HSBC has just announced that they will be making changes to the features of many of their credit cards, including the popular HSBC World Elite Mastercard. These changes will take effect on February 1, 2023.
Everything is getting a slight adjustment, including earning rates, insurance, and the rewards program. Here are they key changes to be aware of as a traveller and points collector.
Category Earning Rates
The HSBC World Elite Mastercard has long been a favourite for its high earning rate on uncategorized transactions.
Currently, the card earns points on daily spending as follows:
- 6 points per dollar spent on travel
- 3 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
With HSBC Rewards valued at 0.5 cents per point for statement credit, or more via airline transfer partners, the card earns a minimum of 1.5% back on every purchase. That’s quite high, and it’s one of the only cards left in Canada that offers such a high rate on general spending.
However, the card is introducing new category bonuses, dropping the base rate in the process. As of February 1, 2023, here’s what you’ll earn on everyday spending:
- 6 points per dollar spent on travel
- 4 points per dollar spent on groceries, gas, and drugstores
- 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases
This move aligns HSBC more closely with its competitors, as almost all other Canadian credit cards use a category structure.
As is always the case with category bonuses, this may be a win or a loss, depending on your individual spending habits. I’m personally a bit disappointed, as I was rather fond of the high base rate as a unique feature of this card.
HSBC will also be adding new and improved insurance benefits for cardholders.
Emergency medical insurance is getting a significant boost. Currently, it covers up to $1 million in claims for trips up to 31 days, with no coverage for cardholders 65 years or older.
As of February 1, 2023, you’ll now be covered for up to $2 million. Also, cardholders 65 years or older will be covered for trips up to 21 days. This is a hugely generous protection for a vulnerable demographic, one that is often underserved by credit card insurance for that very reason.
Baggage delay insurance is also getting a boost. Instead of claiming up to $750 for delays of 12 hours or longer, you’ll be able to claim up to $1,000 for delays of six hours or longer.
Rounding out the travel coverage, there will be new insurance coverage for flight delays over 6 hours, and hotel burglary up to $1,000.
As for everyday purchases, cardholders will also enjoy mobile device insurance up to $1,000. Previously a niche perk, this coverage is now slowly making its way throughout the credit card industry.
Finally, HSBC is adding price protection, a very exciting and rare feature on Canadian credit cards.
You’ll be able to claim the difference between the price you paid and a lower advertised price, if the price drops within 60 days of your purchase, up to $500 per transaction and $1,000 per calendar year.
Needless to say, these insurance additions are sweeping, and HSBC has really stepped up here.
Annual Fee Rebates
HSBC is expanding and simplifying the annual fee rebates they offer for their banking clients.
There’s a flavour of the HSBC World Elite Mastercard known as the HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard, only available to Premier banking customers. Currently, Premier clients can get a $50 credit towards the $149 annual fee each year for the exclusive Premier World Elite card, which is identical to the regular World Elite card in every other way.
Soon, Premier clients will also get the same rebate off the regular World Elite card. This ought to streamline their product catalog, reducing needless complexity.
You can qualify as a Premier client on the basis of your balances, recurring deposits, or mortgage with HSBC Canada, or by being a Premier client with HSBC in another country.
Additionally, HSBC Advance clients will now get an annual fee rebate of $25. You can become an Advance client by opening an HSBC Advance chequing account, for which the fees can be waived by maintaining a minimum balance.
Finally, HSBC Private (formerly Jade) clients will now get the annual fee for the World Elite card fully waived every year.
Combined with the $100 annual travel credit, this effectively reduces the $149 annual fee to $24 for Advance clients, or a net gain of $1 or $100 for Premier or Private clients, respectively. For a card that already had strong appeal as a long-term keeper, that proposition has only gotten stronger.
If you’re not interested in the World Elite card, the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard’s $25 annual fee will be fully waived for any Advance, Premier, or Private client.
No More Supplementary Card Fee
The HSBC World Elite Mastercard will be eliminating the $50 fee to add a supplementary card to your account. Plain and simple, this is a win for anyone who adds multiple users to the same spending account.
As before, you can add up to four supplementary cards to your account. Note that insurance benefits may vary for supplementary cardholders.
More Travel Redemptions?
HSBC will be partnering with a new online travel agency, allowing cardholders to book flights, hotels, and other travel arrangements directly with points. I’d expect this to work much like Expedia for TD or the CIBC Aventura portal, with points costs based on a cash equivalent.
Alternatively, you can continue to use points for statement credit to cover travel expenses. I’m a big fan of this seamless feature, and I’ll probably keep using it in most cases where I don’t opt to transfer my HSBC Rewards points to an airline partner.
New Premium Mastercard?
In the document outlining these upcoming changes, HSBC makes reference to the HSBC Metal World Elite Mastercard, which will replace the HSBC Jade World Elite Mastercard.
The new card will have a $499 annual fee, up from the Jade card’s $299 annual fee. While details are scarce, this leads me to believe that the new metal card will come with a suite of top-tier benefits, and that it may not be restricted to Private banking clients but instead open to any credit card applicant who qualifies.
Indeed, there’ve been whispers of a premium metal Mastercard entering the Canadian market to compete with Visa Infinite Privilege cards. We’ll keep a close eye on this as it develops.
Overall, I’d say the upcoming changes to the HSBC World Elite Mastercard are mostly positive, and on balance a net win.
In particular, comprehensive insurance on travel and everyday purchases is quite impressive. I’m also pleased to see that the costs of being a cardholder are reduced for HSBC banking clients.
I’ll be sad to see the card’s strong base earn rate cut in favour of higher rewards on categorized spending. Most importantly, though, no foreign transaction fees are here to stay.
As an HSBC banking client myself, I’ll certainly continue to keep my HSBC World Elite Mastercard long-term after February 1, 2023. Even with the reduced earn rate on uncategorized transactions, there’s still more than enough appeal to make this card an everyday fixture.