By the end of 2019, I started a banking relationship with HSBC Bank US. As part of the package, I took a look at their credit card offering and saw quite a wide range of cards to choose from. For HSBC Premier clients, they launched back in 2017 two cards, HSBC Premier World Mastercard, and the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard.
After doing a thorough investigation and comparison of them, and evaluating their benefits, I decided it was worth trying the latter one, which has an annual fee but comes with more substantial perks than the other.
Since I couldn’t find updated info about this card, I figured I could write a review here. Unfortunately, current times make it difficult to utilize some of these perks fully, but I was able to use them for 3-4 months before the crisis started. Good enough to get some first impressions.
HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard Review
How it looks
The card comes in a matte metal finish, which is very slick and elegant. The numbers are printed on the back of the card, and on the front, there’s only the cardholder’s name. It is quite heavy to hold, and it’s not the type of card you’d like to insert into an ATM to withdraw cash. The card works with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay if you want to keep the physical one as a backup.
Who is this card for?
The HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard is a premium card, available to those who have an HSBC Premier Banking relationship (new or existing). There are a few requirements to qualify for this type of relationship that changes over time. Aso of today, they require $75,000 in combined U.S. personal investments or savings, but they also offer other ways to qualify. Business owners may use their commercial balances to qualify for a personal HSBC Premier relationship. A monthly maintenance fee of $50 will be incurred if minimum balance requirements are not maintained. The best way to find out is to call a representative or executive and explain your case.
You can read my post on how to open an account with them (which contains a referral that can get up to $500 as a welcome bonus). To be able to apply for this card, you need an HSBC Premier banking relationship.
Main Benefits and Perks
Here’s a recap of some of the highlights of this card
- $100 Annual Air Travel Credit. Reimburses ticket purchases, seat upgrades, baggage fees, or in-flight purchases.
- Complimentary LoungeKey membership, including access to over 1000 airport lounges worldwide. Two free lounge visits per year.
- 10% discount on Expedia, Agoda, or onefinestay, when booking hotels or vacation homestay.
- $85 TSA Pre credit to reimburse the application fee.
- $100 annual statement credits for rides with Uber and Lyft. (up to $25 per transaction)
- Unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi access.
- Cellular Wireless Telephone protection. Provides reimbursements of up to $800 per claim if your cellphone is stolen or damaged.
- Identity Fraud Expense Reimbursement.
- $1 Million Travel Accident Insurance, as well as trip cancellation insurance, lost luggage insurance, Mastercard Airport concierge, World Elite concierge service (which I don’t know who is really using), MasterRental coverage, etc.
- ShopRunner membership.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $5 in Fandango Rewards for every 2 movie tickets purchased.
The transaction credit on air travel or rides with Uber and Lyft are automatic, here’s how they show up in your statement:
50k Points Sign-up Bonus worth at least $750
HSBC has a loyalty program called HSBC Rewards (quite old, well established, and often overlooked IMHO). In a way, it is similar to American Express Membership Rewards, Chase, etc., where you have convertible points that you could use either within the bank services (reward shop for gadgets, electronics, travel, paying your balance, cash statement) or convert/exchange for other points/miles/currencies such as Frequent Flyer Airlines Miles, Hotel Points, etc. Points don’t expire, which is a huge benefit these days, considering the times we live through.
One of the very attractive incentives for getting this card is the 50,000 Rewards bonus points welcome gift which is worth $750 in air travel. You get these points credited after spending $4,000 or more in the first 3 months from account opening (note that it is from account opening, so if your card takes 1 month to arrive, you would have only had 2 months to do the actual spending). As usual, you also get extra points from spending that $ 4k, on top of the welcome bonus.
Here’s how the points show up after you get them credited:
Earning and Redeeming Points
The HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard earns at the following rates:
- 3X Rewards Program Points on travel (airlines, hotels, and car rentals).
- 2X Rewards Program Points on dining.
- 1X Point on all other purchases
Points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through their travel portal, and also possible to transfer/convert them to a few travel partners such as British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Aeroméxico (as of May 2020), although this changes over time.
From time to time (2-3 times a year), HSBC Rewards runs campaigns at increased conversion rates to transfer to some partners. For example, from November-December 2019, they had a 35% transfer bonus when converting to British Airways Executive Club Avios or Singapore Airlines.
Once you have the card, you can log in through your home banking, under My Rewards. The link takes to a different landing page, exclusive for HSBC Rewards.
On the top header, you can check your account balance and point history, as you can see above. It is maybe a bit confusing to see the history since the 2x, and 3x multiplier for dining and travel gets credited as a similar transaction but without a reference to the original one. This means you need to figure it out by doing the math when you are auditing if they are credited correctly. Other than that is pretty straightforward.
There’s also a grey navigation bar with redeeming options, including merchandise (electronics, clothes, home & deco), Apple (yes, a special section with better rates on Apple products), Gift cards, Cash Back, Travel, Rewards for Miles, and Charity. Let’s zoom in on some of them.
This section is where you redeem your points for cash vouchers. This could come in the form of credit card statements, or deposits into your checking account, which is great if you don’t want to deal with points and their value. Here are some of the options.
As you can see, the scale is linear, so there’s no difference if you transfer more or fewer points, except for the minimum threshold, which is 3.000 points ($25) and offers a worse rate than exchanging 5.000 or onwards.
The value you get out of your points with this option is 1 cent per point, which is comparable with other 1% cash-back cards out there. I would say that if this is your main use case for your points, this is not the card I would recommend unless you heavily use the other benefits.
With this option, the sign-up bonus is only worth $500.
Although you can opt for a credit card statement as a cash-back option, and use that to pay for travel expenses, they offer a separate section for travel-related vouchers. You can instead choose to book flights or hotels from their online booking system, pay for travel packages, claim your TSA-Pre application fee voucher, or request a travel statement credit. Here’s how the options show up.
Once you select, for example, Travel Statement Credits, you can select among more options with (sometimes) better rates than the simple cashback options I mentioned before. Here are some examples.
This means that, if you are willing to use your points for travel-specific statement credits, such as airline tickets, you can get a little bit of a boost in the value of your points.
You can see how 40,000 points translate into a $600 airline ticket voucher, that’s 1.5 cents per point, whereas if you go for the normal cash-back option, you only get $400 credited to your checking account, at a 1 cent per point rate.
Overall, this option is simple and straightforward if you don’t want to think too much about the value of your points, worry about transferring them to another account and converting them to a flight later.
With this option, you can just simply pay for your ticket on the airline or travel agent’s website, and later get this amount deducted from your statement.
Using Travel Statement Credits, the 50k points sign-up bonus is worth $750, which is how they do the math for their marketing on their website and application.
Still, there are ways to squeeze even more value out of that sign-up bonus, with the next redeeming option.
Rewards for miles
One last category, especially attractive for the ones like me, who really like to maximize how much points are worth, is to transfer/convert HSBC Rewards points to frequent flyer programs miles or points.
Here’s where the line becomes more blurry, counter-intuitive, and not so straightforward. First, it requires you to search for a possible flight redemption on one of the partner programs, for example, British Airways Executive Club, Singapore Airlines KrysFlier, or Emirates Skywards. Once you find options at a good rate, you’ll need to initiate a transfer from HSBC Rewards to your frequent flyer program, which could take 3-10 business days.
Once you get the miles, you can use them to book your flights right away.
To quickly show the potential of this, and how much value you can get out of your points, I’ll show the following example with Singapore Airlines.
Let’s say you got the World Elite card, spent $4k within the first three months, and got the 50k points from the welcome gift. In total, you’ll have (since the minimum spending multiplier is 1x), at least 54k HSBC Rewards Points.
Singapore Airlines charges 22,500 miles one-way between the US and Europe (e.g. New York to Frankfurt, Houston to Manchester). That would be a total of 45,000 miles round trip + about $100 USD in taxes.
That same ticket, round trip, could easily cost over $1000 during some periods, so even if you pay $100 in taxes, you would be getting $900 USD out of your sign-up bonus, at 1.8 cents per point. However, that’s just a quick example, and it is by far the least convenient option if you really want to squeeze your points.
Let’s say now that you are waiting for a promotional period to transfer your points where you get 35% more miles (like during December 2019). Then, if you transfer your 54k points to Singapore Airlines KrysFlyer, you’d get 72,900 miles. That’s enough for a saver ticket in Business Class from the US to Europe, and almost enough for a ticket from Hong Kong to the US, also in business class.
Those tickets cost $3,000+ if you pay them in cash. Even if you pay $300 in taxes, you’d be getting at least $2700 from your sign-up bonus.
And there are a million other alternatives, it is just a matter of searching.
Yes, it is much harder, there’s more risk, it requires more work, and there could be a million things that go wrong in the process, but it is still an option. Surprisingly, in all my years as a frequent traveler, it works most of the time! So it is still a good option. I must also say, however, that given corona, it’s an option for the future and not for the present. Thus, it is super fair if you want to go for the cash-back option, which is more secure and immediate, and keep an eye on this for later.
HSBC Premier World vs World Elite.
Which one to choose?
One great thing to consider is if the HSBC World Elite is really worth getting, considering that HSBC Premier customers can also apply for the HSBC Premier World Mastercard, which has no annual fee.
In that case, what we need to evaluate is the difference in perks when jumping to the World Elite Mastercard, and whether you are going to take advantage of them or not. Here’s an overview of both cards.
The key major differences (ignoring insurance) when going to the World Elite version are
- $350 more in sign-up bonus
- +1x multiplier on travel, +1x multiplier on dining.
- $100 annual travel credit
- +$50 Uber & Lyft credit
Let’s try to keep things simple, and assume you’d use the cards in the exact same way.
If you get the World Mastercard and just combine the monetary value of your perks, we get
$400 (air tavel) + $50 uber credit + $85 TSA = $535 “for free”
Now, let’s do the same for the World Elite Mastercard, but subtract the annual fee.
$750 (air travel) + $100 airline credit + $100 uber credit + $85 TSA – $395 annual fee = $840 “for free”
So, in summary, if you use all the credit statements, you will be getting back your annual fee (and even more) from the World Elite card. Of course, this is considering the worst case as a baseline. If you do a lot of dining or travel, then you’d get even more value out of it from the multipliers (3x and 2x).
But, the second year is different. You won’t get the sign-up bonus, and even though you get the credit statements, you are still negative compared to the World card. If you are not a heavy traveler or plan to use this as your main card, I would apply for it the first year, and then downgrade to the World Mastercard the second year to avoid the annual fee.
Also, when you downgrade, it is considered as a new application, so you are eligible to get the sign-up bonus (35k points) from the World card as well! I was able to verify this with an executive at the bank, so it is a no-brainer. You can even hold both cards at the same time.
Overall, this card is great. the HSBC Rewards program is often overlooked, and although it might be weaker than Amex MR, or Chase UR, it is still worth the shot.
Of course, which one you should choose as your main rewards program is a different story and a whole new discussion. I’m also not sure if I would use HSBC Rewards as my main program, having MR or UR. However, I would still get the HSBC Premier World Elite card for a year and evaluate it to see how it compares to the rest, and how it fits in the wallet. At least the first year is a no-brainer!
If you are not an HSBC customer and you don’t have a Premier relationship, you can read my post on how to open an account with them (which contains a referral that gets $500 as a welcome bonus).
If you already have a Premier relationship with HSBC, here’s the Application Page.
I hope you find this helpful!
Let me know in the comments what you think. Any feedback or experience is welcome. Don’t forget to check out my other credit card reviews and videos. Hit me a DM on Instagram or Facebook if you wanna chat further!