Credit cards issued by airlines no guarantee of best mileage conversion rates, consumer watchdog finds

Survey also reveals overseas card spending generally rewards better than local purchases for air mileage conversion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 10:43pm

Credit cards issued by airlines do not necessarily guarantee better mileage reward terms than ordinary ones, a Hong Kong watchdog said on Thursday.

Surveying 53 cards by 16 companies, the Consumer Council also found overseas purchases generally gained customers more mileage rewards than local spending.

The body urged consumers to be aware of cards’ terms and conditions, and warned them to beware of reckless overspending for the sake of accruing miles for conversion.

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“Though co-branded credit cards are issued jointly with airlines or air mileage companies, they do not necessarily offer a better conversion deal,” said Clement Chan Kam-wing, chairman of the council’s publicity and community relations committee.

Three cards issued by Standard Chartered and Citi offer the best air mileage conversion deals, according to the survey, which included nine that are co-branded with airlines.

For local spending, Standard Chartered’s titanium card and its Shop ’n Gain platinum card offer the best purchase-to-mileage deal at HK$1.88 per air mile on certain dates of a month. For overseas spending, Citi’s PremierMiles card allows customers to exchange HK$3 for one air mile, it was found.

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Meanwhile, the surveyed co-branded cards offered rates ranging from HK$6 to HK$8 per mile for local purchases, and HK$4 to HK$5.33 per mile for overseas transactions.

Conversion rates varies widely from card to card, spanning HK$2.78 to HK$25 per air mile. Applying the rates to a return flight between Hong Kong and Osaka in Japan, consumers would have to spend between HK$83,400 and HK$750,000.

The council said consumers should be aware of card issuers’ different explanations of which transactions entitle a user to flight awards. Consumers were also urged to plan ahead for mileage conversion to avoid delays in redeeming their air ticket.