Credit card dilemma yet again – replacing HSBC World Elite MasterCard

Sigh… here we go again…

Back in 2020, we had to replace our Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard because of the every dollar spent rewards earned rate was reduced from 2% to 1% and the elimination of 10,000 anniversary rewards points, which effectively reduced the $120 annual fee down to $20. After evaluating different possible cards, we ended up with the HSBC World Elite MasterCard.

Fast forward three years, RBC acquired HSBC and received regulatory approval late last year. Not surprisingly, RBC announced they would migrate all HSBC credit card holders over to existing RBC credit card equivalents.

The problem lies with the word “equivalent.” 

Our current credit cards

For the most part, we have been sticking to two credit cards for everyday spending.:

  • HSBC World Elite MasterCard for everyday spending except for groceries. This card offers no foreign transaction fee, a $100 annual travel enhancement credit, and has tiered earn rates of 3% on travel, 2% on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases, and 1% on everything else. This card provides excellent insurance coverage. 
  • Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite for groceries and recurring payments due to the 4% earn rate.  

We use the American Express Bonvoy Personal Card and Business Card whenever we stay at a Marriott hotel property for personal or work travels. These Bonvoy cards earn 5 Marriott convoy points for every $1 spent at Marriott Bonvoy properties. I have kept the Amex Bonvoy cards for the 15 annual night credit and the free 35k Bonvoy points certificate each year. These perks are worth the annual fees.

We also have a few other credit cards but don’t typically use them. We kept these cards “alive” as these were some of the first cards that we applied. The long credit history of these cards helps with our credit scores. 

In addition, we have done our share of travel hacking by applying for credit cards, hitting the spending limits to get the welcome bonus, and then closing these cards before needing to pay for the annual fees.

Over the years, thanks to travel hacking, we have saved a lot of money. For example, 12 days in Maui, 7 days in Disneyland, and various smaller trips in between were all obtained using that strategy. By paying the full amount each month, we avoid any consumer debt and can rack up on the rewards points. 

RBC forced transition 

RBC provided a relatively quick transition timeline for existing HSBC customers. We will receive a replacement RBC credit card between February and March. 

RBC-HSBC transition

According to Rewards Canada, RBC plans to migrate us from the HSBC World Elite MasterCard to the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card. But the real kicker here is that the Avion Visa Infinite Card is nowhere near being equivalent to the HSBC World Elite MasterCard! 

Let’s compare the two.

HSBC World Elite MCAvion Visa Infinite
Annual fee$149$120
Travel enhancement$100 per yearOne-time $200 credit
Foreign transaction feeNoNo (for HSBC clients only)
Earn rates3% on travel, 2% on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases, and 1% on everything else. 1.5% on travel, 1% on everything else
Trip cancellation & interruption insuranceYesYes
Travel Insurance31 days worldwide medical16 days
Baggage insuranceYesYes
Boingo WiFiYesNo

While it’s nice for RBC to give HSBC clients no foreign transaction (FX) fee, it’s not a real deal breaker. 

For us, the key problems with the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Cards are:

  • It’s a Visa platform, so can’t use it at Costco warehouses (Costco only accepts MasterCard)
  • The insurance coverage isn’t as good (my parents have HSBC which has excellent insurance for 65+. They’d be out of luck with RBC Avion)
  • Earn rate between 1.5% to 1% is terrible
  • Way less flexible travel redemptions with RBC Avion. You can’t book travel on your own and then use the Avion points for statement credit without losing value.

Needless to say, we are not very happy with this “forced” migration. It would have been nice for RBC to create new cards that have more equivalent benefits to the existing HSBC World Elite MasterCard… but I get it, RBC wants to make money too. 

So what are our options? 

Replacing HSBC World Elite MasterCard

Like many existing HSBC credit card holders, we are not happy with the situation. I feel this was a slap in the face by RBC. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do other than take our business elsewhere. 

The no FX fee is nice but at an annual fee of $120 per year, we’d have to spend $4,800 on foreign transitions to cover the typical 2.5% FX fee. In other words, it’s not a key benefit worth losing sleep over. 

Since our HSBC annual fee renewal is in July, we may stick with the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card for now and cancel before the renewal date. While we’re fine with using Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite for groceries and day-to-day shopping, it’d be nice to find a MasterCard replacement to allow us to earn rewards while shopping at Costco and a card that provides a higher earning rate for any travel expenses.

With that in mind, I narrowed our choices to the following cards:

1. Rogers MasterCard

  • The good stuff:
    • No annual fee 
    • 10% cash back for the first 3 months up to $100
    • 2% unlimited cash back on all eligible purchases (we qualify for the higher earn rate since we use Shaw for internet)
    • 1.5x more cash back when redeemed for Rogers/Fido/Shaw purchases (i.e. 3% cash back value)
  • The bad stuff:
    • No insurances

2. RBC WestJet World Elite MasterCard

  • The good stuff:
    • $700 WestJet welcome bonus
    • Yearly companion voucher for $119
    • 2% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet flights/vacations and 1.5% back on everyday purchases
    • Free checked bag
    • Free Boingo WiFi
  • The bad stuff:
    • Tied to WestJet for redemptions 

3. BMO CashBack World Elite MasterCard 

  • The good stuff:
    • Solid earn rates, 5% on groceries, 4% on transit, 3% on gas, 2% on recurring bills, 1% on everything else
    • Free Boingo WiFi
    • Currently a welcome bonus of 10% back for the first three months, up to $260, but a spending cap for each category.
  • The bad stuff:
    • Only 8 days out of province/country insurance
    • The category bonuses are capped at a very low level of spending for each month. $500 spent per month on 5% cashback, $300 spent per month on 4% cashback, $300 spent per month on 3% cashback, $500 spent per month on 2% recurring. So once you hit the monthly spending limits, the earn rate drops down to 1%. 

4. BMO Ascend World Elite MasterCard 

  • The good stuff:
    • Good earn rates, 3.35% on travels, 2.01% on entertainment, dining, and recurring bills, 0.67% on everything else
    • 4 lounge passes a year
    • 21 days out of province/country insurance
  • The bad stuff:
    • The BMO Rewards points are worth $0.0067 per point and BMO has devalued over the years
    • The earn rate for each category is capped each year (i.e. travel up to $15,000 per year, $10,000 on entertainment, dining, and recurring bills). 

5. CIBC Costco MasterCard

  • The good stuff:
    • No annual fee
    • 1% earn rate at Costco, 2% on Costco.ca, 3% on Costco gas
  • The bad stuff:
    • The 1% earn rate isn’t all the special
    • Overall not a very exciting card

6. PC Financial MasterCard MasterCard (we already have this card)

  • The good stuff:
    • Decent earn rates when shopping at Loblaw stores
  • The bad stuff:
    • 1% earn rate when shopping everywhere else, including Costco
    • Earn PC Points so can only redeem PC Points at Loblaw stores

On average, I estimate we spend an average of $500 per month or $6,000 a year at Costco. So if we only calculate this spending habit, we’d earn the following dollar equivalent for these six different cards. 

One thing to keep in mind in the calculation is that Costco transactions do not count as groceries. I’m also ignoring potential first-year annual fee rebates to see what things would look like after the first year. 

$ EquivalentNet annual fee
Rogers$120$120
RBC WestJet$90-$29
BMO CashBack$60-$60
BMO Ascend$40.20-$109.80
CIBC Costco$60$60
PC Financial$60$60

Based on this quick calculator, it looks like Rogers MasterCard comes out ahead.

Additional Rewards Comparison

The previous comparison is a very simplistic view. What if we run another comparison with the following yearly spending assumptions and include the welcome bonuses? 

  • Travel: $15,000
  • Costco: $6,000 
  • Other groceries: $6,000
  • Dining out: $3,000
  • Gas: $1,500
1st YearOther YearsAfter 5 years
Rogers$710$630$3,230
RBC WestJet$1,015$196$1,799
BMO CashBack$793$465$2,653
BMO Ascend$1,015.05$463.05$2,867.25
CIBC Costco$390$390$1,950
PC Financial$315$315$1,575

In this scenario, it looks like Rogers MasterCard comes out ahead with BMO Ascend in second place and BMO CashBack in third place. 

However, the 1st year dollar equivalent assumes that we could meet the welcome bonus requirements. Since both the BMO cards have really weird bonus structures, I’m not 100% sure if we’ll capture all the bonuses.

For the BMO CashBack card, to max out the $260 welcome bonus, we’d need to spend $500 on groceries, $300 on transit, $300 on gas, $500 on recurring bill payments, and another $1,000 on other purchases. I doubt we can hit the limits on transit and recurring bill categories, so we won’t get the full $260 bonus.  

For the BMO Ascend card,  we would earn 30,000 BMO Rewards points after spending $3,000 within the first three months. We’d receive an additional 2,500 BMO Rewards bonus points for each subsequent month during which at least $2,000 in net purchases are posted at each monthly billing period. We’re eligible to receive the additional 2,500 BMO Rewards bonus points from months 4 to 15. In other words, we must spend $2,000 each month to receive all the bonus points, which in my opinion is way too complicated… 

Therefore, the Rogers MasterCard and the RBC WestJet card look more enticing. 

Alternate Options

There are also some other options we may consider. 

Since we already have the PC Financial MasterCard, one option is to simply use this card for Costco purchases and use the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card for all other purchases. We can then apply for other enticing credit cards to earn welcome bonus points and not be tied to having to only apply for a MasterCard.

Another option for us is to cancel the PC Financial MasterCard, apply for the Rogers MasterCard and enjoy the higher 2% earn rate. This solution is quite attractive but we may see a hit on my credit score in the short term. 

Another option is to cancel the PC Financial MasterCard, apply for the WestJet World Elite MasterCard, get the welcome bonus, stop using the WestJet card, then apply for the Rogers MasterCard and use it with the ScotiaBank Momentum card for day-to-day shopping. This requires more tracking on our part but might be worth it simply from the welcome bonus point of view. 

Summary – Credit card dilemma yet again

Unfortunately, the Canadian credit card scene isn’t as attractive as years ago. Unlike when we had the Capital One Aspire card, there’s no one great card that can be used for all expenses and earn more than 2% rewards. 

After some consideration, I may go with the last option I proposed above – cancel the PC Financial card, apply for the WestJet card, get the welcome bonus, and then apply for the Rogers card. It’s a complicated process but it’d give us the highest dollar equivalent in the first year. 

Are you using a HSBC credit card? What are you planning to do? 

Share on:
.

49 thoughts on “Credit card dilemma yet again – replacing HSBC World Elite MasterCard”

  1. Here is the strategy to maximize the RBC Avion ecosystem: Avion Infinite Visa + Ion+ Visa. The latter has accelerated 3x earn rates for groceries, dining, gas, streaming, etc. The Avion Premium points from the Ion+ can be transferred 1:1 to the Avion Elite points earned by the Avion Infinite. (Difference between Preium and Elite Avion is ability to access fixed rates airline Redemption Schedule, and transfer points to airline programs other than Westjet). This Ion+ and Avion Infinite combo appears to be the best travel points accelerator next to Amex Cobalt. (I don’t want Cobalt as most groceries from Loblaws ecosystem). This is what I am going to do (I am both an HSBC WE holder and an RBC customer, already holding the Westjet WE MC, which I will also keep). I have been researching other options, but in the end want to keep it simple and stay with RBC rather than having multiple bank relationships. I do also have Rogers MC for recurring bill payments (effective 3% cash back redeemed to Rogers costs).

    Reply
  2. I haven’t heard news of what I’ll be migrated to yet, but as I live overseas the continuation of the no FX fee on my new RBC Card would be welcome news. I had done some research and planned to switch to Scotiabank Passport if I lost the no FX fee, but I’ll wait and see what I get migrated to.

    And there’s no Costco near me so that’s non-factor for me!

    Reply
  3. As an existing Rogers World Elite Mastercard holder, received an email notice just this morning from Rogers advising that – effective Apr 9/24 – the same improvements that have previously been made to the standard Rogers Red M/C (improved 2% earn rate as existing Rogers/Shaw service customer, etc) will be added to the World Elite card as well. Added benefit is that the WE card is also free, & includes some travel insurances (incl. trip cancellation/interruption & Emerg. Medical to $1M)

    Reply
  4. looking at this mess of a merger I am wondering what are options to complain to the government ? I’m trying to find a way to tell the authorities that RBC is NOT maintaining comparable products as tyhey were supposed to, at least on the credit card front. Maybe it is too early ?

    Reply
  5. Amex Cobalt is the best credit card in Canada. Yes, you can’t use it everywhere but most places do accept Amex now. Use it absolutely everywhere you can and use a free cash back card of your choosing for places you can’t ie. Costco. MR points are transferable easily to other reward programs including 1:1 to Aeroplan.

    Reply
  6. I’m in the same boat. Had my Capital One Aspire World Elite originally. Cancelled it for the HSBC World Elite shortly after they came out with their new earn rate. I just cancelled the HSBC card and got the Scotiabank Passport after seeing the God awful mitigation package to the Avion card. I already have had the Westjet World Elite card for 5 years now as I used it to travel for work every week. I was going to cancel it but think I’ll keep it now to use it at Costco and for the free checked luggage on our twice a year trips to Mexico (it’ll pay for itself right there). The 1.5% earn rate is decent after looking at the garbage that’s out there these days. Not sure I’ll stick with the Scotia Passport card beyond the first year wavied annual fee but I’ll use it until I find something better. The no forex fees is what I was looking for mainly. The free lounge passes might be nice once my Gold status with Westjet runs out next year. There really is nothing worthwhile out there for a Mastercard with no forex fees.

    Reply
    • Scotiabank Passport looks interesting but the earn rate for travel category isn’t great… the no have forex fees and the lounge passes are nice though. Maybe try it out for a year and make a decision then.

      Reply
  7. We travel alot so no FX fee is very important. I have a US credit card, BMO World Elite is my card for when we are home(the bank gave it to me years ago and offered no annual fee, so I keep it), I churn a few cards depending on the offers. HSBC was my travel card, so I’m not impressed with the change to RBC. I have very good insurance with Medoc so I’m not concerned about the insurance offered by a credit card. I have decided that at renewal time, I will switch to Brim financial. Straight 1% cash back, no FX fees, no annual fee. I also like some of their security features like “lock online purchases or foreign purchases or lock card”.
    Thank you for your article, the comments are interesting to me.

    Reply
    • Yea, no FX fee is nice, especially when we go over to Denmark to visit Mrs. T’s family.

      I’ve read due to BRIM’s lack of 3DS, you may run into issue with some online transactions.

      Reply
  8. I think you are missing the best alternative (NBC World elite) and second best alternative MBNA World Elite. NBC is effectively free if you have to pay for bags, airport parking or a seat selection as the travel reimbursement $150 offsets the free. When I was comparing for my needs the insurnace was far better than HSBC’s.

    Reply
      • I’ve had the MBNA Platinum Travel card. No annual fee and decent points collection over the years. Of course they have had changes and maxxed out points you can get on certain purchases. We run about $10,000 a month in spending and the points accumulate really quickly. Definitely check out MBNA.

        Reply
  9. Interesting reviews from all. We are at the stage of simplifying everything including credit cards. Canceling is not always as straight forward as expected. Websites and telephone service has degenerated to bot service. I seemed to have lost 42,000 Aeroplan miles as many companies no longer support them so it is not easy to keep them “active” according to rules. Recent actions include the changeover from Prices Alarms buyout to Telus. The equipment was old and Telus charged big time to change it when they took over Prices. Somehow we ended up with a 3 year contract even though we paid outright for it. To end the contract would cost $1120 + tax (that is if you can get passed the Telus bot to someone real). We drive electric which saves a lot, though we travel much less than 3 years ago. Downsizing is an interesting and challenging exercise.

    Reply
    • I guess we’re at different stages Dianne. 🙂

      Simplification makes a lot of sense and tracking all yours points can be quite time consuming. But I see that as a hobby of mine so I enjoy doing that. 🙂

      Reply
      • I feel like chasing travel savings is easily compensated by the overall finanical benefit of other cards. By that I mean there is no point saving $300 on FX if it means not saving $600 on everyday items like groceries. I’d rather just pay the FX.

        We only have the PC World Elite and Canadian Tire Triangle World Elite cards. Neither have fees (feels like it’s a $120 X 2 head start). We always end up with well over $1000 credit on the PC Optimum card and $500++ at Canadian Tire.
        It ‘feels’ like, overall, we are way ahead of annual fee cards that offer narrow-focused savings.

        Always appreciate the thought-provoking subjects,,,thank you

        Reply
        • That’s a good point, always have to evaluate whether paying annual fees is worth it or not. We need to run more calculations to see which card is the best for us. Maybe we’ll end up having to switch cards every year… we’ll see.

          Reply
  10. RBC will be a loser if they treat HSBC account holders as they proposed, they even afraid to tell you the ratio when transfer HSBC Rewards to Avion. They will waste billions dollars for this deal because many existing HSBC customers will walk away along with their funds in saving/investment accounts. Will see…

    Reply
  11. I have had the RBC WestJet Mastercard for around 10 years. I use it’s for all the partner locations. I’ve come to experience two very limiting problems; 1) the ‘Yearly companion voucher’ is only good for locations that actual WestJet Flights fly into, i.e., not for partner locations. Example: I wanted to fly to Alabama, but the closest an actual WJ plane landed was Nashville Tennessee. So my companion & I got off and drove the rest of the way. 2) WestJet has cut back on the airports it flies into. I live in PEI and it has dropped Maritimes airports or made them seasonal only.
    This summer we’ll use our last companion flight, then drop the card.

    Reply
    • WestJet is pretty decent for us Vancouverites but you’re right, the companion voucher is only good for locations that actually WestJet flights fly into… there’s limited choices when it comes to international travels.

      Reply
    • I think you’re right, this deal is horrible FOR HSBC customers. I am fortunate enough to have the HSBC Metal Elite Card and it sounds like the best I’ll get is the Visa Infinite, which means I lose travel enhancement, worldwide free unlimited Dragonpass lounge visits, insurances (particularly medical travel), points accumulation rates, and who knows what else.

      As you state my finger is hovering over the ‘eject’ button, and it seems that smaller banks may be the way to go here. I may have to use several smaller banks to get a wider range of benefits at the expense of more administration but hopefully one will rise to the service level HSBC had. It’s been a 30 year run, it’s over just because of a lousy credit card..

      Sad times

      Reply
  12. Yes the Credit card companies have figured out how to keep money and minimize customers returns.
    We just have the frugal no fee cash back RBC card and get cash back every year .
    The car insurance and travel insurance perks from CC are overrated .
    You still have to get private travel and car rental insurance as the CC insurance has a lot of exemptions.
    Google it. Lots of nightmare stories about how limited CC car insurance is.

    Reply
  13. Hello Bob,

    Thanks for this credit card analysis. It is too bad RBC did not offer something comparable to the HSBC World Elite MC.

    This is what we have settled on (all four cards):
    1. Rogers World Elite MC. No annual fee, 1.5% cash discount on non-US dollar purchases, 3% cash discount on US dollar purchases, no minimum or annual maximum. Trip cancellation and travel insurance (free). 2.5% fee on purchases not in Canadian Dollars (including US Dollars).

    2. President’s Choice World Elite MC. No annual fee, 3% discount at Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart stores, 3¢/litre discount at Esso and Mobil gas stations in Canada, 1% discount everywhere else, no minimum or annual maximum. 2.5% fee on purchases not in Canadian Dollars.

    3. Triangle (Canadian Tire) World Elite MC. No annual fee, 4% discount at Canadian Tire, Sport Chek, Mark’s, Party City, Atmosphere, Pro Hockey Life, Hockey Experts, and participating Sports Experts stores, 5¢/litre discount at Canadian Tire gas stations, 3% discount at all grocery stores, excluding Wal-Mart and Costco ($12,000 maximum grocery purchases / year to receive the discount), no minimum or annual maximum. 2.5% fee on purchases not in Canadian Dollars.

    4. Home Trust Preferred Visa, No annual fee, 1% discount for all Canadian Dollar purchases. no minimum or annual maximum. NO fee on purchases not in Canadian Dollars.

    For where we spend, and what we spend, the combination of these four cards is our best choice. We do not shop at Costco.

    Reply
    • Hi Daniel,

      Is there a reason you picked Rogers World Elite MC rather than Rogers MC? Seems that the MC gives you a bit higher earning if you don’t have too many USD purchases.

      Reply
      • Hello Bob,
        When we signed up for the Rogers World Elite MC a few years ago, the Rogers MC was not available. I see where the Rogers MC card provides a 2% rebate on all purchases, as long as you are a Rogers customer. The Rogers MC does not provide any travel insurance.

        We are not Rogers customers. Hence the benefits for a Rogers MC card are not as good as the benefits of a Rogers World Elite MC card, for us.

        Reply
  14. So … I don’t know the rules for Canada so I looked these up real real quick: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/businesses/topics/sole-proprietorships-partnerships/business-expenses.html

    I think you should have a personal card like a Costco Card for those expense that make sense, which I do in the States.

    Other expenses related to this blog should go on a corporate card so you can any fee expense. If you happen to have a research trip to Maui for your blog you are writing then you should be able to deduct those expenses as well.

    You should talk to someone about how to leverage a lot of what you do as your business expenses.

    Reply
  15. The more cards you apply for may hinder your credit score. To help the majority with managing their money they should only apply and leverage one card especially if they are not confident managing budgets. There really shouldn’t be a need to carry more than 2 cards or hang onto cards if you are in good financial standing. Hanging onto cards doesn’t necessarily help your credit score. I carry two cards with a perfect credit score, personal card is from CIBC for Costco that nets me $1000 annually to spend at Costco from CIBC and a second cheque from Costco ~$300. Second card is TD infinite Aeroplan that has excellent insurance coverage, no fx fees and I use the points to book flights, hotels of any brand or I buy GC’s from dozens of notably companies for Xmas presents for my kids, nieces and nephews. I normally receive 1-2 free flights per year that includes free baggage and other airport perks like lounge access to work, relax and eat plus 10-14 days at a hotel annually depending if you want 5 star or 3 star.

    Reply
  16. We also had a C1 Aspire card but when they changed the program we moved to the MBNA Rewards World Elite MC with satisfactory results. 5% back on groceries/restaurants/utilities can add up fast. The 10% birthday bonus based on prior 12 months spending helps offset the yearly fees. Insurance coverage for our needs has been more that adequate. The minimum annual income to qualify is fairly high but it is the best card for our needs out of all the other offerings right now.

    Reply
  17. Did you look at the National Bank World Elite Mastercard? That’s what we’re currently using at Costco. For everything else it’s the CIBC Dividend Infinite Visa.

    Reply
    • I took a brief look at it, the welcome bonus wasn’t too enticing. Looking at a Mastercard that provide a decent earn rate for Costco. A bonus if you can get high earn rate for travels too.

      Reply
  18. We switched to TD a few years ago. With their All inclusive account, (free if you keep $5000 in the account) otherwise it’s $29.95 per month. You also get a free US dollar account.
    For having that account, you get their TD Aeroplan Infinite Visa, ($139 + $75 for secondary) as well as US Dollar Visa ($39 US for two cards) both for free. That’s four cards between my wife and I.
    As well we have the CIBC Costco MasterCard, that is free as well.
    We do collect Aeroplan points, not that we get much use out of them, and cash back with the Costco card. The TD Infinite card has decent trip cancelation and interruption benefits.
    And no fees.

    Reply
    • I was looking at the All Inclusive Account, and currently have the Every Day Chequing Account. I have the Aeroplan Infinite Visa, 2nd year renewal is coming up, so it’d be nice to not have to pay the annual fee. But having $5k sitting in the chequing account does mean opportunity cost. 🙂

      I was under the impression that All Inclusive Account only waive 1 credit card annual fee, didn’t know about the US dollar Visa fee is waived too.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.