I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for HSBC. This might be due to the fact my first bank account and credit card in Canada was from HSBC back when I was a student – they have a global transfer program which allows you to transfer money and credit over from another country. It also allowed my parents to easily send me money for free at good FX rates.
Unfortunately, they never really had a amazing financial products apart from the occasional cheap mortgage offer if you can catch them during the right time. They also have the cheapest self directed trading from all the banks- $6.88 per trade if you have at least 25k with them. However, a combination of horrible user interface and reporting drove me to another bank, but that is another story.
Recently however, they have really stepped it up, especially in the credit card space. They introduced the HSBC Jade credit card, which requires you to have $1 million in cash equivalents with them (stocks, mutual funds, etc). The card is a no-brainier if you qualify – free $200 travel credit every year and lounge access for no annual fees.
Unfortunately, most people I know don’t have $1 million lying about, so for the more common folks they recently introduced their travel World Elite Mastercard – which I think is definitely worth looking into.
Normally, this card requires you to be a HSBC Premier client which means you either need to deposit 100k of cash equivalents to HSBC or have a mortgage of over 500k with them. Now, it’s open to everyone provided you meet the income requirements – and most data points from people who applied indicates they only verify your identity and not income.
The $149 annual fee is waived for the first year and in addition, you get a annual travel credit of $100 with the card and for spending $1,000 in 4 months, you get 25k HSBC reward points. For regular spending you earn a minimum of 3% for travel expenses and 1.5% for all other purchases.
A huge perk of this card is that it has no FX fees, saving you 2.5% on purchases in foreign currencies, as well as miscellaneous benefits like free boingo wifi (free wifi on most WestJet flights!), 10% off HSBC Expedia and Mastercard lounge membership (each visit costs $27).
It also has one of the best travel insurance in the business – 31 of days of medical insurance, baggage delays, trip delays, car rental and extended warranty.
Let’s talk a little about the “travel enhancement credit”. HSBC says it’s valid for seat upgrades and baggage fees, but in reality is it can be applied to *most* travel merchant codes. Fares purchased from Air Canada.com, hotels, Aeroplan taxes and fees and even a cruise booking made in the States showed up for me to redeem the travel credit against, making this super flexible and easy to use.
So how much is the 25k HSBC points worth? First of all, these points are transferable, making it a good complement to other cards like RBC Avion and Amex membership rewards. You may notice that the earn rate is generally better than RBC Avion, which gets 1 pt per dollar spent – with HSBC, 25k points is about $8,300 of non travel spend (even less if you spend some on travel), but in return you get 10k Avios (enough for a economy ticket up to a distance of 2000 miles like Singapore – HK or HK – Beijing) or 9k Krisflyer, while Cathay Pacific is just slightly below par at 8k Asia Miles.
HSBC also allows you to apply points as fixed value against travel expenses – where 25k is worth $125 in statement credits. This is how they represent the 3% return on travel spend and 1.5% on all others from.
Again, travel is broadly defined. As a case study, I once bought a one way ticket from the Air Canada website between Toronto and Vancouver for $202.5, and I could applied both the travel credit and 25k points towards – making the flight essentially costing $-22.5 (I actually got money back).
Finally, like most other banks, points can also be used for cash products such as gift cards and banking products. As usual, these gives lower returns – $75 as cash or $100 against your mortgage.
Putting it all together, I think this is definitely a good card to get especially if you do not already have a no FX card (which is quite hard to find in Canada).
For no annual fees and 1k spend, you are getting at least $225 in travel credits ($100 from travel enhancement credit and 25k points) that can be used for your own travel bookings or in conjunction with Aeroplan bookings to offset any taxes, fees or surcharges.
You can apply for the card here: