Review: Bank of China Family Card – 10% on Dining, 3% on Public Transportation, Groceries, and Online Purchases

Bank of China Family Card is a very close rival to Maybank Family and Friends Card – even their names are similarly uncreative, although I don’t have a clue which came first. UOB One relinquished the position of King after its recent nerf, and I have placed the crown on Maybank’s FnF card. Have I been too quick to rule out BOC Family Card? Does it take 2nd, or perhaps even 1st place?

Features & Details

ProviderBank of China
TypeConditional Cashback
Earn Rate– 10% on dining and movies
– 5% at selected merchants
– 3% on public transportation
– 3% on supermarket, online and hospital
Conditions– Monthly minimum $800 spending
Limits– Monthly sub-limit of $25 on each category
– Monthly maximum $100 cashback

BOC Family Card is one of those “everyday spend” types, which is to say its different categories are easily clocked because of the recurring, daily nature of it. Almost everyone eats out, takes public transportation, buys groceries, and probably makes an occasional spend at one of the selected merchants:

  • Best Denki
  • POPULAR Bookstore
  • Unity Pharmacy
  • Watsons
  • Welcia-BHG

Great cashback rates for dining…

10% off dining makes this card the top of the hill since UOB YOLO and Maybank FnF tops out at 8%.

Compared to Maybank FnF’s restrictive definition of dining to include only restaurants, BOC Family also includes fast food, but still pales in comparison to UOB YOLO’s inclusion of caterers and even bars and clubs.

… with unfortunate sublimits

Sublimits, paired with minimum spends, are really annoying. A great 10% rate can be severely diminished because of a $25 sublimit on the dining category, with a minimum $800 spend to reach. Managed to hit $250 on dining this month? Great, but you have another $550 to go, and if you spend it all on non-qualifying spend, your 10% cashback on $250 is more like 3.33% on $800.

Your best use case for this card is hence to score $250 on dining (for 10%), then $500 on the selected merchants (for 5%), and $50 on one of the 3% categories. Even in this very unlikely (unless you are someone who somehow spends $500 every month on Unity, Best Denki or BHG) scenario, your cashback yield is 6.43%. This doesn’t quite match up to FnF’s 8% on $800 spend.

Realistically, I think you could spend a couple of hundred on dining and movies on this, then get your other spend on 3% categories like public transportation and online purchases. By going $250 on dining , and $550 on the 3% categories, your yield is now 5.18%, and that’s not much better than the DBS LiveFresh which gives you 5% cashback on PayWave and contactless spend, which is far less restrictive than BOC Family’s categories.

Silver lining

One silver lining, however, is that you can clock all $800 of spend on online transactions for a $24 cashback at a 3% rate. I’m not sure when you’d do this, since $400 on DBS LiveFresh already gives you $20 (provided at least $200 is done on PayWave), but I imagine there are times where you get a $800 thing to buy online, and 3% on $800 ($24) is still better than 5% on $400 ($20) which still requires another $200 of PayWave spend.

Also, ipaymy also currently lists BOC Family card as one of the cards eligible for 3% cashback (which LiveFresh isn’t). If you have bills and insurance premiums totalling $800 to pay and UOB One doesn’t cut it because it’s not monthly recurring, paying 2.25% fee to get 3% cashback isn’t the worst deal (0.8175% effective yield because ipaymy’s fee also attracts cashback) since the norm is usually 0%. (Remember to use sethisfy at payment page for a reduced fee!)

As a bonus you’d be getting 10% on up to $250 of dining and movie expenses for that month.

How does it fare on the Tier List?

Updated 3rd March 2020

CashbackMilesWinner
18%Cashback
25%4 mpdDraw
33%3 mpdMiles
42%2 mpdMiles
51.5%1.2 to 1.5 mpdMiles

BOC Family can’t be said to be a 10% card, and I think it realistically is in between Tiers 2 and 3 since its effective yield is often going to be anywhere from 3 to 5%. Personally, for these “everyday” categories, it’s much easier to go for the 8% FnF which clearly keeps its crown. For everything else, I have my 5% DBS LiveFresh. I suppose if I ever happen to have a one-off $800 bill to ipaymy with, I might apply for this card, but it’s really quite a niche situation to consider for most. Income tax perhaps?

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Conclusion

The good:

  • High cashback on dining/movies
  • Works with ipaymy
  • Great yield if you spend on dining/movies and the selected merchants

The bad:

  • Sublimits dilute cashback rates
  • 3% is on the lower side for conditional cards
  • Selected merchants are a small and rather niche list

The ugly:

  • Their app, website, and card design feel stuck in the 1990s

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
7 Stars of Sethisfaction

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