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Making the Most of the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard

Max out the first-year intro rewards rate, take advantage of the anniversary bonus, travel abroad with it, and redeem smartly.
June 19, 2019
Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Cards
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The HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card hits all the right notes as a cash-back card: The earning rate is in line with similar cards, and the $0 annual fee makes it easy to keep in your wallet for a long time.

But a few unique perks help this card stand out in a crowded field.

It offers the ease of a flat-rate card that earns the same amount of cash back wherever you use it — but you’ll get a special promotional rate in the first year, plus an ongoing anniversary bonus every year that boosts your effective earning rate. And unlike a lot of other cash-back cards, this one travels well.

Here’s how to make the most of the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best cash-back credit cards

Max out the introductory cash-back rate

In lieu of a traditional upfront sign-up bonus, the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card pays 3% cash back on the first $10,000 you spend in the first year you have the card. From that point on, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which has become the gold standard among flat-rate cash-back cards.

At a 3% earning rate, anyone who spends around $833.33 per month in the first year would net $300 in cash back.

If you time major purchases to fall within the first year of having this card, you can maximize the introductory cash-back rate while sticking to your budget.

Of course, if your typical monthly spending is less than that, it’s not worth spending more than you normally would just to get additional cash back. But if you time major purchases to fall within the first year of having the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card, you can maximize the introductory cash-back rate while sticking to your budget.

However, that 3% rate isn’t the upper limit on what you can earn with this card, thanks to its anniversary bonus feature. And best of all, that perk doesn’t require any extra effort on your part. More on this below.

» MORE: Which 1.5% cash-back credit card should you choose?

Hold on to the card and enjoy its anniversary bonus

The $0 annual fee isn’t the only reason to keep this card around, even after the 3% introductory rate expires.

That’s because the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card also offers a 10% anniversary bonus on all cash back you earn throughout the year, every year. That elevates your effective cash-back rates to 3.3% back in the first year (up to the $10,000 limit), and 1.65% after that.

The card offers a 10% anniversary bonus on all cash back you earn throughout the year, every year. That elevates your effective ongoing cash-back rates.

That means if you spent $10,000 in the first year, you’d get an extra $30 (as an anniversary bonus) on top of the $300 you earned through normal spending. Spend the same $10,000 in year two and earn $165 in cash back — $150 plus an anniversary bonus of $15.

» MORE: Full review of the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card 

Take the card with you overseas

Typically, even the best cash-back cards on the market aren’t ideal for international use because — unlike many travel rewards cards — they tend to charge foreign transaction fees of between 3% to 5% on every purchase.

That can add up over the course of any trip abroad.

The card is a solid travel buddy, with no foreign transaction fees to worry about and the worldwide acceptance of a Mastercard.

But the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card is a solid travel buddy, with no foreign transaction fees to worry about and the worldwide acceptance of a Mastercard. Pack it with you on your next international journey.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best no foreign transaction fee credit cards

Pair with another cash-back card

If you want to keep it simple, it’s hard to beat the 3% cash back (plus the 10% anniversary bonus) you’d earn in the first year. But it can pay to pair the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card with another cash-back card or two, especially once you pass $10,000 in spending in the first year.

After all, 1.5% cash back is good, and an effective 1.65% back after the anniversary bonus is better — but those still aren’t the highest cash-back rates around.

  • Happy to use one card for everything? Once you no longer earn the higher cash-back rate, consider the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. It earns 1% cash back as you spend and 1% back when you pay your bill, for a total of 2% cash back on all purchases. The annual fee is $0, but there’s a foreign transaction fee, so keep your HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card on hand to use when you travel internationally.
  • Want to earn more in the first year of having the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card? The Chase Freedom® earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending on quarterly rotating bonus categories that rotate every three months (category activation required). In the past, categories have included things like grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. So you could use the Chase Freedom® whenever you shop in that quarter’s bonus category, and use the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card everywhere else. The Chase Freedom® has an annual fee of $0 and offers this sign-up bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. But again, because the Chase Freedom® charges a foreign transaction fee, the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card can remain your faithful travel companion.
  • Willing to pay an annual fee? If so, you can earn even more in certain spending categories while using the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card everywhere else. Are groceries your biggest expense? The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spending per year (1% after that). You’ll earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months. Terms Apply. The annual fee is $95. If you prefer going out over staying in, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 4% cash back on dining out and entertainment, plus 2% back at grocery stores (ideal once you pass the intro 3% cash-back period on the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card). New cardholders are eligible for this sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. The annual fee is $0 for the first year, then $95.

» MORE: More on how pairing up your cards can maximize rewards

Stick to the easiest way to redeem rewards

The HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card provides more redemption options than some competing cards do. However, in this case, “more” doesn’t necessarily equal “better.”

Extra redemption options make this card more flexible, but redeeming for a statement credit is the simplest way to get value out of your rewards.

As with most cash-back cards, the most effortless way to redeem with this card is by getting a statement credit. Another option for redemption is as a travel statement credit — which is essentially the same thing as a regular statement credit, only you need to accumulate enough points to cover the travel expense you charged to your card.

You can also redeem rewards directly in exchange for things like plane tickets, hotel stays, rental cars, travel packages, reimbursement for TSA Precheck, gift cards and merchandise. But these, too, may require minimum redemption thresholds, and in some cases you must call to redeem rather than doing so online through your HSBC account.

While these extra redemption options make the card more flexible, redeeming for cash back in the form of a statement credit truly is the simplest way to get value out of your rewards. Besides, if travel points and miles are more your speed, travel rewards cards generally offer higher-value sign-up bonuses and easier travel redemptions. The HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card shines brightest as a cash-back product.

» MORE: Cash-back cards that are great for travel, too

For even more cash-back flexibility, become a loyal HSBC customer

Prefer your cash back in the form of, well, cash? If you have an eligible HSBC consumer checking or savings account, you can opt to redeem rewards as a direct deposit.

You won’t get any kind of bonus just for having a bank account with HSBC (unlike, say, what the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer offers for being a Bank of America® Preferred Rewards client).

But the ability to get cash back in two ways is a nice added benefit to banking and having a credit card with HSBC.

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