign currencies at merchants with payment gateway outside of Singapore. “
By contrast, the latest definition of local spend is: “all Card transactions charged in Singapore, and online transactions effected in Singapore dollars or foreign currencies at merchants with payment gateway in Singapore. “
While this is pretty standard industry practice, one common issue faced by cardholders is the ability to identify whether a payment gateway was located in Singapore or overseas.
(2) More exclusions, including GrabPay: The original wording had a generally standard exclusion clause, which excluded instalment plans, loading of prepaid cards and so on. While the exclusions were broad, the BOC Elite Miles card was great for all ad hoc payments, including Parking.sg payments and using it as my public transport card.
In the latest set of T&Cs, BOC have put in a table of excluded merchant, as below:
It’s noteworthy that BOC has decided to exclude GrabPay, Transitlink, SP Services and all government payments from earning miles. That’s a pity because I personally use the card a lot for GrabPay credit topups, as well as transport.
For those who are not aware, Grab payments (i.e. for transport services) are classified as MCC 4121 – Taxicabs and Limousines, while Grabpay credit top-ups are classified as MCC 7399 – Business Services Not Elsewhere Classified, so your best card to go with for GrabPay credit topups will be Amex.
(3) Capping of mileage conversions from BOC Bonus Points to Asia Miles or Krisflyer: As MileLion has pointed out, this is a strange one. BOC has decided to cap the number of miles that can be converted per transaction to 60,000 Asia Miles or 100,000 Krisflyer miles each time, at a cost of S$30 per conversion. The only reason I can think of for BOC to do this is to earn more conversion fee, which is pretty petty and silly.
(4) Plaza Premium Lounge complimentary entries: When BOC Elite Miles was first introduced last year, one of the key perks was the four complimentary passes a year. This was reflected in the first set of T&Cs back in July 2018, but have since been deleted.
However, according to Milelion’s post, this is a time-limited offer that is still available as long as you get your card approved before 30 June 2019:
I’ve been told that the four Plaza Premium lounge visits offered to cardholders is a limited-time promotion, and the decision to extend it has not been made yet. However, any cardholder who applies and is approved for the card before 30 Jun 2019 will still receive the vouchers- it’s just that all the access vouchers expire on 30 Jun 2019.Milelion
When it was first launched, the BOC Elite Miles World MasterCard was somewhat of a unicorn: an incredible offer, higher-than-usual earn rates, and definitely got the town talking.
However, like i said, good things never last. The card was obviously subject to a lot of gaming and abuse (there are plenty of people with enough free time to do that), and as we are more than six months in, it’s high time for a revision.
These changes are not all that bad, save for the cap on the number of miles that can be converted at a time (it’s quite… a cheap move).
In spite of a relatively high foreign currency processing fee, this card has still one of the best miles earning rates at 1.5 miles per dollar spent locally and 3 miles per dollar spent overseas. I’ll definitely be keeping the card for now, unless things change further down the road.