You are currently viewing HSBC Rewards: Ultimate Guide

HSBC is a major global bank that is one of the most interesting for Canadian travelers, thanks to their proprietary rewards program, HSBC Rewards, being literally one of the most flexible you can find for travel redemptions: rewards can be used for any travel expense. And most importantly for savvy deal-lovers, the program offers the potential for outsized value (with 1 of the 2 HSBC cards).

I personally love the many benefits the HSBC Rewards program offers. And for many travelers, it sure is a great program to consider.

Here is Flytrippers’ ultimate guide to the HSBC Rewards program.

 

Basics of the HSBC Rewards program

There are 2 Canadian cards that earn HSBC Rewards and I’ll share more details about them in a section below…

But here is an infographic just so you know whether this guide applies to one of the cards in your current travel rewards portfolio (or to one of the cards you are considering adding next).

HSBC Rewards credit card positioning (image credit: Flytrippers)

 

HSBC has a strong presence in Canada and it is one of the world’s largest financial institutions, based in London.

It should be a very recognizable brand for travelers, as its logo is emblazoned on so many airport jetbridges all around the world.

HSBC jetbridges at the new IST airport (photo credit: Flytrippers)

 

As you probably deduced, HSBC Rewards is HSBC Bank’s own proprietary rewards program.

The program’s highlights are that the points are among the most flexible you can find, as they can be used as a travel credit for any flight, hotel, Airbnb, car rental, train ticket, tour, cruise, vacation package, timeshare…

And that with their main-level card, the points can even be transferred to partner airline rewards programs for more potential value, including one partner that is unique to HSBC in Canada… and one that is currently offering a 40% bonus until this Saturday night (July 31st).

Here is a brief summary of the HSBC Rewards program:

  • Best use: Reward flights
  • Type: Hybrid rewards (variable-value or fixed-value)
  • Flytrippers Valuation: ≈ 0.6¢/pt (or fixed value of 0.5 ¢/pt)
  • Transferable: Yes (3 airline partners)
  • Classification: Bank rewards program
  • Available cards: 2 (1 issuer)
  • Our current favorite: HSBC World Elite Mastercard

 

Travel redemptions with HSBC Rewards

HSBC Rewards can be used in 2 ways:

  • Within the HSBC Rewards program
  • By transferring to 3 partner airline programs (with one of the 2 cards only*)

(*Only the HSBC World Elite Mastercard has the ability to transfer points to partner airline programs. Everything else about the rewards program is the same for the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard.)

More concretely, you can get different types of travel rewards:

  • An easy fixed travel credit for any travel expense (HSBC Rewards)
  • A variable discount for flights on ≈ 50 specific airlines (partner airline programs)

Keep in mind that you can mix and match these options however you like. If you need a few points for a redemption with a partner program, you can transfer just those and use the other points for a travel credit (or just keep your options open for later).

Here is the most important thing to understand about both of your options:

  • HSBC Rewards points are much simpler but have no potential for outsized value and unlimited value
  • Partner airline points are much more complicated but can offer outsized value and unlimited value

We have very detailed sections about each option towards the end of this guide, but here is a brief overview of each already.

 

Redemptions within the HSBC Rewards program itself

As mentioned, this is extremely simple and these are literally one of the most flexible type of travel rewards that exist: they are fixed-value “eraser” type rewards.

The points “erase” any travel expense, as they can be applied to absolutely any travel expense:

  • No need to book on a specific website
  • No need to book on a specific airline
  • No need to do anything special at all, really

You can book travel at the best price and then redeem points for it. It’s basically a very convenient travel credit, it’s ideal for those who prefer simplicity over maximizing total value.

 

Redemptions by transferring to partner airline programs

This is where you can get outsized value and unlimited value: the airline partner programs are variable-value rewards. That means the value you will get from them is entirely dependent on how well you use them. 

The points can be used to book flights for a set number of points based on award charts, regardless of the cash price. So the amount of money you can save is unlimited. 

In the case of the HSBC Rewards transfer partners specifically, they are especially valuable for short-distance flights all over the world (and/or flights that are expensive in cash, like with all variable-value programs).

This can provide much higher savings than a travel credit, even if in this case, unlike the other way, you will need to find seat availability and you will need to pay taxes (which should be completely irrelevant in and of itself: it’s the total savings that you should always care about… and the savings can be much higher this way).

It’s definitely not as flexible or easy and it’s important to understand that this is not better for all flights, so make sure to read the details below and look at our concrete examples.

 

Value of HSBC Rewards points

This depends on which card you have.

 

With the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard

For redemptions as fixed-value rewards, our Flytrippers Valuation of HSBC Rewards points is 0.5¢ per point (sometimes expressed as 0.5 ¢/pt or 0.5 CPP) because they are fixed-value rewards. That means that the points are always worth the same amount, they can never be worth less (and therefore can never be worth more either).

HSBC Rewards points can be redeemed as a travel credit for travel purchases at a rate of 200 points = $1, which is where the 0.5¢ per point comes from. The current 65,000 HSBC Rewards welcome bonus is worth $325 this way, it’s a fixed value.

(That’s why it’s important to understand that reward points all have a different value: many other bank reward points are worth 1¢, which is 100% more than HSBC Rewards… but you earn fewer points per dollar or lower welcome bonuses: always look at the total value, not just the number of points alone—that’s why we always provide the actual value to help you out.)

 

With the HSBC World Elite Mastercard

For the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, our Flytrippers Valuation is ≈ 0.6¢ per point, which is 20% higher than using them as a travel credit… giving you 20% more travel rewards.

These are what we call hybrid rewards, as they can be used both as fixed-value rewards (at the 0.5¢ valuation) and as variable-value rewards. We estimate that 65,000 HSBC Rewards points should save you ≈ $390 on flights with partner programs, but variable-value means that the value you will get from the rewards is entirely dependent on how well you use them.

HSBC Rewards points transferred to partners have the potential for much higher value, but they can also give you a lot less if you aren’t careful and if you don’t do the math.

Yes, that is the very basic rule of variable-value rewards: sometimes it’s a good redemption, but sometimes it’s not and you should not use those particular points. Calculating the value is simple: it’s always the amount of money you save divided by the number of points used.

But that ≈ 0.6¢ valuation can be different for you, depending on your travel habits (hence the “≈” symbol for our Flytrippers Valuation of variable-value rewards). It’s a conservative estimate for an average traveler. If you’re like us and strive to maximize your points, they can be worth a lot more. If you usually buy expensive flights, the points will be worth a lot more too. It depends; it varies.

But know that they can also be worth a lot less: when there is no maximum, there is no minimum either.

 

Best uses of HSBC Rewards points

Here are just a few concrete examples of the best uses of HSBC Rewards points (there are obviously a lot more options), you can read more details in the sections below.

I’ll use 65,000 HSBC Rewards points for the example since that is the current welcome bonus on the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, but you can easily multiply by 2 if you got last fall’s record-high offer or adjust based on your own stash of points.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Until July 31, you get a 40% bonus when you transfer your HSBC points to British Airways Avios. This is huge. So for all the usage examples below (except the first one), you actually get 40% more.

I personally transferred my HSBC points to Avios with this promo and if you’re flexible enough to take advantage of these specific uses below, this is clearly the best way to maximize the value of HSBC points — but not the simplest of course.

 

$325 off any travel expense with the easy fixed-value travel credit

This qualifies as one of the best only if you want the easiest option. You can apply the 65,000 points to any type of travel expense and get a $325 discount.

You can go anywhere, including Bali to take advantage of 15 free hotel nights (photo credit: Bady Abbas)

 

1 roundtrip flight from Toronto/Montreal to Miami

By transferring to Avios, you would have enough points for a direct roundtrip flight to Miami on American Airlines, and you’d even have points left over. You have to pay taxes (≈$80), but if the cash price of this flight is even slightly high, this is a great use of points.

Go relax in Miami for a long weekend to keep your weeks off for actual travel (photo credit: Tuan Nguyen)

 

1 roundtrip flight from Toronto to Dublin

By transferring to Avios, you can also get a flight from Toronto to Ireland on Aer Lingus on off-peak dates (most of the year). Taxes are a bit higher (≈ $150), but this is still often a great redemption. This could soon be possible from Montreal as well, if the newly-announced Aer Lingus route eventually launches post-pandemic.

Explore beautiful Ireland (photo credit: Aldo De La Paz)

 

1 one-way business class flight from Toronto to Dublin

Same as above, except you can choose business class for twice the price, as is the case with most airline program redemptions. Airline reward programs are definitely the way to go if you want to travel in premium cabins (as I did for the first time on a long-distance flight in May).

An example of a business class cabin (photo credit: Aer Lingus)

 

3 one-way flights from many Canadian cities to New York/Washington/Chicago/Philadelphia

By transferring to Avios, you would have enough points for 3 one-ways from the Canadian cities served by American Airlines to the closest hubs, which are major US cities that are perfect for long weekend getaways with just ≈ $80 in taxes to pay per roundtrip flight.

I loved my weekend trips to all cities, especially Washington during Cherry Blossom time (photo credit: Riddy)

 

6 one-way flights within Europe

By transferring to Avios, you can get many short-distance flights within Europe on a few airlines, although you should make sure to compare the value with the many cheap cash fares easily available in Europe, often as low as 10 on ultra low-cost carriers.

Visit Spain to take advantage of 15 free hotels nights (photo credit: Marco De Hevia)

 

4 one-way flights within Asia

By transferring to Avios, you can also get 4 short-distance flights around many hub airports in popular destinations like Hong Kong (HKG) on Cathay Pacific (like flying to Taipei), Tokyo (HND and NRT) on Japan Airlines (like flying to Osaka), and Kuala Lumpur (KUL) on Malaysia Airlines (like flying to Phuket).

Grab one of our frequent deals to Japan for $450 roundtrip then move around (photo credit: Juliana Barquero)

 

4 one-way flights within Australia

By transferring to Avios, you can also get 4 short-distance flights around Australia on Qantas with minimal taxes (like flying from Sydney to Brisbane).

A bucket-list destination for many, Australia is big enough to fly between many cities (photo credit: Jason H)

 

4 one-way flights within Morocco

By transferring to Avios, you can also get 4 short-distance flights around Morocco on Royal Air Maroc with minimal taxes (like flying from Casablanca to Marrakesh).

We also spot deals to Morocco for $450 very often and you can get 10 free hotel nights there (photo credit: Paul Macallan)

 

4 one-way flights within Southern Africa

By transferring to Avios, you can also get 4 short-distance flights around South Africa on Comair with minimal taxes (like flying from Johannesburg to Durban).

You can also get 15 free nights in South Africa (photo credit: Nico Smit)

 

3 one-way flights from Miami to the Caribbean and Central America

By transferring to Avios, you can get 3 one-way flights from American Airlines’ mega-hub in Miami or at least 2 one-ways to almost anywhere in the Caribbean and Central America (like I did to go to Bonaire since it’s a bit farther), which can be very useful given how positioning flights to Miami are often extremely affordable in cash and given how flights to some islands are very expensive in cash.

I loved my free week in Bonaire thanks in part to Avios (photo credit: Flytrippers)

 

1 one-way flight from New York/Boston/Chicago to Madrid

By transferring to Avios, you can also get a flight from those 3 US cities to Spain on Iberia on off-peak dates (most of the year) and you’d be short just a few points for the return flight too (or a one-way business class flight if you preferred). If you don’t mind positioning to those cities, that can be a great use of points to get to Spain.

Madrid is a great stop en route to the many hotels in Spain where you can get 15 free nights (photo credit: Jorge Fernández Salas)

 

Many other sweet spots around the world

Don’t miss our upcoming guide to the Avios program for even more great redemptions as these are just a tiny portion of the possibilities, especially for many short-distance flights or for flights that are rarely discounted when paid for with cash.

There are other potential sweet spots around the world, including in Sri Lanka (photo credit: Hendrik Cornelissen)

 

How to earn HSBC Rewards

First of all, as with all bank rewards programs, you can only earn HSBC Rewards with HSBC-issued credit cards. And one of them in particular makes it really easy to rack up many points!

(But if you transfer HSBC Rewards points to the Avios program for example, then you have many other ways to boost your stash of Avios points in other ways.)

Here is a brief overview of the 2 cards that earn HSBC Rewards.

Best credit cards for
HSBC Rewards
WELCOME BONUS
( VALUATION)
Best
for
HSBC World Elite Mastercard (excl. QC)
Card:
Bonus: spend $5k in 6 mos. (see QC offer)
Welcome bonus: $490
Card Fee: $0 $149
Travelers with
higher income
best HSBC card
HSBC +Rewards Mastercard (excl. QC)
Card:
Bonus: spend $2k in 6 mos. (see QC offer)
Welcome bonus: $580
Card Fee: $149
Travelers with
lower income
other HSBC option
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.
Best credit cards for
HSBC Rewards
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® HSBC World Elite Mastercard (excl. QC)
Card:
Bonus: spend $5k in 6 mos. (see QC offer)
WELCOME BONUS
Welcome bonus: $490
Card Fee: $0 $149
Best for: Travelers with higher income
best HSBC card
HSBC +Rewards Mastercard® HSBC +Rewards Mastercard (excl. QC)
Card:
Bonus: spend $2k in 6 mos. (see QC offer)
WELCOME BONUS
Welcome bonus: $580
Card Fee: $149
Best for: Travelers with lower income
other HSBC option
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. Financial institutions are not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "See More" to see most up-to-date information.

 

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®

Let’s start with one of the very best cards for Canadian travelers who earn over $80,000 per year.

HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
minimum income required: $80000
spend $5,000
in 6 months (see QC offer)
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. HSBC is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
≈ $
minimum income
required: $80000
spend $5,000
in 6 months (see QC offer)
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. HSBC is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

 

After unlocking the current welcome bonus, you can get:

  • 65,000 HSBC Rewards points + $100 annual travel credit
  • Net Flytrippers Valuation of ≈ $440 for welcome bonus offer
    • Points worth ≈ $340
    • Travel credit worth $100
    • Card fee of $0 (first year free)
  • Subsequent years’ fee if you decide to keep it: $149 ($49 net after $100 travel credit)
  • Additional anniversary bonus of 20,000 points if you renew (≈ $71 Valuation for Year 2)
  • QC residents: you can get 80,000 HSBC Rewards points as the offer is structured differently (≈ $381)

You will earn:

  • 6 HSBC Rewards points per $ (≈ 3.6% or 3%) on travel
  • 3 HSBC Rewards points per $ (≈ 1.8% or 1.5%) on everything else

Here are just a few highlights of the HSBC World Elite Mastercard:

  • Regularly has a great welcome bonus
  • One of the very rare cards in Canada that does not charge a 2.5% FX fee on all your purchases in other currencies
  • Great base earn rate and a great multiplier rate on the travel category
  • Points can be either very easy to use or extremely valuable with transfer partners
  • Comes with an annual $100 travel credit

 

HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®

The other HSBC card is very attractive for many types of travelers, including those with a lower income.

HSBC +Rewards Mastercard®
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
$
minimum income required: $0
spend $2,000
in 6 months (see QC offer)
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. HSBC is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.
HSBC +Rewards Mastercard®
Flytrippers Valuation
of Welcome Bonus alone
$
minimum income
required: $0
spend $2,000
in 6 months (see QC offer)
Terms and conditions apply. Flytrippers editorial opinion only. HSBC is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click "Apply Now" to see most up-to-date information.

 

After unlocking the current welcome bonus, you can get:

  • 22,000 HSBC Rewards points
  • Net Flytrippers Valuation of $110
  • Points worth ≈ $110; card fee of $0 (first year free)
  • Subsequent years’ fee if you decide to keep card: $25
  • QC residents: you can get 25,000 HSBC Rewards points as the offer is structured differently ($88)

You will earn:

  • 2 HSBC Rewards points per $ (1%) on dining and entertainment
  • 1 HSBC Rewards point per $ (0.5%) on everything else

Here are just a few highlights of the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard:

  • No minimum income requirement
  • Great welcome bonus for a low-annual fee card
  • Pretty low minimum spend requirement to unlock the welcome bonus
  • One of the lowest interest rates (so if you do not pay your credit cards in full every month, this is a great option while you rectify that)
  • Does not have the ability to transfer points to partner airline programs

 

Expiry rules for HSBC Rewards

HSBC Rewards points don’t expire as long as you have your credit card and your account is in good standing. However, as with all bank-owned rewards programs, you cannot keep your HSBC Rewards points if you close your card and you would need to use them before closing.

That said, if you were to close the HSBC World Elite Mastercard:

  • You could transfer the points to an airline partner to keep them (but you could no longer use them as a travel credit)
  • You could downgrade your card to the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard (but you could no longer transfer them to partners)

 

HSBC travel enhancement credit

The HSBC travel enhancement credit is one of the best perks of the HSBC World Elite Mastercard (not available on the HSBC +Rewards Mastercard).

Every year, a $100 credit will appear on your HSBC Rewards account (in the top bar).

HSBC travel enhancement credit on HSBC Rewards account (image credit: HSBC)

 

It is theoretically meant to be applied to airline seat upgrades, airline baggage fees, and airport lounge passes… but in practice, you can apply it to any travel expense.

So it’s a very easy-to-use $100 credit that almost entirely offsets the annual fee after the Year 1 welcome bonus and the Year 2 anniversary bonus (starting in Year 3, the net balance of $49 is also completely offset as long as you spend $1,960 per year in foreign currencies, at least assuming you don’t have another card with no FX fees).

You can read our step-by-step guide on how to redeem your HSBC travel enhancement credit online.

 

How to use HSBC Rewards as a travel credit

This is the easiest way to redeem your HSBC Rewards points.

Simply charge any travel expense booked with any travel provider to your card. Then, go online to redeem your HSBC points to get a rebate on that travel purchase. You can also do this by calling HSBC Rewards Customer Care if you prefer that for some reason.

It’s important to know that you have 60 days after the travel expense posts to your account to redeem your HSBC Rewards points against that particular expense.

It’s pretty simple to redeem HSBC Rewards for great travel experiences this way, but there is one limitation, which is that you need to redeem a minimum of 25,000 HSBC Rewards against a travel purchase (in other words, your travel expense must cost a minimum of $125 to use points). Then, HSBC points can only be redeemed in increments of 10,000 points ($50).  

This is not quite as flexible as other eraser-type points like American Express Membership Rewards points ($10 minimum) or Scotia Rewards points ($50 minimum), but it is still pretty flexible in terms of rewards.

So, basically, you’re forced to redeem points in increments of 25,000/35,000/45,000 and so on, which is honestly pretty easy to do.

HSBC Rewards redemption (points)Travel purchase discount
25,000$125
35,000$175
45,000$225
55,000$275
65,000$325
75,000$375
85,000$425
95,000$475
105,000$525
115,000$575
125,000$625
135,000$675
145,000$725
155,000$775

 

You can also read our step-by-step guide on how to redeem your HSBC points online if you want to see how easy it is.

 

How to use HSBC Rewards with airline transfer partners

This is not as simple or flexible, but as explained earlier, as with anything else in the world of travel (or life really), the more flexible you are, the more value you can potentially get.

By transferring your HSBC Rewards to these airline transfer partners, you can get much more value than the HSBC Rewards travel credit… if you use them correctly!

Here are the 3 partner programs you can transfer to with the HSBC Rewards program (and the effective transfer rate):

  • British Airways Avios (1 to 0.40)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles (1 to 0.36)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (1 to 0.32)
HSBC Rewards transfer page (image credit: HSBC Rewards)

 

If you are new to airline rewards programs, you might be wondering what the appeal of these foreign carriers is…

Well, the thing is that you can use Avios and Asia Miles for flights on any airline in the oneworld airline alliance and you can use KrisFlyer miles for any airline in Star Alliance, in addition to a few non-alliance partners for each (just like you can use Air Canada’s Aeroplan points on 38 airlines other than Air Canada).

So make no mistake: it is very appealing indeed.

Just remember that except during transfer bonuses, you should never transfer points without a specific use in mind because transfers cannot be undone! Once your points are transferred, it is permanent and your points no longer have anything to do with HSBC or HSBC Rewards: they are exclusively governed by the rules of the program you transferred to.

To give you an idea of the math based on those transfer rates, here is the theoretical value of your HSBC Rewards points based on our Flytrippers Valuation of each rewards program (again, just keep in mind that many specific uses of those programs can give you way more—or way less—value… that’s why they are variable-value rewards).

ProgramFlytrippers Valuation
HSBC (fixed-value travel credit)0.50 ¢/HSBC pt
British Airways Avios? 0.60 ¢/HSBC pt
Singapore KrisFlyer Miles? 0.47 ¢/HSBC pt
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles? 0.42 ¢/HSBC pt

 

Finally, for all partners, you need to redeem a minimum of 25,000 HSBC Rewards points and also in increments of 10,000 points after (exactly like with the fixed-value travel credit redemption).

So here’s exactly how many airline points you can get by transferring:

HSBC Rewards transfer (points)British Airways AviosSingapore Airlines KrisFlyer MilesCathay Pacific Asia Miles
25,00010,0009,0008,000
35,00014,00012,60011,200
45,00018,00016,20014,400
55,00022,00019,80017,600
65,00026,00023,40020,800
75,00030,00027,00024,000
85,00034,00030,60027,200
95,00038,00034,20030,400
105,00042,00037,80033,600
115,00046,00041,40036,800
125,00050,00045,00040,000
135,00054,00048,60043,200
145,00058,00052,20046,400
155,00062,00055,80049,600

 

The KrisFlyer and Asia Miles programs are very “niche” to be honest. So the most interesting transfer partner for the vast majority of Canadians is certainly British Airways Avios, and not just because it has the best conversion rate of all 3: it also happens to be one of the most valuable programs for travelers (it is one of the 5 in our free cheat sheet with the essential rewards programs for Canadians).

British Airways Avios can also be transferred from Amex and RBC (1 to 1 transfer rate) and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles can also be transferred from Amex (1 to 0.75 transfer rate). However, transferring to Singapore KrisFlyer miles is exclusive to HSBC among Canadian banks!

Like with all airline reward programs, you need to understand the rules (they are all different) and you need to find seat availability.

You’ll need to pay the taxes, just like with all airline programs. Sometimes, the taxes make a redemption bad, sometimes it’s still a great redemption despite the exact same amount of taxes: it always depends on the cash price (and therefore how much money you save).

However, with these 3 programs, sometimes there are also surcharges in addition to taxes on certain airlines. It’s best to try to avoid these as well, but again: if the cash price is high, sometimes the savings still make a particular redemption very valuable. Always do the math.

 

Basics of the British Airways Avios program

We’ll soon have a detailed guide about the Avios program specifically, but here is a good introduction.

Here are the highlights of the British Airways Avios rewards program:

  • It’s the rewards program of British Airways, the United Kingdoms’s flag carrier
  • British Airways is part of the oneworld airline alliance
  • Our Flytrippers Valuation of Avios points is ≈ 1.5¢/pt (variable-value rewards
  • Avios has an award chart for oneworld partners and an award chart for the 4 IAG airlines
  • Reward flight prices are distance-based only (not region-based)
  • Each flight segment is charged separately (so it is best for direct flights)
  • Avios sweet spots are mostly around shorter-distance flights
  • The program is officially called British Airways Executive Club (but everyone calls it Avios)

Avios are variable-value rewards because the cost in points for a flight is fixed by an award chart depending on the distance, no matter the cash price (as is the case with most airline rewards programs—and all good airline rewards programs).

Flights on British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Vueling have their own award chart with slightly lower prices (those airlines all belong to IAG, British Airways’ parent company), with flights starting at just 4,000 points in Europe, one of the lowest price points in the entire world of travel rewards!

(Also, the IAG chart adds another wrinkle, with off-peak and peak pricing levels instead of one price year-round with the 12 other oneworld airlines.)

The most important thing to know is that Avios charges for each flight leg separately (unlike Aeroplan, which charges based on the total distance) so it is much more valuable for direct routes.

Avios is usually not recommended for flights with a layover as the value is often not interesting at all. Stopovers are technically free since every segment is charged separately, but you end up paying more points than with other programs.

Those rules mean that Avios can be quite lucrative for short-distance flights to/from partner airline hub airports (and other “sweet spots” of the program) but not so much for long-distance flights, unless they are expensive in cash of course. It’s also worth noting that Aeroplan is a much better program for those who want long-distance business class flights.

That is great for those who love to get a good flight deal to travel internationally and then want to move around with Avios points. And also for those who live in one of the 10 Canadian cities served by either American Airlines or Alaska Airlines (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, Halifax, Victoria, Kelowna) who love weekend getaways to the US.

The best uses of HSBC Rewards points listed earlier are all with the Avios program.

As mentioned, Avios can be used for flights with British Airways, all other airlines in the oneworld alliance (American, Alaska, Iberia, Finnair, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Qatar, S7 Airlines, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, SriLankan, Qantas), and a few non-alliance partners like Aer Lingus and Vueling.

oneworld member airlines (image credit: oneworld)

 

So the worst use of British Airways Avios points is ironically on British Airways itself (just like the worst use of Air Canada Aeroplan points is often on Air Canada)! This is because British Airways charges expensive surcharges on their own flights and taxes are high for flights departing from London, especially long-distance flights and business class flights.

Without getting too far into the details, Avios points also have the particularity of being transferrable to the Iberia Plus Avios program, which despite sharing the name, has slightly different rules. You shouldn’t transfer speculatively, but if you do eventually need to do it, your Iberia Plus Avios account needs to have been open for 90 days, so do that for free now just in case (and use LastPass for account security and management).

 

Basics of the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program

Singapore Airlines is Singapore’s flag carrier and KrisFlyer is their variable-value rewards program.

However, prices for flights are region-based (not distance-based). A flight to anywhere within a region costs the same amount of points, regardless of connecting flights.

They have separate award charts for flights on Singapore Airlines, for flights on Star Alliance partners, and for flights on non-alliance partners (Alaska, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Vistara, and Juneyao).

Star Alliance members in North America are Air Canada and United, and there are no surcharges for flights within the Americas (Singapore Airlines, Avianca, Alaska, and Virgin Australia domestic flights are others with no surcharges with KrisFlyer, and surcharges are also pretty low with LOT Polish Airlines).

Star Alliance member airlines (image credit: Star Alliance)

 

The award charts are pretty standard, so given the transfer rate, it’s not often a better deal than just booking with Aeroplan points, which are so easy to accrue in Canada.

But there are some arbitrage opportunities:

  • Flying from Canada to Hawaii costs 17,500 miles (compared to 22,500 with Aeroplan)
  • Flying from Canada to southern South America costs 30,000 miles (compared to 40,000 with Aeroplan)
  • Flying from the 5 Canadian cities served by Alaska Airlines to Seattle costs 7,500 miles (YYC, YEG, YVR, YYJ, YLW)

A nice benefit is that you can add a free stopover on roundtrips (or for $100 on one-way flights).

Here’s a niche nerd maximization opportunity: that stopover and the award chart that combines Hawaii and the Caribbean/Central American regions together makes for a very specific but valuable sweet spot: by adding 2 cheap cash tickets to position to/from the Caribbean and a $100 stopover, you would get 2 extra trips to the Caribbean for the same amount of miles as a roundtrip to Hawaii!

I know that is something very specific, but those are the kind of unlimited possibilities that only exist with variable-value rewards! Detailed post to come soon.

A trip to Hawaii PLUS 2 trips to the Caribbean for the same amount of points (photo credit: Karsten Winegeart)

 

One last thing to note is that flights on non-alliance partners like Alaska have different rules: no connecting flights allowed, only direct (like Avios above). That’s why the above Western Canada example only works for Seattle while the others on Star Alliance partners work to any destination in a region.

 

Basics of the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles program

Cathay Pacific is Hong Kong’s flag carrier and Asia Miles is their variable-value rewards program.

It’s one that is a bit complicated.

Like its oneworld partner British Airways, Asia Miles uses a distance-based award chart but it’s the total distance that counts, not each separate leg. However, that comes with specific rules, like the fact you can only have 2 flight segments on a one-way or 4 on a roundtrip. Roundtrip bookings can also include one free stopover.

That award chart is for Cathay Pacific flights, and sadly there is no official published award chart for partner airlines. There is a price calculator though, and it seems that partner flights cost 5,000-10,000 more points than the same distance on Cathay Pacific most of the time.

Stopovers can sadly not be booked online, only over the phone. Even some partner flights have to be booked by phone, sadly…

In addition to the oneworld airlines listed in the Avios section, Asia Miles has many non-alliance partners (Air Canada, LATAM, Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines, Gulf Air, Hong Kong Express, Air China, Bangkok Airways, Shenzen Airlines, and Air New Zealand) but some partners have specific rules.

Sadly, Asia Miles imposes surcharges on most redemptions but they are lower on some partners. One thing to note is that if you absolutely want to book British Airways flights with points, the Asia Miles program surcharges are much lower than with the Avios program.

Finally, one very interesting sweet spot is the Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart that allows you to book a round-the-world itinerary with 5 stopovers for 150,000 miles. While it’s not a bad price, that requires a lot of Asia Miles (so even more HSBC Rewards points) so you might be better off with the new Aeroplan’s Mini-Round-The-World feature. Detailed posts to come soon.

 

How to use HSBC Rewards for non-travel redemptions

The best way to use HSBC Rewards for non-travel redemptions is to not do it.

There are many other possibilities to redeem your HSBC Rewards points, but, by far, redeeming for travel provides the best value, as is always the case with any type of rewards program.

So don’t use the points for anything other than travel. At Flytrippers, our mission is to help you travel more for less, so we cannot in good conscience help you use your points for non-travel redemptions.

 

How to maximize HSBC Rewards

Apart from the redemption side, there is one major way to maximize your HSBC Rewards.

Every year or so, HSBC offers transfer bonuses to partner airline programs.

During these promotions, the transfer rates are vastly improved, often giving you up to 20% more value instantly! We’ll let you know whenever the next promo starts, be sure to subscribe below—it’s free. Transfer bonuses are another reason why points should never be transferred unless you are ready to use them very soon.

 

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Summary

The HSBC Rewards program is a pretty straightforward bank rewards program, with lots of options to redeem your points for travel since the points are among the easiest type to use. Points can be redeemed for any travel purchase on your card at a value of 0.5¢ per point. Or, with the HSBC World Elite Mastercard, you can transfer your points to partner airline programs with the potential for outsized value and unlimited value.

What would you like to know about HSBC Rewards? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Explore awesome destinations: travel inspiration

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Featured image: Barcelona, Spain (photo credit: Joseph Guilbey)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 62/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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