Best value for booking short-haul flights
The HSBC World Elite MasterCard’s current offer varies based on your province of residence.
If you’re based outside of Quebec, you’ll earn 100,000 HSBC Rewards points, distributed as follows:
20,000 HSBC Rewards points upon first purchase
80,000 HSBC Rewards points upon spending $5,000 in the first 180 days
The annual fee of $149 is also rebated for the first year.
Meanwhile, Quebec residents can sign up for 130,000 HSBC Rewards points, distributed as follows:
20,000 HSBC Rewards points upon first purchase
110,000 HSBC Rewards points upon keeping your account open and in good standing for 180 days
However, there is no first-year annual fee rebate on the Quebec offer.
In both cases, you also get a $100 Travel Enhancement Credit that you can use towards travel purchases.
Now, 100,000 HSBC Rewards points (for non-Quebecers) can be converted into $500 towards travel purchases, while 130,000 HSBC Rewards points (for Quebecers) is equivalent to $650 towards travel purchases.
Subtract the expense of the annual fee on the Quebec offer, and then add the $100 Travel Enhancement Credit to both offers, and we see that the current offer is worth at least $600 in your pocket.
In addition to redeeming points for travel purchases, HSBC Rewards points can also be converted into Asia Miles, Singapore KrisFlyer miles, and British Airways Avios.
You can also add supplementary cards to your account for an annual fee of $50 per card.
The HSBC World Elite MasterCard offers 6 HSBC Rewards points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases and 3 HSBC Rewards points per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
Given the fact that every 200 HSBC Rewards points can be redeemed towards $1 in travel purchases (more on that later), this means that you’re effectively getting a 3% return on travel purchases and 1.5% return on all other purchases.
The 3% return on travel is a very compelling earn rate, whereas the 1.5% return on general spending is about the standard for a premium World Elite credit card.
However, in addition to the signup bonus, the main appeal of this credit card lies not in the return on daily spending, but rather the fact that it has no foreign transaction fees.
Most credit cards in Canada will add a 2.5% markup to any transactions denominated in a foreign currency, whereas the HSBC World Elite MasterCard simply uses the MasterCard FX rate, which is for all intents and purposes the same as the true mid-market FX rate. This is therefore an excellent card to use when travelling abroad.
In addition, you also get a complimentary membership in the MasterCard LoungeKey program, although you still need to pay for each airport lounge visit. In this regard, the lounge access benefit isn’t as good as some of the other premium credit cards out there like the American Express Platinum Card.
Other benefits on the HSBC World Elite MasterCard include a $100 annual “travel enhancement” credit towards airline seat selection fees, checked baggage fees, and other ancillary fees, as well as unlimited access to wifi at Boingo hotspots around the world – you never know when that might come in handy.
HSBC Rewards points aren’t given much attention here in Canada, but they’re a very versatile points currency once you understand the rather convoluted way that everything’s set up.
There are no simple 1:1 ratios here. Instead, one of the best uses of HSBC Rewards points is cashing out for travel credits at a ratio of 200 HSBC Rewards points = $1.
You can also redeem HSBC Rewards points for statement credits at an inferior ratio, so I’d recommend avoiding this option and always redeeming against travel purchases instead.
The major strength of HSBC Rewards compared to the other Canadian banks’ in-house travel rewards program is that you don’t need to go via any sort of dedicated travel portal to redeem your points.
Indeed, you can book any travel with any provider – flights, trains, hotels, Airbnbs, car rentals, cruises, vacations, etc. – and offset it using HSBC Rewards points within 60 days of the purchase posting to your account.
Compared to many other banks, which force you to go through their own travel agency (sometimes while paying marked-up prices) in order to use your points, HSBC Rewards is a much more flexible currency to use.
Lastly, the other way to use HSBC Rewards points is to transfer them to one of their frequent flyer program partners in chunks of 25,000 HSBC Rewards points:
As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend redeeming HSBC Rewards points for travel credits (at the 200:$1 ratio), or converting them to one of the above frequent flyer programs if you had a better redemption in mind.
The HSBC World Elite is a premium product, and so comes with very strong insurance benefits. This includes emergency medical insurance for you, your spouse, and dependent children on unexpected medical illness or injury when travelling out-of-province and is valid for up to 31 days, which is double the industry standard of 15 days.
There’s also coverage for trip cancellation and interruption, flight delay, and rental car collision or damage insurance.