Asia Miles Credit Cards KrisFlyer

Credit Card Review: HSBC Visa Infinite

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Here’s our review of the HSBC Visa Infinite card issued in Singapore. It forms part of our series of credit card reviews, which are all summarised on our dedicated Credit Cards page.

Dollar amounts refer to SGD, and ‘miles’ refer to KrisFlyer miles, except where stated. This review was updated on 28th December 2019.

Key features

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Annual fee: $650.00/yr*
EIR/APR: 28.0%
Sign-up bonus: 35,000 miles
Local earn rate (year 1): 1 mile per $1
Local earn rate (year 2+): 1.25 miles per $1**
Overseas earn rate (year 1): 2 miles per $1
Overseas earn rate (year 2+): 2.25 miles per $1**
Foreign transaction fee: 2.8%
Minimum Age: 21
Minimum income: $120,000/yr
* HSBC Premier customers: $488.00/yr
** With a minimum spend of S$50,000 in year 1

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Annual Fee

The annual fee for the HSBC Visa Infinite card is $650.00. HSBC Premier customers are entitled to a discounted annual fee of $488.00. The annual fee is not waivable.

Up to five supplementary cards can be added to your account for free.

Fixed deposit alternative

If you do not meet the minimum annual income requirement of $120,000, you can still be considered for the HSBC Visa Infinite card with a minimum fixed deposit of S$30,000, maintained with the bank until account closure.

Sign-up bonus

The HSBC Visa Infinite card currently has a sign-up bonus of 35,000 miles, which is almost consistently offered year round. In early 2019 a 40,000 miles offer was also available for a limited time.

If you have held the HSBC Visa Infinite cared before and cancelled it within the last 12 months, you will not be entitled to the sign-up bonus.

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The sign-up bonus is paid as HSBC Rewards points, which you can then transfer into frequent flyer miles.

Don’t get too excited by the “over 40 airlines” advertising tagline. In reality you can only convert your HSBC Rewards points into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles or Asia Miles. The bank is then counting all Star Alliance and SIA Partner airlines, plus all oneworld carriers in the case of Asia miles, in its sum of 40!

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How HSBC gets from two FFPs to over 40 airlines. (Image: HSBC)

While it’s true that you can redeem HSBC Rewards points with all these airlines, you can only transfer into one of two FFPs in order to then do so.

Since we value KrisFlyer miles at 1.9 cents each, these 35,000 miles are worth at least $665 against future Singapore Airlines flight redemptions, so the card effectively pays for itself, even if you won’t use the other perks in year one.

Looking at it another way, it’s an effective cost per mile of 1.86 cents for regular cardholders and 1.39 cents for HSBC Premier customers.

There is no minimum spend required to trigger the sign-up bonus.

Those who apply online with MyInfo via SingPass will also be entitled to $20 of Grab rides, provided their application is made by 31st December 2019, for cards approved and issued by 15th January 2020. See the terms and conditions for that offer here.

Renewal bonus

HSBC previously used to offer miles to some customers when paying their annual fee on card renewal (e.g. at the end of the first year), however this was never consistently offered.

More recently we understand a miles renewal bonus is not awarded in subsequent years, so you’ll have to justify the full cost of this card ($650 or $488 depending on your banking relationship status with HSBC) for subsequent renewals.

Earning rates

The HSBC Visa Infinite card earns 1 mile for every $1 spent locally (i.e. transacted in SGD), and 2 miles for every $1 spent overseas (i.e. transacted in foreign currency).

Those rates increase, but only from year two, provided you spent at least $50,000 in the previous year, to 1.25 miles per $1 spent locally and 2.25 miles per $1 spent overseas.

To retain the higher rate, which HSBC calls the ‘step up earn rate’, you’ll still need to transact at least $50,000 in the previous year, otherwise you’ll drop back to the regular rates.

For example if you spend $52,000 in Year 1, then you’ll be entitled to the ‘step up earn rate’ in Year 2, but then if your spend in Year 2 is only $48,000 you’ll be back to the regular earn rate for Year 3.

These earn rates compare poorly with other credit cards on the market in Singapore, including the UOB PRVI Miles (1.4mpd locally, 2.4mpd overseas) and the BOC Elite Miles (1.5 mpd locally, 3mpd overseas).

Eligible transactions

Eligible transactions on the HSBC Visa Infinite card for miles earning are all retail purchases including recurring payments, with the exception of:

  • Fund transfers, balance transfers, cash advances, finance charges, late charges, and any other fees and charges pursuant to HSBC’s credit card cardholder’s agreement
  • Charges to a card under HSBC’s Cash Instalment Plan, any expenditure incurred as part of a ‘Points plus cash’ redemption, any expenditure relating to a corporate or business transaction
  • Transactions relating to the trading of securities of any kind including but not limited to any top up of any cash amount required by a financial institution, transactions relating to any stored value card including but not limited to EZLink and Transitlink facilities.
  • Transactions relating to any payment or money transfer facilities, any un-posted, cancelled, disputed and refunded transactions and such other categories of transactions which HSBC may exclude from time to time without notice or giving reasons.

This list may be updated from time to time, so check the HSBC Rewards Programme Terms & Conditions for the latest information.

Importantly, HSBC does not exclude categories such as utilities and insurance premiums from miles earning.

Bonus earning rate

The HSBC Visa Infinite card offers 4 miles per dollar spent at selected (high-end) retailers, with no cap. Known as the ‘Infinite Bonus Miles’ promotion, the following retailers and outlets are included:

Retailer Eligible outlets
Bang & Olufsen 10-12 Scotts Road,
Grand Hyatt Singapore #01-05
Diesel 10-12 Scotts Road,
Grand Hyatt Singapore #01-05
Dsquared2 2 Orchard Turn,
ION Orchard #01-08
Georg Jensen 391 Orchard Road, #B1-03A
Takashimaya Shopping Centre
Max Mara 333-A Orchard Road,
Mandarin Gallery #01-10/02-11
MAX&Co. 290 Orchard Road,
Paragon #02-12
TUMI 2 Bayfront Avenue, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, Galleria Level #B2-41

391 Orchard Road,
Ngee Ann City #03-05

333A Orchard Road,
Mandarin Gallery #01-19

252 North Bridge Road,
Raffles City Shopping Centre #01-33A

26 Sentosa Gateway,
Resorts World Sentosa #02-105

65 Airport Boulevard,
Terminal 3, Departure/Transit #02-52
Terminal 1, Departure/Transit Lounge West #02-35
Singapore Changi Airport

Y-3 333-A Orchard Road,
Mandarin Gallery #01-05

These are expensive places to shop, no doubt, but if you were eyeing up that TUMI suitcase the important part of this deal is that there’s no upper earning cap, unlike other cards offering 4 miles per dollar on shopping transactions.

Note that the base earn rate for your card will initially be applied to transactions at these outlets. The bonus reward points, brining the total to 10 HSBC Rewards points (4 miles) per dollar, will be awarded on a quarterly basis one month after the quarter ends.

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Bang & Olufsen’s Scotts Road store is one place you’ll get an unlimited 4mpd with your HSBC Visa Infinite card. (Photo: Bang & Olufsen)

That’s quite a long wait of up to four months before you’ll see the bonus points in your account, so this isn’t a quick way to top up your balance.

Eligible transactions made by supplementary cardholder(s) will be calculated towards the awarding of bonus Rewards points but only the account of the primary eligible cardholder will be credited the bonus Rewards points.

Full terms and conditions are available at the product landing page (under Lifestyle > Infinite Bonus Miles).

Are KrisFlyer miles credited directly?

No, with this card you’ll actually accrue ‘HSBC Rewards points’, both for the sign-up bonus and for your spending. These transfer to KrisFlyer miles at a 2.5:1 ratio, so for $10,000 of local spending in the first year of card membership, you’ll net 25,000 HSBC Rewards points, which can be converted to 10,000 KrisFlyer miles.

HSBC Mileage Programme

With most credit cards in Singapore you’ll pay a transfer fee, typically $25, each time you convert your points into an airline frequent flyer programme.

With HSBC it’s slightly different. You’ll instead pay an annual fee of $40+GST (i.e. $42.80) to enrol in the HSBC Mileage Programme. You are then be free to make unlimited transfers to KrisFlyer throughout the year.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to top up several times a year, this is typically more cost effective than with other cards. If you typically allow your points to accumulate and make an annual transfer into miles, you’re paying over the odds with HSBC for that single transfer.

Alternatively, you can redeem 9,000 Rewards points for a waiver of the Mileage Programme fee. Since 9,000 points converts into 3,600 KrisFlyer miles, which we approximately value at $68, this makes little sense and you should instead be paying the $42.80 fee to enrol.

You have to complete and send an enrolment form, which is a little archaic, to join the HSBC Mileage Programme. You can find a link to the form here.

Which loyalty schemes can I transfer into?

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. The same earning rate, transfer cost, and minimum transfer ‘blocks’ (see below) apply if you choose to credit to Asia Miles.

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Is there a minimum transfer amount?

The minimum volume of miles you can transfer into KrisFlyer or Asia Miles is 10,000 (i.e. 25,000 HSBC Rewards points). Thereafter they must then be transferred in blocks of 10,000.

Previously, HSBC allowed smaller transfer blocks in 2,000-mile increments (i.e. 5,000 HSBC Rewards points), however this is no longer possible even though the HSBC Rewards Programme enrolment form still incorrectly refers to this.

Do HSBC Rewards points expire?

Yes, points expire at the end of a 37-month period commencing from the month subsequent to the month in which such points were awarded.

That gives you three years and one month of validity. For example any points awarded in February 2020 will expire on 31st March 2023.

Once you transfer to KrisFlyer miles, your points will have a further three-year validity. If you transfer into Asia Miles they will never expire, under the scheme’s new policy from January 2020 that provided you earn or redeem at least 1 Asia mile every 18 months, all your miles will remain intact.

How long do miles take to credit to KrisFlyer?

HSBC states that “approximately three weeks is required to process the transfer of miles from a credit cardholder’s account to the credit cardholder’s personal frequent flyer account.”

In reality HSBC actually completes transfers to KrisFlyer miles in weekly batches, so the longest you should be waiting is one week.

That’s still quite a long time if you need the miles to lock in an available redemption, or for short term travel.

Points rounding

Every eligible transaction you make using the HSBC Visa Infinite card is rounded (up or down) to the nearest Singapore dollar (after conversion from foreign currency if applicable), before HSBC Rewards points are then assessed.

Example:

  • $20.49 rounds down to $20
  • $20.50 rounds up to $21

The appropriate multiplier of HSBC Rewards points is then applied to the transaction, depending on its nature, rounded down to the next whole point.

Example (regular earn rate):

  • $20 x 2.5 (local) = 50 points
  • $20 x 5.0 (overseas) = 105 points

Example (Step up earn rate)

  • $20 x 3.125 (local) = 62.5 points (rounded down to 62 points)
  • $20 x 5.625 (overseas) = 112.5 points (rounded down to 112 points)

Minimum spend to earn points

Since every amount you spend is rounded to the nearest dollar before HSBC Rewards points are accounted for, $0.50 is the minimum transaction amount in order to earn points.

Forex fee / cpm overseas

The HSBC Visa Infinite card has a 2.8% foreign currency transaction fee, which is among the lowest on the market in Singapore.

With a relatively mundane regular overseas earn rate of 2 miles per dollar however, it’s certainly not the best card to use as it means paying 1.50 cents per mile when spending in foreign currency.

There are better cards than that for overseas spend, and you should be looking at the BOC Elite Miles or Standard Chartered Visa Infinite for much better rates, not just in cost per mile terms but miles per dollar too.

A possible exception is the ‘step up rate’ on the HSBC Visa Infinite card, applicable from year two and requiring at least $50,000 of spend in the previous year. In this situation you are paying 1.33 cents per mile for foreign currency spend, a much more competitive rate.

Cost per mile on overseas credit card transactions by card
(Best to worst, December 2019)

Card Fee Miles per $ Cost per mile
Card.pngBOC EM 3.0% 3.0 1.06¢
image_standard-chartered-visa-infinite@2x02.pngSCVI 3.5% 3.0 1.22¢
HSBCviNEW2HSBC VI
(Step up rate)
2.8% 2.25 1.33¢
AscendCC.pngKF Ascend 2.5% 2.0 1.36¢
Card.jpgOCBC Voyage 3.0% 2.3 1.39¢
Card Trans.pngUOB PRVI Miles 3.25% 2.4 1.43¢
Card.pngMaybank Horizon Visa 2.75% 2.0 1.48¢
HSBCviNEW2HSBC VI
(Regular rate)
2.8% 2.0 1.50¢
CardOCBC 90°N
3.0% 2.1 1.52¢
Card2019.pngCiti PM Visa 3.25% 2.0 1.71¢
Altitude Card.jpgDBS Altitude 3.25% 2.0 1.71¢
CardX Card 3.5% 2.0 1.83¢
Card 2KrisFlyer UOB 3.25% 1.2 2.86¢

Cost per mile also accounts for an additional 0.3% ‘spread’ over money changer currency rates, though this doesn’t apply to all banks and all foreign currencies, so is a worst-case scenario.

What else can HSBC Rewards points be used for?

There are a variety of rewards other than airline miles you can use your HSBC Rewards points for, though as usual they all represent much poorer value.

We know that 2.5 HSBC Rewards points can be converted into 1 KrisFlyer mile, which we value at 1.9 cents each, so that’s approximately 0.76 cents value per HSBC Rewards point when used this way.

Other transfer options are largely for shopping and retail vouchers, for example a $20 Dairy Farm voucher (for use at Cold Storage, Giant, Guardian and others) will set you back 7,000 HSBC Rewards points.

The same number of points should be getting you 2,800 KrisFlyer miles (or Asia Miles), worth about $53.20. You should never be using your HSBC Rewards points for anything other than KrisFlyer miles or Asia Miles transfers.

Some of these alternative redemption options can however be useful ways to ‘cash out’ of the scheme, for example prior to cancelling the card, if you fall below one of the airline miles redemption thresholds.

Lounge access

The HSBC Visa Infinite card comes ready linked to an unlimited LoungeKey account for worldwide airport lounge access. When you visit a participating lounge, simply show your credit card, a valid boarding pass and quote ‘LoungeKey’ to the reception staff for free access.

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LoungeKey is effectively a subset of Priority Pass (both are owned by UK-based Collinson International), however you cannot buy LoungeKey access – it is always linked to your credit card. There is therefore no membership card required.

Both primary and supplementary cardholders are eligible for free access, whether travelling together or separately.

There is no guest allowance, so if you bring guests into the lounge with you the additional charge is charged to your card at a rate of US$32 per guest.

Even if you travel on your own as a primary or supplementary cardholder, you may have to sign for a pre-authorisation amount, however this will not be charged to the card.

Over 1,100 lounges are included in the program, including all the usual third-party options at Singapore Changi Airport, and you can search the lounge list here.

Overview Back
LoungeKey, a subset of Priority Pass, includes access to most third-party lounges including the Changi Lounge in Jewel. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The closest comparison to this level of LoungeKey access is the Priority Pass Prestige membership level (unlimited free member visits, US$32 fee for guests). That membership is regularly priced at US$429 (around S$580), however promotional offers are regularly available.

Free airport limo rides

For regular travellers one of the most valuable perks of the HSBC Visa Infinite card in Singapore is an allocation of complimentary one-way limo rides to Changi Airport. We have a full rundown of which credit cards provide this service, but it’s safe to say the HSBC offer is the most generous.

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You can take up to 24 complimentary limo rides to Changi Airport per year with the HSBC Visa Infinite card

Believe it or not, HSBC used to offer completely unlimited airport transfers for holders of its Visa Infinite card, with a spend of at least S$5,000 per quarter.

That benefit was replaced with the current deal in late 2016, however this still arguably provides the best offer on the market – an airport limo transfer for every S$2,000 spent on the card.

HSBC provide you with 2 complimentary airport rides at the start of each calendar year, with 4 such rides for HSBC Premier customers, or when you first sign up for the card, with no minimum spend requirements.

After that you’ll earn a complimentary transfer to Changi airport for every S$2,000 spent on your card in a single calendar month. You are able to utilise these transfer(s) from the start of the following month through to the end of the calendar year.

Eligible transactions for this spend are the same as for miles earning, as described earlier in the review.

You can earn up to 24 complimentary transfers per year, inclusive of those provided at the start of the year (with no minimum spend requirements).

Complimentary rides cannot be carried into the following calendar year, with the exception of those earned in December, which can then be used in the subsequent calendar year.

You must book at least 24 hours prior to the pickup time with a valid flight departing from Singapore Changi Airport. Wolero, the provider of this service, has an online booking system.

2 guests of the primary cardholder can accompany you, provided that they are travelling on the same flight. Each primary cardholder can only have one outstanding booking for this service at any time.

Vehicle type is a Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Audi A6. There is an additional $12 midnight surcharge for rides between 12am and 6am, and a $10 surcharge for pickups from Sentosa Island, Jurong Island and Tuas South. These surcharges are payable in cash to the driver.

Last minute cancellation fees also apply. Full terms and conditions are available here (see section 17), with frequently asked questions also available here.

Expedited immigration

In a similar fashion to the complimentary one-way limo ride, HSBC provide you with 2 expedited immigration clearances at the start of each calendar year, with 4 such benefits for HSBC Premier customers, or when you first sign up for the card.

After that, you’ll also earn a complimentary expedited immigration clearance at one of a range of participating airports for every S$2,000 spent on your card in a single calendar month.

Eligible transactions for this spend are the same as for miles earning, as described earlier in the review.

You are able to utilise these transfer(s) from the start of the following month through to the end of the calendar year and again you can earn up to 24 expedited immigration clearances per year, inclusive of those provided at the start of the year (with no minimum spend requirements).

A full list of participating airports is available here.

Other benefits

Some of the key additional benefits with the HSBC Visa Infinite card which will be of most interest to our readers are:

  • Comprehensive travel insurance when your trip is paid using your HSBC Visa Infinite card, including trips that you’ve paid jointly with your HSBC Visa Infinite card and any air miles redemption. Full policy wording is here.
  • 24/7 dedicated concierge service for hotel bookings, spa or dining appointments, etc.
  • Complimentary spa access at ESPA Resorts World Sentosa, with other discounts available. Limited to two visits per month, other conditions apply.
  • Up to 50% off dining at Marriott Tang Plaza restaurants when you charge the bill to your HSBC Visa Infinite credit card. Conditions apply.
  • Golfing privileges including 50% off green fees at 50 South East Asian golf clubs and complimentary weekday green fees at Serapong and New Tanjong courses at Sentosa Golf Club.
  • Visa’s Luxury Hotel Collection, as a Visa Infinite cardholder. This includes automatic room upgrade where available, complimentary breakfast and a US$25 food and beverage credit.

Other features

The HSBC Visa Infinite card can be used for contactless transactions, and can be added to Apple Pay.

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You can also download the HSBC Singapore app and use it as a virtual card on your mobile phone.

Our summary

The HSBC Visa Infinite card comes with a hefty price tag for most of our readers, at $650 per year, but has some nice benefits for the money.

First up is the 35,000 miles welcome bonus, worth more than the annual fee itself if used wisely. After that regular travellers will be able to take advantage of a generous allocation of complimentary one-way airport limo rides, expedited immigration clearance at selected airports, and unlimited lounge access.

The downside is the poor miles earning rate, both locally and overseas. If you spend $50,000 on this card in the first year of membership ($30,000 locally and $20,000 in foreign currency), you’ve already lost out on 35,000 additional miles you could have earned with the BOC Elite Miles card replicating the same spending pattern.

The next issue is keeping this card into year two. Assuming you pay $650 in year 1 primarily for the sign-up bonus, that is now gone in the second year with no regular recurring miles bonus offered.

That means even if you spent more than $50,000 on this card in the first year, in order to generate the ‘step up miles’ rate in year 2, those rates are still nothing to write home about. You’ll be earning an inferior rate to several more accessible credit cards, and having to justify $650 a year for unlimited lounge access, plus some limo rides and expedited immigration clearances.

We can’t see that being a good proposition for most of our readers, so for us this is a card to get for its first year benefits then ditch before you pay the second year annual fee is payable.

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Our recommendations for credit cards and other similar products on this site do not constitute financial advice.

(Cover Photo: HSBC)

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