Finance, Listicles, Travel

[PH Credit Cards] Which World MasterCard is the best?

Last week, I wrote about my thoughts on the RCBC World MasterCard, one of my favorite Philippine credit cards. In the thought process, I curiously explored deeper into the seven other World MasterCard credit cards the Philippines has to offer, as it’s so interesting how different and at the same time similar they are. Today, I share my thoughts on them.

As mentioned last time, World is MasterCard’s second-highest level, and usually the highest that can be directly applied for (World Elite, the highest, is by invitation only, at least for BDO, which is the country’s sole issuer of said card anyway). It is higher than Platinum, and usually – alongside Platinum and its sister Titanium – provides perks that are premium lifestyle- and travel-related, hence the name (Visa’s equivalent is Signature). Not all banks offer World MasterCards; Platinum or even Gold is the highest some offer (BPI’s standard MasterCard is only until Gold, while only its Delta SkyMiles comes in Platinum).

The Philippines has a total of eight World MasterCards on offer:

  • Bank of Commerce World MasterCard
  • China Bank World MasterCard
  • EastWest Bank KrisFlyer World MasterCard
  • HSBC Premier World MasterCard
  • Metrobank World MasterCard
  • PNB Mabuhay Miles World MasterCard
  • RCBC World MasterCard
  • Security Bank World MasterCard

Similar to my travel credit cards overviews, I’ll be summarizing the features per card and rating them based on: a) miles ratios, b) fees, c) lounge access, and d) other features. I’ve already shared my thoughts about RCBC’s World card, but I’ll briefly revisit them here in light of this.

1. Bank of Commerce World MasterCard

Bank of Commerce

We kick off our (alphabetical) list with an interesting card by Bank of Commerce. Despite its parent company, San Miguel, having at one point been leading Philippine Airlines (PAL), it doesn’t heavily favor PAL above others, being one of just two cards on the list to partner with all major airlines of the country – PAL, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia. The miles ratio is quite terrible, though, at ₱150.00 per mile for PAL and CebPac and ₱75.00 for AirAsia – though there are “some” establishments (department stores and restaurants with certain merchant codes) that will quintuple rewards earned, effectively whittling the ratio down to ₱30.00 and ₱15.00, respectively.

The card also offers twice-a-year free lounge access with LoungeKey, with all subsequent visits charging US$32.00 per person per visit. This seems good, until one recalls that Security Bank’s Platinum MasterCard offers the exact same perk (as we’ll see below, its World card offers six a year). Suddenly, twice a year – with no free NAIA lounge access, to boot – seems a lot less appealing. But, still, a little is better than none.

All these, and one of the lowest effective interest rates in the list, plus dual-currency billing, for an annual fee of ₱5,000.00, which is expensive but not overly so. Be mindful, though, that there are no free supplementary cards, so if you’ll get this card, be wise about who to extend it to.

Pluses

  • Offers dual-currency billing
  • Twice-a-year free lounge access
  • Miles can be redeemed at three local airlines

Minuses

  • High miles ratio, unless you patronize the Rewards Plus establishments
  • That free lounge access is also quite wanting
  • No unlimited free NAIA lounge access
  • No free supplementary cards

Grade

  • Miles grade: 2.00 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 3.00 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 2.00 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 2.75 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 2.44 / 5.00

2. China Bank World MasterCard

China Bank

With its sister bank being BDO, a king in terms of credit card offerings, features, and perks, I would personally hold high expectations for China Bank. But after going through its World card, I’m not quite sure what happened.

The card has one of the worst, if not the worst, miles ratios in the country: ₱200.00 for one Mabuhay Mile, and that’s for normal transactions. For service merchants (supermarkets, drug stores, gas stations, telcos, utilities, and insurance), it’s a whopping ₱1,600.00 per mile. I can get more than 30 miles with Citibank’s PremierMiles. And this is considering that the only redemptions with China Bank’s rewards program are Mabuhay Miles and cash credit.

It also doesn’t offer any lounge access at all – neither NAIA lounge access nor freemium international lounge packages – and it doesn’t offer dual-currency billing. Furthermore, for a first (and it’s the only one on the list) – there is no travel insurance coverage. AND, if you want to change card type (upgrade or downgrade), there is a fee of ₱1,000.00. What…

The only saving graces, then, are that 1) all supplementary cards are free, and 2) the card comes with free China Bank-tagged SM Prestige membership, the premium level of SM’s loyalty membership program. But even that isn’t guaranteed – there is a spending quota required, and it is tied to the China Bank World card, with failure to do so rendering the membership suspended and subjected to a fee for reactivation.

And it costs ₱6,000.00 a year. Worth it if you’re a frequent SM patron; otherwise, not really.

Pluses

  • Free supplementary cards
  • Comes with (conditional) SM Prestige membership

Minuses

  • Highest miles ratio in the list, even at its lowest
  • No lounge access whatsoever
  • Highest annual fee in the list
  • If you upgrade to the World card, you must pay ₱1,000.00
  • The SM Prestige membership is intertwined with the card

Grade

  • Miles grade: 0.50 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 2.75 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 0.00 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 2.75 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 1.50 / 5.00

3. EastWest Bank KrisFlyer World MasterCard

EastWest Bank / Out of Town

The newest member of the club (as of the original time of writing) is EastWest Bank, and like PNB below, its only World card is an airline card – that of Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer being its frequent flyer program’s name), which also happens to be my favorite airline. Like PNB (at the start), the card comes only in Platinum and World variants, and EastWest Bank has done a fantastic job in loading the card with features.

Since it’s an airline card, the miles merit closer scrutiny, and it does not disappoint. Although the standard ratio of ₱36.00 per mile still loses out to Citibank’s PremierMiles’s (which also offers KrisFlyer redemption) ₱30.00, the travel, overseas, and Singapore Airlines transactions is where it truly shines – at a mind-blowing ₱12.00 per mile. That’s unsurpassed by any other miles ratio in any situation in the country.

The card also offers four free passes a year to international lounges through LoungeKey, though no unlimited free access in NAIA. It also boasts – on paper, at least – the lowest foreign transaction rate in the entire country, lower than even BPI and BDO, so cardholders should be able to enjoy good conversion rates when swiping abroad.

Coming from China Bank’s ₱6,000.00 annual fee that seems like a rip-off considering the features it offers, EastWest’s ₱5,000.00 is a real bargain. Take note, though, that you can have only one free supplementary card. And there’s no dual-currency billing – but with that low foreign transaction rate, who needs DCB?

If you usually fly a local airline, or airlines from oneworld or SkyTeam, then the beautiful miles ratios above may be irrelevant for you – though four times a year free lounges and low foreign rates alone also still seal the deal! But if you frequently fly Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Scoot, or any Star Alliance airlines, this is the card for you.

Pluses

  • Very good standard miles ratio; outstanding overseas/travel miles ratio
  • 4x/year free lounge access is quite generous
  • Lowest foreign rate in the country

Minuses

  • If you’re more with PAL, CebPac, AirAsia, or even Cathay Pacific, the miles are irrelevant
  • Only one free supplementary card
  • No unlimited free NAIA lounge access

Grade

  • Miles grade: 4.50 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 4.00 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 3.00 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 2.50 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 3.50 / 5.00

4. HSBC Premier World MasterCard

The only international bank in the list, HSBC doesn’t play catch-up with its World MasterCard, it strives to blaze the trail… or does it? Well, in some cases it does, in others… I leave you to it.

HSBC

The first thing that a reader would notice is that the card is labeled HSBC Premier. That’s right – the card is not just for anyone, only HSBC Premier Philippines members can avail of it. This major roadblock is also not easy to overcome – to be a Premier member, you must either have a Total Relationship Balance (TRB) – the sum of all your deposits, investments, and insurances – of ₱3,000,000.00; a monthly income of ₱300,000.00 with the salary being paid into your HSBC account; or a home loan of at least ₱6,000,000.00. All the zeroes are making me dizzy…

But when you’ve outrun all said zeroes, you’ve completed the race, and you’re breathing a sigh of relief and triumph that you’ve finally made it into the bank’s upper echelons and become a Premier member, the shiny World MasterCard awaits. And shiny it is from the onset – there are NO annual fees AT ALL, for BOTH principal and supplementary holders. Sweet!

Here’s where it gets a bit rocky again, though. HSBC prides itself in its Accelerated Rewards program, which gives you more points (and thus lowers the miles ratio) for certain establishments, like with Bank of Commerce. While normally it would take ₱100.00 to get one Asia Mile (Cathay Pacific) or KrisFlyer Mile, and ₱120.00 for a Mabuhay Mile, this is cut down to ₱33.33 or ₱40.00, respectively, for said establishments; and an even more mouth-watering ₱25.00 or ₱30.00 for overseas purchases! Makes you want to take that shiny purple card out when abroad… until you see that HSBC has one of the highest foreign transaction rates in the country, by virtue of its being an international bank (which to me sounds counterintuitive).

Not only that, there’s no dual-currency billing, and there’s no free lounge access – just a basic LoungeKey membership where you need to pay US$32.00 per head per visit. At least the card has partnered with iPass, a global wi-fi hotspot provider, so you can access free wi-fi worldwide and even on some flights. And, of course, the VIP benefits that come with HSBC Premier membership…

Pluses

  • Very good overseas/travel miles ratio
  • No annual fees
  • iPass partnership

Minuses

  • Very stringent qualifications
  • No free lounge access
  • No dual-currency billing
  • High foreign transaction rate

Grade

  • Miles grade: 2.00 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 5.00 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 1.00 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 3.00 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 2.75 / 5.00

5. Metrobank World MasterCard

Metrobank Card

Metrobank’s slogan is, “You’re in good hands”. Are we in good hands with their World MasterCard? Let’s see.

Metrobank’s World MasterCard is interesting the same way Bank of Commerce’s is – it seems to be a hit-or-miss card also in terms of its features. It’s your standard, not drool-worthy, but still proud-to-have card if you’re a Metrobank client. For starters, its miles ratio is a bit on the average-to-good side, with a standard ratio of ₱50.00 to a mile (Mabuhay, Asia, or KrisFlyer in this case). This becomes better when you use the card overseas, at ₱25.00, though with a high foreign transaction rate of 2.50% plus assessment fee, I can’t see why you would do so. It’s when you shop at Rustans that it positively shines, at around ₱17.00 to a mile. If you’re the type who shops for gifts in that department store, this would be very valuable…

Like HSBC Premier’s World card, though, Metrobank’s World MasterCard offers only basic LoungeKey membership, and no free lounge access. It also doesn’t support dual-currency billing, which is even more of a bummer with the high foreign rates; and it joins China Bank in having an eye-watering ₱6,000.00 annual fee. There are two free supplementary cards, though, and the World card has its own revolving door of premium hotel discounts that Metrobank’s good at. Be sure to check regularly, though, as partners are not permanent and change seasonally.

Pluses

  • Great circumstantial miles ratio
  • Two free supplementary cards

Minuses

  • No free lounge access
  • No dual-currency billing
  • High foreign transaction rate
  • High annual fee

Grade

  • Miles grade: 3.50 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 2.50 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 1.00 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 4.00 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 2.75 / 5.00

6. PNB Mabuhay Miles World MasterCard

PNB Cards

As I previously wrote, PNB’s World MasterCard, which is tied in with Philippine Airlines’ (who, in fact, is PNB’s sister company) frequent flyer program, is one of the go-to cards for frequent flyers in the Philippines – although the changes in its benefits has made it somewhat fall from grace. Specifically, the miles ratio to your Mabuhay Miles – that is, if you’re even a member – is now dependent on your TRB in PNB as a depositor, meaning those who do not deposit with PNB (such as myself) are stuck at ₱55.00 per mile; the lucky ones with a TRB of ₱100 million or more (that’s US$2 million) get to enjoy ₱30.00/mile, like Citibank’s PremierMiles.

Other than that, it stays the same as before. The card has dual-currency billing, which can be helpful when you’re overseas. Also, cardholders flying PAL are entitled to priority check-in at business class counters in NAIA Terminal 2, regardless of class flown – though in my experience, it was not consistently observed at said airport. And, unfortunately, there are no free supplementary cards, and there is no lounge access whatsoever. (Cardholders used to be allowed in the Mabuhay Lounge in Terminal 2, but no longer.)

Pluses

  • Offers dual-currency billing
  • Mabuhay Miles members do not need to go through a redemption process
  • Priority check-in at business class counters at Terminal 2

Minuses

  • Lower miles ratio, especially if you don’t have a substantial TRB with sister company PNB
  • No lounge access whatsoever

Grade

  • Miles grade: 1.00 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 4.00 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 2.75 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 2.75 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 2.63 / 5.00

7. RCBC World MasterCard

RCBC Bankard

(Read more: My thoughts on RCBC’s World MasterCard)

RCBC’s version is quite the decent offering, being the cheapest World card in terms of annual fees (not counting HSBC’s waived ones), and also having the most generous NAIA access – which wouldn’t matter if you frequently fly from Terminal 2 or do not fly from NAIA at all, though. It’s also the only card among the eight to offer Priority Pass, though in this case it’s more of a curse than a blessing as its Priority Pass is only Standard, meaning you still have to pay a fee of US$32.00 (up from US$27.00 starting 1 October 2019) per person, per visit.

It also has a rather horrible miles ratio (RCBC’s standard one, not even the Platinum Visa’s Preferred Airmiles program) – which I guess is the trade-off for being part of the most flexible rewards programs in the industry (China Bank, take note), at ₱108.00 to a mile, or ₱375.00 for service merchants (supermarkets, gas stations, and drug stores). To be fair, you can redeem with one of four airlines: Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia, and Cathay Pacific.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer dual-currency billing – though since its sibling, the Black Card Platinum MasterCard, offers PHP and USD variants, it may be the same in this case.

Pluses

  • Lowest annual fee
  • Only World card with unlimited access to NAIA lounges
  • Flexible rewards program

Minuses

  • Very high miles ratio
  • Priority Pass is only Standard – still need to pay to access lounges
  • High foreign transaction rate
  • No dual-currency billing

Grade

  • Miles grade: 1.00 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 4.00 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 2.75 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 2.50 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 2.60 / 5.00

8. Security Bank World MasterCard

Security Bank

Security Bank is trying to make a name for itself with its credit card business by promoting its cards as having no foreign transaction fees (though they seem to have since revoked this), and even explicitly labeling its Platinum and World MasterCards as “travel credit cards”. While they aren’t really wrong, given World’s proclivity for travel and lifestyle perks, it implies that their other cards, which are simply the lower-end versions, are not travel cards – unlike, say, EastWest Bank, who has its line of premium cards and then KrisFlyer cards. But I digress.

Security Bank’s World MasterCard is, I think, the classiest-looking of the eight, and it rightly deserves such with (some of) its classy benefits that befit a World card. It has the most generous international lounge access package of the eight, with six free passes a year through LoungeKey (though this also sacrificed unlimited free access at NAIA lounges); and it offers dual-currency billing (with its lower Platinum sibling also doing so). It also gives you one – just one – free supplementary card.

However, Security Bank has the second-highest standard miles ratio of the eight as well, behind China Bank (it also has the most partner airlines in the list, with five), with ₱100.00 per BIG Loyalty Point, ₱130.00 per Asia Mile, ₱140.00 per GetGo Point, ₱156.80 per Mabuhay Mile, and ₱180.00 per KrisFlyer Mile – though, to be fair, it has a wide range of rewards redemptions, including even entire package tours.

Pluses

  • Most generous international lounge access
  • Most partner airlines for redemption
  • Dual-currency billing
  • Very flexible rewards program

Minuses

  • Very high miles ratio
  • Foreign transaction rates have been reinstated
  • Only one free supplementary card

Grade

  • Miles grade: 1.00 / 5.00
  • Fees grade: 3.50 / 5.00
  • Lounge grade: 4.00 / 5.00
  • Others grade: 2.75 / 5.00
  • Final grade: 2.81 / 5.00

Verdict

After inputting the grades in my spreadsheet, the summary of which follows below, I present to you the top three, or rather four, winners:

Second Runners-Up – 2.75 / 5.00

  • HSBC Premier World MasterCard
  • Metrobank World MasterCard

First Runner-Up – 2.81/5.00

  • Security Bank World MasterCard

Champion – 3.50/5.00

  • EastWest Bank KrisFlyer World MasterCard

EastWest Bank surely must have factored in the competition, their being the eighth World MasterCard on the block and the second to be airline-partnered, and their investments in its benefits for cardholders really paid off. Very low miles ratios, a low foreign transaction rate, and generous overseas lounge access really played in its favor, and the card, with its also-excellent Platinum sibling, is off to a very promising debut in the Philippines.

Security Bank wins over with its über-generous overseas lounge access and its dual-currency billing feature, while HSBC Premier and Metrobank, despite not offering free lounge access and having high foreign transaction rates, make up for it with low miles ratios in some situations, and ancillary benefits.

Summary

Aloy Chua (2019)

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