Racking up miles on plastic

Credit cards can be an effective way of earning air miles, but you need to search around to find the best deals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 6:31pm

Air miles are a big part of credit card incentive schemes. People get points for spending, and if they manage their spending and pay their credit card bills each month, they can score a free trip to Thailand.

But credit card plans are complicated - one might think deliberately so, as it prevents comparison with other plans. To shed a little light on this opaque matter, we will break down the local credit card promotion plans on the specific reward scheme of Asia Miles, the frequent flyer programme used by Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Air China and others.

Many cards will grant Asia Miles as an incentive to use their credit cards. You can redeem the points for flights or to pay for hotels or meals at restaurants.

To give an idea of the attractiveness of the plan, a return flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok costs 20,000 Asia Miles. Credit card firms will grant one air mile for every HK$5 spent on the card at the low end, or HK$16.50 at the high end (see table).

The Citibank Prestige card offers 30,000 Asia Miles on payment of the annual fee.

The Fubon Elite Platinum card offers 10,000 miles if the cardholder spends HK$10,000 within the first two months. It offers a variety of other schemes to earn bonus points, as well as waiving three years of the annual credit card fee.

Frequent flyers with Cathay Pacific should check out the American Express Cathay Pacific Card. Besides having one of the best spending-to-air-mile ratios, you also get one Asia Mile for every HK$4 you spend on a Cathay ticket. This scheme allows you to accumulate a substantial amount of points if you fly regularly with the airline.

Standard Chartered and HSBC cards do not offer specific promotions for Asia Miles. HSBC, however, does have a mileage programme available to most of their cards that allows HSBC reward points to be converted to Asia Miles at an annual fee of HK$300. Standard Chartered cards have a system of multiplying reward points that differs depending on which card you use.

But perhaps the pick of the bunch is the DBS Black Card. The card offers the best spending ratio with only HK$6 needed to be spent to redeem one Asia Mile. The card will grant up to 32,000 Asia Miles on signing, provided you spend enough (HK$120,000), and it has one of the lowest income thresholds for application to the card.