Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Annoying quirks with the new IHG and HSBC World Elite credit cards

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Two of most interesting travel credit card offers around at the moment come from two newly released cards:

HSBC Premier World Elite MasterCard comes with a bonus of 20,000 Avios points (or Cathay, Etihad or Singapore miles) for spending £2,000 within three months and a further bonus 20,000 points or miles for spending £12,000 within twelve months.  This card is only available to HSBC Premier current account holders.  I am obliged to remind you that the representative APR is 59.3% variable including the £195 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

The relaunched IHG Rewards Club Premium MasterCard comes with a voucher for a free night at any IHG Rewards Club property when you spend £10,000 per year.  You also receive IHG Rewards Club Platinum status for as long as you hold the card and there is a 20,000 IHG Rewards Club points sign-up bonus.  Representative APR 41.5% variable including the £99 fee based on a notional £1200 credit limit.

Because these cards are so new, we are only now beginning to work out how they function in the real world.

And, for both of the cards above, there appears to be a sneaky catch – the 12-month bonus will only be given at the end of your membership year.

IHG Rewards Club credit card premium

This doesn’t make a huge amount of sense in either case.  If you can spend £12,000 on your HSBC card in three months (I know one reader who spent £40,000 in his first month via business expenses) then it seems unfair to make you wait another nine months to get your second batch of 20,000 miles.

With the IHG card, this is actually a backwards step.  When the card was issued by Barclaycard, the free night voucher was issued within a couple of weeks of passing the £10,000 spending target.  Delaying it until the end of your card year simply annoys the cardholder and does nothing to benefit the card issuer.

(Whilst we’re on the topic of the IHG card, another sneaky quirk has emerged.  Creation, the card issuer, is rounding down each transaction to the nearest £1 when calculating the IHG points due.  It is not basing them on your total monthly spending.  If you make a lot of small transactions, especially for £x.99, this loss will add up.)

HSBC Premier World Elite

What other cards behave like this?

To be fair to HSBC and Creation, there are two other examples I can think of where your ‘reward’ is held back from you until the end of your card year:

American Express Gold gives you 10,000 bonus Membership Rewards points if you spend £15,000 in a card year.  This is not paid until a month after your card renewal date.

Virgin Flying Club Black (representative APR 57.4% variable including fee based on a £1200 credit limit) offers upgrade vouchers from Economy to Premium Economy – for miles redemptions – when you spend £5,000 and £10,000 on the American Express card.  These are not issued until the year end.

What happens if I want to cancel my card and not pay for a 2nd year?

This is a common question I get asked and I expect it to become more common given the two cards above.

In general, it appears that if you do not use your credit card after the renewal date, you can cancel it at any point for a refund of your fee.

This seems to be the MBNA policy which applies to Virgin Black.  If you want to ensure you get your upgrade vouchers, stop spending, wait for the vouchers to appear and then cancel the card.  You are, in any event, unlikely to have yet paid the bill which included your renewal fee.

With American Express Gold, you can cancel the card at any point for a pro-rata refund.  Your worst case scenario there is that you cancel after a month when the 10,000 bonus points appear and get 11/12th of your annual fee back.  If you haven’t used the card I would expect to get it all back.

We do not know what the HSBC or Creation policy will be.  I am fairly certain that if you follow the same option – not using the card after the anniversary date – they will not impose the 2nd year fee.  It is very unlikely that any attempt to make you pay for another year in order to get a benefit you earned in the first year would survive a complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority.


Want to earn more points from credit cards? – December 2020 update

If you are looking to apply for a new credit or charge card, here are my December 2020 recommendations based on the current sign-up bonus

You can see our full directory of all UK cards which earn airline or hotel points here.

British Airways American Express card

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up, no annual and a companion voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

BA Premium Plus American Express card BAPP

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

Earning miles and points from small business cards

If you are a sole trader or run a small company, you may also want to check out these:

American Express Business Gold card

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year Read our full review

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

Earn both Avios and BA On Business points with your business spending Read our full review

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

Disclaimer: Head for Points is a journalistic website. Nothing here should be construed as financial advice, and it is your own responsibility to ensure that any product is right for your circumstances. Recommendations are based primarily on the ability to earn miles and points and do not consider interest rates, service levels or any impact on your credit history.  By recommending credit cards on this site, I am – technically – acting as a credit broker.  Robert Burgess, trading as Head for Points, is regulated and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to act as a credit broker.

Comments (68)

  • Stewie says:

    Amex SPG question here – can’t find any recent posts on the subject – is there any way (through referral) to get a bigger signup bonus than 10k points? Or any sign of the 20k bonus coming back again?

    • Genghis says:

      You can get 11k if referred (with 5k for referrer).

    • Nick M says:

      You should be able to get 11k if referred by an existing cardholder (I’m happy to help if Raffles can’t!)

    • Rob says:

      No reason why 20k should come back. Competition is a lot weaker now that MBNA has stopped doing special bonuses.

  • Mike says:

    More and more previously quite unknown card issuers are popping up on the scene. This is due to many of the big players leaving points based schemes due to the removal of the interchange cap which funded the schemes previously. Therefore, may bigger players are looking at the market place and wondering how Creation and New Day are able to fund their schemes. It’s not entirely clear.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m always cautious with the “unknown” issuers. Having previously worked in a “higher risk” credit sanctioning area, sometimes the brands on your credit history can make a difference to the sanctioner’s appetite for the proposal. Barclays, HSBC, Amex – Tick! Creation, NewDay, Vanquis – Erm…

      Remember, sanctioners get spammed with NewDay’s “improve your credit history” “40% APR” emails too.

  • Ben says:

    Do we know whether any element of the HSBC bonus will be repeated annually?

  • Axel heyst says:

    Supercard tip found by accident in Spain

    If you can get your card transaction to go through as GBP instead of Euros you get charged at the same competitive rate as if it was a lical Euro transaction.

    Reataurant in Spain annoyingly put a £30 transaction as GPB two weeks ago and I didnt notice till the next day.

    Ive been waiting two weeks for extra exchange rates to appear on Supercard. But today I got a bonus of 37p credited to the account instead!!

    • Mr Dee says:

      This will depend on the merchant and their conversion rate as there will be a conversion done by them to get it to GBP usually at a less than favourable rate, 2 weeks ago the rate was slightly better than it is today I believe at around 1.20 as opposed to 1.18 today.

      Would think that they charge you a 1% fee for a GBP transaction using the supercard as well.

  • Chris H says:

    To not use the card after the first year, wait for the voucher to arrive/be eligible to use in Aug ’17 then probably not used in my case until say Oct ’17 as I’ll have just been in California for 3 weeks in June ’17, have the £99 go out of your account in August ’17, use the free night in Oct ’17 then cancel the card after the stay and argue for a refund to maybe then have to go to a regulatory body and complain sounds like a lot of faffing about. Have I got the process down correctly here? (Hopefully not and its a lot easier)

    In hindsight at the moment I regret getting this card, I shouldn’t have been so quick off the mark to sign up as if I’d have seen this post then I’d have given the card a wide berth. I probably should’ve concentrated my spend on the AMEX Gold to rack up the rewards points to add to my SPG account for California. Oh well, you live and learn, first mistake I’ve made since taking up this hobby.

    • Chris H says:

      Oh if you can cancel once voucher received and use when you want, then it would be OK. I just thought it would only be valid with the card, think I read something similar here about BA AMEX 2-4-1.

  • Paul says:

    HSBC elite:
    I surpassed the £2000 spend within 2 wk cooling off period then cancelled for full refund of the £195 fee. However I did specify I still wanted the points as no clause states not payable if you cancel within cooling off period.
    They logged my request and said they’d investigate, meanwhile my card is still active. 8weeks later, I have already received the bonus points and they have confirmed on the phone that they will refund me the few soon, when my card is downgraded back to a premier card…