Until December 28, 2020, the HSBC World Elite MasterCard is offering an outstanding welcome bonus of 100,000–130,000 HSBC Rewards points, depending on where you live in Canada:
- If you live outside of Quebec, you’ll earn 20,000 HSBC Rewards points upon first purchase, followed by 80,000 HSBC Rewards points upon spending $5,000 in the first six months, for a total of 100,000 HSBC Rewards points. The annual fee of $149 is also rebated for the first year.
- If you live in Quebec, you’ll earn 20,000 HSBC Rewards point upon first purchase, followed by 110,000 HSBC Rewards points upon keeping your account open and in good standing for six months, for a total of 130,000 HSBC Rewards points. The annual fee of $149 is not rebated for the first year.
In this post, I wanted to go over some of the finer details on the logistics of redeeming HSBC Rewards points, as well as some of the best redemption possibilities for using your stash of HSBC Rewards points to unlock the best value.
In This Post
- Key Things to Know About Redeeming HSBC Rewards Points
- 1. $575–650 in Travel Purchases
- 2. 46,000–52,000 British Airways Avios
- 3. 41,400–46,800 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles
- 4. 36,800–43,200 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Key Things to Know About Redeeming HSBC Rewards Points
Redeeming HSBC Rewards points against eligible travel purchases at a ratio of 200 points = $1 is generally seen as the “baseline” redemption option, giving you a value of 0.5 cents per point (cpp).
In addition, you can potentially unlock better value than 0.5cpp by transferring HSBC Rewards points to one of three frequent flyer partners – British Airways Avios, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles – and using those points wisely for high-value flight redemptions.
(You also have the option of redeeming HSBC Rewards points for gift cards, merchandise, or deposits into HSBC chequing or savings accounts, but the value in doing so is poorer and so this avenue is not recommended.)
Now, both the baseline travel redemption and the frequent flyer conversions are subject to the following redemption rules:
- A minimum of 25,000 HSBC Rewards points must be redeemed at once
- On top of the minimum amount, HSBC Rewards points may be redeemed in increments of 10,000 points
Combine that with the following transfer ratios to Avios, KrisFlyer, and Asia Miles…
- 25,000 HSBC Rewards points can be converted into 8,000 Asia Miles
- 25,000 HSBC Rewards points can be converted into 9,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles
- 25,000 HSBC Rewards points can be converted into 10,000 British Airways Avios
…and we have the following matrix of possibilities for the best possible ways to redeem your HSBC Rewards points.
British Airways Avios
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Therefore, as you’re working towards the $5,000 minimum spend to unlock the full bonus (for non-Quebecers) or waiting out the six-month period to receive the full bonus (for Quebecers), you’ll want to think carefully about what you plan to do with those 100,000 or 130,000 HSBC Rewards points that are coming your way.
Without some careful planning at this stage, you may end up leaving your HSBC Rewards points “stuck” in your account, unable to redeem optimally unless you top-up your points balance with some extra spending.
For example, let’s say you lived outside of Quebec, and after meeting the $5,000 minimum spending requirement, you ended up with a total of 120,000 HSBC Rewards points in your account (remember, the HSBC World Elite Mastercard earns 6 points per dollar spent on travel and 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases).
With 120,000 points in your account, you may be tempted to deploy the maximum possible amount of 115,000 points towards one of the four redemption avenues in the chart. But you’ll quickly notice that this would leave you with 5,000 points “orphaned” in your HSBC Rewards account, which you wouldn’t be able to use up until you topped-up back to a balance of 25,000 points!
Instead, if you wanted to use up the full balance of 120,000 points in one go, it’d be wiser to redeem in two separate chunks – for example, 55,000 points followed by 65,000 points, 25,000 points followed by 95,000 points, and so on. These chunks can even be redeemed in different ways if you’d like to mix things up a little bit!
As you can see, the HSBC Rewards program is slightly more nuanced than other transferrable points currencies in Canada like Amex Membership Rewards or RBC Avion, so that’s your fair warning out of the way.
Now, through the current elevated signup offer, non-Quebec and Quebec residents will earn at least 115,000 or 130,000 HSBC Rewards points, respectively (the former upon completing their minimum spend). Let’s take a look at what these amounts would fetch you through each of the aforementioned quartet of optimal redemption avenues.
1. $575–650 in Travel Purchases
Redeeming points against travel purchases is very straightforward, and can be done directly in your HSBC online dashboard as soon as the points and the travel purchase have both posted to your account.
As we’ve discussed before, HSBC Rewards is one of the “good guys” when it comes to fixed-value points programs, allowing you to retroactively redeem your points to offset any travel purchase charged to your card. It helps that the HSBC World Elite offers one of the strongest returns on travel purchases in all of Canada: 6 points per dollar spent, equivalent to a minimum 3% return.
Simply head to the “Redeem Points” section of your HSBC online dashboard, and you’ll be presented with a list of eligible travel purchases against which you can redeem HSBC Rewards points at 0.5cpp to offset. Remember, though, you’ll need to select a minimum of $125 in travel purchases – thus reaching the minimum redemption amount of 25,000 points – in order to proceed.
Thus, non-Quebecers and Quebecers may redeem their respective 115,000 or 130,000 points for a minimum of $575 or $650 in travel purchases.
Overall, this is one of the most popular ways to use HSBC Rewards points, especially since they are so flexible in allowing you to “wipe away” any travel purchase on your statement, thus making them an excellent points currency for booking travel that wouldn’t normally be bookable on points, such as non-chain hotels, Airbnbs, cruises, all-inclusive vacation packages, etc.
Moreover, these amounts of $575 and $650 are also the benchmarks that you should keep in mind when you’re considering transferring HSBC Rewards points to any of the three frequent flyer partners instead.
2. 46,000–52,000 British Airways Avios
With an effective transfer ratio of 25:10 from HSBC Rewards to British Airways Avios, non-Quebecers and Quebecers may redeem their respective 115,000 or 130,000 points for 46,000 or 52,000 Avios.
Doing the math to compare against our baseline values outlined above, we see that an Avios redemption value of at least 1.25cpp is required to beat out the value you’d get from simply using your HSBC Rewards points to offset your travel purchases.
Avios sweet spots for direct flights out of Canada are few and far between. Toronto–Dublin on Aer Lingus is one example, priced at 13,000 or 50,000 Avios for a one-way off-peak flight in economy class or business class, respectively.
The full bonus from the HSBC World Elite Mastercard may therefore be used to cover a round-trip flight across the Atlantic in economy class or a one-way flight in business class, both of which will likely exceed the target value of 1.25cpp.
Avios are generally considered more useful for short- or medium-haul redemptions in other parts of the world across the Oneworld route network. Hopping around Europe on British Airways or Iberia, Southeast Asia on Cathay Pacific or Malaysian Airlines, Australia on Qantas, or South America on LATAM can all result in redemption values higher than 1.25cpp.
If you and your spouse both signed up for the card, then you could each transfer your HSBC Rewards points to your own Avios account, and then pool your Avios together via the Household Account feature. This amount could then be redeemed towards a larger high-value award such as the Avios multi-carrier chart, which would outstrip the target valuation of 1.25cpp by several multiples.
Finally, we should mention that HSBC Rewards has even offered a 35% transfer bonus to Avios in the past, most recently in November of last year. If the same promotion returns this year to overlap with the current signup offer, then the resultant output of 62,100–70,200 Avios is looking very attractive indeed.
3. 41,400–46,800 Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles
With an effective transfer ratio of 25:9 from HSBC Rewards to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, non-Quebecers and Quebecers may redeem their respective 115,000 or 130,000 points for 41,400 or 46,800 KrisFlyer miles.
Running the numbers, we can see that a KrisFlyer redemption value of at least 1.39cpp is required to do better than simply offsetting against travel purchases.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer does have a handful of sweet spots in its award chart, such as between continental North America and Hawaii. But if you’ve gone through the trouble of earning KrisFlyer miles in the first place (with HSBC Rewards being one of the very few ways for Canadians to earn miles in this program), then you likely have only one target redemption on your mind: Singapore Airlines’s premium flights, including their business class, First Class, and world-famous Suites Class (assuming that Singapore’s Airbus A380s do eventually return to the skies).
Singapore Airlines keeps its premium products out of reach to most partner programs, and with very few exceptions, most of these flights are only bookable through Singapore’s own KrisFlyer program. The cheapest long-haul flight is the New York–Frankfurt fifth-freedom route, which costs 72,000 miles in business class 86,000 miles in Suites Class on the A380.
As you can see, even the full bonus from the HSBC World Elite Mastercard won’t yet be enough to cover these amounts, so you’ll likely need to top-up your KrisFlyer account with points from a different source (such as Marriott Bonvoy or US-issued Amex MR points) or perhaps put some regular spending on the HSBC World Elite to earn enough points to make up the difference.
Either way, this redemption choice will be best-suited to those of you who have the Singapore Suites as a long-term aspirational goal.
Otherwise, there aren’t many major reasons to go out of your way to earn KrisFlyer miles when there are several more easily accessible programs available to us Canadians, such as…
4. 36,800–43,200 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
With an effective transfer ratio of 25:8 from HSBC Rewards to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, non-Quebecers and Quebecers may redeem their respective 115,000 or 130,000 points for 36,800 or 41,600 Asia Miles.
Crunching the numbers here, we can see that an Asia Miles redemption value of at least 1.56cpp is required to outperform the value you’d get from simply redeeming against travel purchases.
Asia Miles is generally considered a useful program for travelling to Asia in premium cabins, especially if you’d like to fly Cathay Pacific’s highly-regarded business class or First Class products. That’s because Asia Miles member get access to greater availability than partner programs on Cathay Pacific flights, so you’ll have a much easier time finding and booking these flights compared to through a partner like Alaska Mileage Plan.
The program also has a multitude of attractive award chart sweet spots, such as flying from North America to Australia in business class for 85,000 Asia Miles, or using the “mixed-cabin trick” to book Cathay Pacific First Class for a lower-than-usual price. However, there’s no denying that the April 2020 elimination of stopovers on one-way awards caused Asia Miles to lose a fair bit of lustre, too.
The HSBC World Elite Mastercard’s haul of 36,800–41,600 Asia Miles likely won’t be enough for most long-haul redemptions all on its own; you’d need to combine this amount with Asia Miles earned from other sources for a more meaningful premium redemption. Thankfully, Asia Miles are very easy to come by in Canada: you can transfer from Amex MR at a 1:0.75 ratio, from RBC Avion at a 1:1 ratio, or from Marriott Bonvoy or US credit cards as well.
If you travel frequently to Asia and would like to do so in comfort, and you’re able to gather Asia Miles from some other mileage-earning sources as well, then converting your HSBC Rewards points to Asia Miles could be the right fit.
As you can see, the spectacular signup bonus of 100,000–130,000 HSBC Rewards points on the HSBC World Elite Mastercard comes with a very wide range of redemption possibilities.
The baseline redemption is already outstanding: along with the $100 Travel Enhancement Credit that comes as a perk of the card, the bonus will get you $600+ in net value towards any travel purchases of your choosing.
However, there are even greater possibilities via HSBC’s three frequent flyer transfer partners: British Airways Avios for the avid travellers who can take advantage of Avios’s global short-haul sweet spots, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer for the aspirational luxury travellers who’d like to get a taste of Singapore Suites, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for any Asia-bound travellers who’d like to fly in comfort at a good value.
If you haven’t already applied for the HSBC World Elite Mastercard (and convinced everyone in your circles to apply as well), then what are you waiting for?