A new miles earning credit card hit the market in mid-2018 and it represented the first foray by Bank of China (BOC) into the frequent flyer points scene in Singapore, with its Bank of China Elite Miles World Mastercard.
Here’s our review of the card, which forms part of our series of credit card reviews, all of which are summarised on our dedicated Credit Cards page.
Dollar amounts refer to SGD, and ‘miles’ refer equally to KrisFlyer Miles or Asia Miles, except where stated. This review was updated on 15th March 2018.
Annual fee: $190.00/yr (waived for first year)
Sign-up bonus: None
Local earn rate: 1.5 miles per $1
Overseas earn rate: 3.0 miles per $1
Minimum Age: 21
Minimum income (Singaporean): $30,000/yr
Minimum income (Foreigner): $60,000/yr
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The following promotional video was released when the card was first launched, with 5 miles per dollar for overseas spend and 2 miles per dollar for local spend until the end of 2018. The miles rates have since reverted to the standard 3 miles per dollar overseas and 1.5 miles per dollar locally.
The BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard has an annual fee of $190.00, however the fee is waived in the first year so there’s no upfront cost for this card.
There is no current sign-up bonus for this card.
The BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard earns:
- 1.5 miles for every $1 spent locally
- 3.0 miles for every $1 spent overseas*
* BOC changed the definition of overseas spend from 15th March 2019 to be “all transactions charged overseas, including card transactions made overseas but effected/charged in Singapore dollars, and online transactions effected in Singapore dollars or foreign currencies at merchants with payment gateway outside of Singapore”
You have to be careful shopping online with this card in foreign currency that the merchant payment gateway is also overseas, though this is sometimes difficult to ascertain.
There is no monthly or annual cap on the number of miles earned. These are very competitive rates normally only associated with credit cards commanding a much higher income requirement like the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite (150k minimum annual income).
Foreign currency transaction fee
One element which often ‘kills’ the benefit of an attractive overseas earn rate on a credit card is the foreign transaction fee, actually made up of three elements – the ‘spread’, the card issuer fee and the card network fee.
Added together it means you’re probably paying 3.0% to 4.5% more than the XE rate when you use your credit card to make a transaction in foreign currency (though about 1% of that, the ‘spread’ is unavoidable, even if you use a money changer before your trip).
As you’re paying more for overseas spend with a credit card than you would be using cash from a money changer, you’re effectively ‘buying’ the miles you receive for these transactions.
We did a full analysis of exactly how much you’re paying per mile for the most commonly held Singapore-issued miles earning credit cards back in February least year, so we thought we’d add the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard into the table of general spending cards to see how it compares.
Foreign currency fees for other cards have also been updated to March 2019. For the full methodology on this, see our article from February (though the values there are a little out of date).
Cost per mile on overseas credit card transactions by card
(Best to worst, March 2019)
|Card||Fee||Miles per S$||Cost per mile|
|BOC Elite Miles
|Standard Chartered Visa Infinite||3.5%||3.0||1.22¢|
|AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend*||2.5%||2.0||1.36¢|
|HSBC Visa Infinite||2.5%||2.0||1.36¢|
|Maybank Horizon Visa||2.5%||2.0||1.36¢|
|OCBC Voyage Visa||3.0%||2.3||1.39¢|
|UOB PRVI Miles||3.25%||2.4||1.43¢|
|Citi PremierMiles / Prestige||3.0%||2.0||1.60¢|
|DBS Altitude Visa / Amex||3.0%||2.0||1.60¢|
* During the calendar months of June and December only
As you can see this knocks the Standard Chartered Visa Infinite (SCVI) card clean off the top of the list, and that’s because BOC cards only have a 3.0% foreign transaction fee levied.
Even though this increased in early 2019 (from 2.5%), it’s still giving you the best cost per mile due to the high number of miles awarded per $1 spent.
Bear in mind also the SCVI only earns 3mpd on overseas transactions provided a minimum spend of $2,000 is made on the card in each statement cycle – that’s not necessary for the BOC card.
As the table shows, using the BOC Elite Miles card for overseas spend means you’re ‘buying’ KrisFlyer miles (or Asia Miles) for just over cent each, well below our upper limit for buying miles of 2 cents each.
You won’t directly accrue miles with this card, instead you’ll earn ‘BOC points’ which work on a slightly different multiplier as they transfer to both KrisFlyer miles and Asia Miles at a 3:1 ratio.
For example with $20,000 of local spend you will receive 90,000 BOC points, which you can then redeem for 30,000 miles (1.5 miles per $1).
Do BOC points expire?
Yes, and you will have to be quite careful here with this card as it’s less generous than others on the market with points expiry ranging from 1 to 2 years depending on the transaction date.
Points expiry happens on 30th June each year for the transactions conducted between 1st July two years beforehand and 30th June the previous year. Sounds a bit complicated so here’s a table with examples to help you.
|Points Earned Between||Expire On|
|1 Jul 2018 – 30 Jun 2019||30 Jun 2020|
|1 Jul 2019 – 30 June 2020||30 Jun 2021|
|1 Jul 2020 – 30 Jun 2021||30 Jun 2022|
As you can see in the worst case scenario points earned from a transaction made on 30th June will expire exactly one year later. That’s the shortest validity period however because if you make a transaction the following day on 1st July the points associated with that one will now last almost exactly 2 years.
As you make transactions between 1st July and 30th June the following year, the points validity for the respective transaction progressively decreases from almost 2 years back towards 1 year again before resetting on the following 1st July.
Remember once you transfer points to KrisFlyer they then have a further three years validity.
How are BOC points rounded?
All eligible transactions are considered in each monthly statement cycle, right down to the cent.
At the end of the statement cycle, all your eligible local transactions are totalled, again right down to the cent, and multiplied by 4.5. That total is rounded down to the next whole number and that is the total number of BOC Bonus Points awarded in this category.
The same applies with your eligible overseas transactions, except these are multiplied by 9.0.
The two rounded down BOC Points totals (local and overseas) are then summed to generate your final accrual for the month.
This is great news because it means the cents count too. While may cards round the transaction down to the nearest dollar (or five) before awarding points, BOC does not do this.
For example for a total local monthly spend of $1,548.61 and overseas spend of $827.99 your points are calculated as follows:
- Local: $1,548.61 x 4.5 = 6,968.745, rounded down = 6,968 Points
- Overseas: $827.99 x 9.0 = 7,451.91, rounded down = 7,451 Points
- Total BOC Bonus Points = 14,419
It means you’re always getting practically exactly the advertised miles total, however small the transaction.
That’s much better than most other cards, for example Citi PremierMiles requires $1 minimum spend to earn miles locally or overseas, while the UOB PRVI Miles requires a $5 minimum spend. Transactions are then rounded down for these cards.
Which loyalty schemes can I transfer into?
BOC points transfer into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
What is the transfer cost to miles?
It’ll cost you $30 (including GST) each time you transfer your points either to KrisFlyer miles or Asia Miles.
What’s the minimum transfer amount?
The minimum volume of BOC points you can transfer into KrisFlyer is 30,000 (giving you 10,000 miles), with incremental blocks of 30,000 (10,000 miles) for larger transfers.
For Asia Miles the 3:1 ratio is the same as we know, but transfer blocks are smaller for whatever reason. Here the minimum is 18,000 BOC points (6,000 Asia Miles), with incremental blocks of 18,000 (6,000 Asia Miles) for larger transfers.
What’s the maximum transfer amount?
Since 15th March 2019, each conversion from BOC Points to air miles is capped at 10 ‘blocks’. Since the blocks are of 6,000 miles each for Asia Miles and 10,000 miles each for KrisFlyer miles it means you are now capped at the following maximum in a single transfer:
- 300,000 BOC Points to KrisFlyer – giving you 100,000 miles
- 180,000 BOC Points to Asia Miles – giving you 60,000 miles
Of course if you have more miles than that you wish to transfer that remains possible, however you will need to pay the $30 fee again for the subsequent transfer.
For most of our readers who transfer to KrisFlyer this isn’t a significant impact. For Asia Miles it seems a little harsh, due to the smaller transfer block size.
How to transfer to miles
To actually process the transfer you’ll have to fill out the following PDF form and email or post it to BOC. It’s old school, but it works.
How long do miles take to credit to KrisFlyer / Asia Miles?
The card terms and conditions state that the transfer process will take “approximately 14 to 21 working days”. That’s a very long time – basically up to a month.
Some other credit cards issued in Singapore make similar statements about the conversion time to frequent flyer miles, but actually process much faster. OCBC for example state “approximately 21 working days” (i.e. a month) but usually it takes 24 hours in reality.
We have made two transfers from BOC Points to KrisFlyer miles. The first time, in November 2018, it took just over a month from request to crediting. Not a good sign at all.
Last week we initiated our second transfer. This time the miles were credited to KrisFlyer after 8 days (including 6 working days). We had heard this timing had improved and it’s good to see that just over a week is now the likely wait time. That’s still a little long though if you’re trying to jump on an available redemption, with other cards transferring to KrisFlyer much more quickly.
There are two lounge access programs applicable to BOC Elite Miles cardholders, offering the following:
- Four Plaza Premium Lounge visits per year (no guest allowance). This covers around 80 airport lounges worldwide including 4 in Singapore.
- Mastercard Airport Experiences which allows access to over 1,000 airport lounges (search them here) through LoungeKey for a fee of US$27 per visit.
Miles for bus and MRT fares
Here’s a relatively rare benefit you can get from the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard, the ability to earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on bus and MRT journeys.
Like most cards, loading of prepaid card accounts like EZ-Link and TransitLink are not eligible transactions for miles earning, however this card features contactless payment through “Mastercard contactless” meaning you can add the card to your Transitlink Account-Based Ticketing (ABT) account.
You’ll need to register your account via the above link if you don’t already have one, though this should then allow you to use your card for fare payments with no need for an upfront top-up. Your train and bus fares will be processed and charged directly to your credit card, allowing miles earning at the local rate.
For those channelling a significant annual spend through bus and train commutes this could add up to a nice miles bonus each year.
The BOC Elite Miles card is also one of those accepted by RentHero to earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on your Singapore condo or house rental.
Currently you can use our promo code MAINLYMILES with any RentHero payment, one-off or recurring, and enjoy a discounted 1.90% fee for the transaction (usually 2.25%).
Click here for full details of the offer.
To us a number of factors stand out with the new BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard:
- A highly competitive local and overseas earning rate for general spending.
- Lowest cost per mile for overseas transactions.
- A competitive income requirement.
- Fee-free for the first year.
- 1.5 miles per dollar on all bus and MRT journeys using Mastercard contactless / Transitlink ABT.
These factors make this card a great miles earning option for general spending both in Singapore and overseas in our opinion. The ability to transfer to Asia Miles as well as KrisFlyer is a welcome addition many will find useful.
One downside is the relatively short validity period of BOC points (as little as 1 year) and the relatively large transfer blocks to KrisFlyer miles (30,000 points or 10,000 miles) meaning at the ongoing local earn rate of 1.5 miles per $1 you’ll have to spend at least $6,666.67 for each transfer block, though over a year it should be no issue to achieve the next ‘block threshold’ prior to expiry.
Lately the addition of a cap on the number of BOC Point ‘blocks’ you can convert to miles in a single transfer also means you’ll pay at least $30 per 100,000 miles credited into KrisFlyer, or for every 60,000 miles into Asia Miles.
The demonstrated transfer time from BOC points to miles is also among the poorer banks at over a week.
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Our recommendations for credit cards and other similar products on this site do not constitute financial advice.
(Cover Photo: Nils Nedel)