Head-to-Head: Brim Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® vs. Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo

In this edition of Head-to-Head, we’ll take a look at two relative newcomers to the Canadian credit card scene: Brim’s Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® and the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo.

Representing SkyTeam and oneworld airlines, respectively, these two cards offer the ability to earn Flying Blue miles and Asia Miles through the welcome bonus and daily spending.

Let’s take a look at how these two World Elite Mastercards stack up next to each other, and examine which card provides the best overall value to new cardholders.

Head-to-Head: Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard vs. Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo
Credit Card Best Offer Value
Up to 30,000 Asia Miles $348 Apply Now
Earn Flying Blue miles on daily spending
First Year Free
Earn Flying Blue miles on daily spending $0 Apply Now

In This Post

Card Basics

1. Welcome Bonus

Without question, one of the best ways to extract value from a credit is through its welcome bonus.

Until June 10, 2024, the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® offers the opportunity to earn up to 60,000 Flying Blue miles through the following four-step structure:

  • 10,000 Flying Blue miles after your first purchase
  • 10,000 Flying Blue miles upon spending $5,000 (all figures in CAD) in the first year
  • 10,000 Flying Blue miles upon spending an additional $10,000 in the first year
  • 30,000 Flying Blue miles upon renewing your card for a second year

While the minimum spending requirement here is rather onerous, the total bonus is quite attractive, and you have a whole year to meet the thresholds. Plus, even if you don’t spend enough on the card to reach either spend-based bonus, you’ll still do quite well.

We value Flying Blue miles at 2 cents apiece. Using this valuation, we’d estimate the card’s first-year value comes in at a minimum of $768, based on earning 30,000 miles through the bonuses, 15,000 miles through the necessary $15,000 in spending at the base earning rate, and minus the cost of the annual fee.

If you keep the card into the second year, you’ll enjoy an additional $468 in value, based on the boost of 30,000 Flying Blue miles when you renew, and taking into account the card’s annual fee once again.

Comparatively, the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo offers a welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Asia Miles through the following two-step structure:

  • 15,000 Asia Miles upon card activation
  • 15,000 Asia Miles upon spending $3,000 in first three months of card membership

We value Cathay Pacific Asia Miles at 1.6 cents per mile, giving the card a first-year value of $348. This is based on earning 30,000 miles through the bonuses, 3,000 miles through the necessary $3,000 spending at the baseline earning rate, and minus the cost of the annual fee.

The $3,000 minimum spending requirement to earn the second chunk of Asia Miles is a considerably lower threshold than Brim’s Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®, which requires $15,000 in required spending; however, the overall welcome bonus offered by the Air France KLM card is more attractive.

Verdict: It’s a win for Brim’s Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® here, as it provides an overall greater value proposition, both in the first year and in the second year. 

By keeping the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® into the second year, you’ll benefit from 30,000 Flying Blue miles, which on its own we’d value higher than the entirety of the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard –powered by Neo’s total first-year offer.

2. Annual Fee

Both cards charge cardholders an annual fee on the first statement after activation, as neither currently offers a first-year annual fee rebate or waiver.

The Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® charges an annual fee of $132, while the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo charges an annual fee of $180.

Notably, the annual fee on the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard – powered by Neo is the highest of all the Canadian World Elite Mastercards, and it’s also higher than all Canadian Visa Infinite cards, as well.

Verdict: In this category, the winner is clearly the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®, with an annual fee that’s nearly a third lower than its competitor.

3. Earning Rates

The Brim Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® earns Flying Blue miles at the following rates on daily spending:

  • 2 Flying Blue miles per dollar spent on food and drink purchases
  • 1 Flying Blue mile per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases
  • Up to 30 Flying Blue miles per dollar spent with Brim partners

Note that you’ll also earn 5 Flying Blue miles per €1 spent on Air France and KLM flights as a cardholder, which we’ll cover in the Perks & Benefits section below.

On the other hand, the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo earns Asia Miles at the following rates:

  • 2 Asia Miles per dollar spent on eligible Cathay Pacific purchases
  • 2 Asia Miles per dollar spent on foreign transactions
  • 1 Asia Mile per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases
  • Various Asia Miles per dollar spent with Neo partners

The Brim Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® has better earning rates on everyday food and beverage spending, with the Cathay card only offering a 2x multiplier on eligible Cathay Pacific purchases.

Additionally, while the Cathay Pacific card offers 2 miles per dollar spent on purchases made in foreign currencies, it also charges foreign transaction fees, which offsets any value you might get from that higher earning rate.

As you can see, both products offer elevated earning rates with select partners on their platforms; however, without having a publicly available list of these partners and the associated earning rates/bonuses, it’s difficult to pin down how valuable they might be.

Verdict: We’re giving this category to Brim’s Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®, with its better earning rate on food and drinks.

4. Ease of Redeeming

There have a number of positive improvements to Air France KLM Flying Blue in the recent past, including harmonizing award pricing (which saw the reduction of business class prices in many cases), its lucrative monthly Promo Rewards, adding free stopovers, and introducing First Class partner redemptions, to name a few.

These improvements make redeeming Flying Blue miles less complicated, and easier to access aspirational experiences and build complex itineraries.

In fact, Flying Blue is the one of the most attractive loyalty programs for transatlantic flights with Air France and KLM, with the following “starting at” award prices:

  • Economy: 20,000 miles
  • Premium economy: 35,000 miles
  • Business class: 50,000 miles

Plus, you also have access to other great partner airlines, including China Airlines and Etihad Airways, to name a couple.

Book Etihad Airways business class with Flying Blue miles

In Fall 2023, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles underwent a significant devaluation, which saw a notable jump in premium cabin redemption rates. The only comfort that came from the devaluation was the promise that award seat availability would be improved.

As it stands, the availability looks better than before (though it was pretty dismal for years); however, you’ll now need to spend considerably more miles than before to book the same flights.

For example, you’d need to spend the following amounts of Asia Miles for a one-way flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver:

  • Economy: 27,000 miles
  • Premium economy: 50,000 miles
  • Business class: 84,000 miles

On the other hand, Cathay Pacific has a great reputation, especially in its premium cabins. If you have your eye on a long-haul flight with Cathay Pacific in a premium cabin, your only option is to book through Asia Miles at the moment.

Using Asia Miles is the only way to book Cathay Pacific First Class at the moment

If you’re able to piece together a multi-carrier award, there’s also great value to be found there, but it requires quite a bit of legwork.

There’s also a case to be made for redeeming Asia Miles with other oneworld partners. For example, booking flights with British Airways with Asia Miles instead of Avios results in a favourable reduction in carrier-imposed surcharges.

Verdict: Once again, this category is going in Air France KLM Flying Blue’s favour, as it’s recently made multiple positive moves to improve the program, while at the same time, Asia Miles has experienced a recent devaluation, making many awards more expensive.

Perks and Benefits

1. Airline-Specific Benefits

The Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® earns Experience Points (XP) towards earning elite status with Air France and KLM. As a cardholder, you’ll get 60XP in the first year, and then 30 XP in subsequent years of card membership to help you fast track towards a higher status tier.

You can earn more XP when you fly with Air France, KLM, or other SkyTeam partners, and the rate at which the XP are earn is based on your current membership status.

As mentioned above, you’ll earn an extra 5 Flying Blue miles per €1 spent on Air France and KLM flights as a cardholder, which comes in addition to the standard earning rates as a basic member or someone with elite status. 

It’s worth noting that the 5x multiplier comes as a perk of being a cardholder, and that you don’t need to pay for the flight with your Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard® to get the accelerator. Plus, you’ll only get 5x miles for base fares and carrier-imposed surcharges for yourself, and not for anyone else on the same booking (unless they’re also a cardholder).

For example, if you book a family of four on Air France flights, you’ll only receive 5x miles for one passenger (assuming no one else is also a cardholder). 

Therefore, by simply having this card in your possession, you’ll benefit from an excellent return on your spending with Air France and KLM, regardless of which card you charge your flights to.

The Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo advertises that it comes with “exclusive membership perks: priority check-in, extra baggage, and spacious seat selection.” However, these are just the listed benefits offered to anyone for free with an Asia Miles account, and you’d need to redeem Asia Miles or pay cash to get extra bags or better seats.

Notably, this means that the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo is an airline co-branded card that doesn’t offer any airline-specific perks to cardholders, such as elite status boosters, priority boarding, or companion passes.

However, until December 31, 2024, the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo offers cardholders a 10% discount on Cathay Pacific flights.

This could be quite valuable if you tend to pay cash for Cathay Pacific flights; however, it’s only available for a limited time, and doesn’t apply to Asia Miles redemptions.

Verdict: The Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® wins this category for its yearly XP boost to propel you towards Flying Blue Elite status.

2. Lounge Access

Both cards provide a DragonPass membership that you can sign up for as soon as the card has been activated. With the DragonPass membership, you’re able to enjoy the network’s 1,300+ lounges in 140 countries worldwide.

However, despite the cards providing the benefit of the initial membership, neither card antes up with any free visits, so you’ll still need to pay the lounge entrance fee ($32 USD) each time.

Verdict: Since this benefit is identical on both cards, this is a clear tie.

3. Wi-Fi

Both cards in this Head-to-Head are World Elite Mastercards, and both offer the same Boingo Wi-Fi allotment that’s offered to all World Elite Mastercard cardholders. This benefit provides cardholders with access to Boingo’s over 1 million hotspots worldwide, free of charge.

You’ll also get 12 free 90-minute in-flight Wi-Fi sessions on Boingo-enabled aircraft, which can be useful to stay connected in the skies at no cost.

Verdict: This category is also a tie, with both cards offering exactly the same perk.

Other Factors

1. Supplementary Cardholders

Each card offers the option to add additional cardholders for a fee.

The Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo charges $10 for each supplementary cardholder, while the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®charges $50 per additional card.

Verdict: For the first time in this comparison, the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo is the winner, with its considerably lower charge for adding supplementary cardholders.

2. Insurance

Both cards offer the usual insurance coverage that you would expect from a World Elite Mastercard product, though the values of each type of coverage varies. Generally speaking, the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® provides more robust coverage.

Additionally, it appears that there’s one critical oversight that all potential cardholders of the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo should be aware of. It doesn’t appear to be the case that insurance coverage applies to Asia Miles award bookings charged to the card, which is a huge omission for an airline co-branded card.

Asia Miles bookings paid for with the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo don’t appear to be covered by the card’s insurance

The language in the insurance booklet only makes reference to coverage when “the full cost” was paid using the card, and doesn’t include reference to redemptions or awards at all. 

Comparatively, the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®’s insurance certificates include language throughout to assure cardholders that award bookings made with Flying Blue miles are covered, as are other purchases made through the use of points redemptions (i.e., statement credits).

Verdict: We are unquestionably giving this category to the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®, given that the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo does not appear to cover award bookings.

3. Digital Cards

Both cards offer access to a digital card as soon as you’re approved. This means that you can immediately begin working on the minimum spending requirement long before the card arrives in the mail.

Verdict: We have ourselves a tie.

4. Foreign Transaction Fees

Both cards subject cardholders to a 2.5% foreign transaction fee, which seems to be par for the course with Canadian airline co-branded credit cards. 

In the case of the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®, the fees charged are higher than the 1.5% foreign transaction fees charged on other Brim products. 

For what it’s worth, the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo offers an elevated earning rate for purchases in foreign currencies; however, you’re essentially paying more to earn these miles, which negates much of the value.

Verdict: It’s honours even here, though both cards could become more attractive by not imposing foreign transaction fees on cardholders.

5. Visual Appearance

Brim’s Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® uses a grey-scale design on a horizontal layout to provide a no-nonsense card appearance.

Comparatively, the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo uses a vertical layout with a wavy green design that’s both attractive and understated, as well as on-brand with Cathay Pacific’s emerald green.

Verdict: While this measure is purely subjective, I like the Cathay Pacific card in this category, as the layout, colour, and design make it more visually interesting than its competitor.

Conclusion

Overall, the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard® is a more well-thought-out card that offers meaningful benefits to cardholders. If you’re loyal to Air France KLM, this credit card should certainly be in your wallet, given its excellent earning rates and solid cardholder benefits.

Additionally, it offers a great incentive for Canadians to access the lucrative Flying Blue program, which doesn’t have many other earning avenues in Canada, aside from transferring in from American Express Membership Rewards at 1:0.75 ratio.

In terms of the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo, there aren’t many reasons to hold onto the card aside from the welcome bonus and the 10% discount on Cathay Pacific flights.

Notably, there aren’t any meaningful Cathay Pacific-specific benefits for cardholders, which seems like a bit of an oversight for an airline co-branded credit card. Plus, since its insurance doesn’t appear to cover Asia Miles bookings, its utility is limited in that regard.

It’s worth noting that both cards are relatively new to the Canadian market, and it’d be great to see them both take steps to become even more competitive with other airline co-branded cards in Canada going forward.

However, if you’re looking for one airline co-branded World Elite Mastercard, we’d suggest siding with the Air France KLM World Elite® Mastercard®, for all of the reasons listed above.

Terms and conditions apply. Please refer to the card issuer’s website for up-to-date product information.

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