A breath of fresh air when it was launched - The HSBC Platinum MasterCard with Cash or Fly Rewards was perhaps the first credit card that offers the cardholder a choice of either redeeming points for cash rebates or free airline tickets. That was a novelty back when it was introduced because with all cards, you either had to choose a cash back or travel rewards credit card. Both appeared to be mutually exclusive. The introduction of this card expanded consumer choice. Now, cardholder who did not feel like using points for travel could simply redeem it for cash back and vice versa.
Reward/Cash Back Formula - Here is how everything works. The HSBC Platinum MasterCard with Cash or Fly Rewards allow you to earn one point for every dollar you spend on your credit card. You can redeem points for either cash rebates or a free airline ticket. Best of all, you can earn unlimited points or cash rebates. There are also no blackout dates for airline tickets.
Airline ticket rewards a mystery - While it is easy to understand the value of the cash rebate you earn (if you choose to redeem cash rebates), understanding the value of the reward points for airline tickets is a little trickier. On HSBC's website, they say that rewards starts as little as 7,500 points1. Bu what exactly does that mean? Nowhere else does it mention it on HSBC's site.
A clue from Premier MasterCard Travel Rewards - While there doesn't appear to be any information about the cash or fly airline rewards, HSBC does have a pdf highlighting their Premier MasterCard rewards2. On that document, it states that 8,000 points gets you $100 travel discount (which is good because value is more than 1%). 16,000 points gets you $200 travel discount. Then, like the traditional programs, 24,000 points gets you a coach class domestic roundtrip flight for up to $400 in ticket value. There are no blackout dates, but reservations have to be made 21 days in advance and you need a Saturday night stay. You also have to use the same airlines for the whole trip.
So while the rewards above belong to HSBS's Premier MasterCard, perhaps, the Cash or Fly rewards have some similarities? We cannot say for sure. Because the website says that rewards start at 7,500, there is already a difference right off the bat on the Premier's pdf document!
Other cards have caught up - As we mentioned earlier, this card was unique when it was first introduced because you could earn both cash back and travel rewards depending on which suited you better at a particular point in time. However, other issuers have caught up and there are now cards that also give you the flexibility that this card has.
Perhaps the best example is the Chase Freedom Card. With the Freedom card, points you can can be used for cash back, travel rewards, merchandise and gift cards. The reward choices are even more than the HSBC Cash or Fly. Furthermore, you can earn 5% cash back (or point) on certain expense categories that rotate quarterly. The Chase Ultimate Rewards program also has an online shopping portal where you can earn more than one point per dollar when you purchase from their merchant partner sites. For travel rewards, you can either book them on Chase online travel portal or book with your own travel agents (online or off line) and claim a statement credit with your points. 100 points gets you $1 in value for travel rewards (less slightly less than HSBC Cash or Fly).
Is the HSBC Cash or Fly a good card? - I think the HSBC Cash or Fly rewards is a pretty good card. But in terms of earning points, the Chase Freedom is a much better card. It also has a greater variety of rewards.
When it comes to travel rewards, we are not exactly sure how it works. If it works like the HSBC Premier MasterCard travel rewards system, then I would say it is a great reward in terms of value for points you earn (but we are not sure because HSBC does not have it on their site).
The other thing you have to take note of is that you need a banking relationship (specifically an internet banking relationship) with HSBC to apply for this card. Hence, if you do not have (or intend to) an online banking relationship with HSBC, then you cannot get this card.
1. HSBC credit card page
2. HSBC Premier MasterCard Benefits
2. HSBC Premier MasterCard Benefits - another version