Review: HSBC Live+ Offers Generous 8% Cashback With A Few Caveats

The brand new HSBC Live+ is upon us and it’s been a while since we have seen a new credit card, much less one that offers high cashback. HSBC markets this card with as high as 8% cashback, and the good news is that it truly does deliver this earn rate. There are some things to take note of, obviously, since 8% is simply not a rate that banks would give out without condition.

Sign-up Promo

At the time of writing, the sign-up promo is the usual bank offer. I would suggest subscribing to the Telegram and get updated when another offer is launched. This new offer is currently scheduled for 24th June 2024 (5PM) and will give you more choice in your sign-up gift.

HSBC Live+

New HSBC Cardholders¹

Choose one:

  • FLUJO SmartTrax Standing Desk (retailing for S$699)
  • Dyson AM07 (retailing for S$459)
  • Sony WF-1000XM5 (retailing for S$429)
  • S$300 eVoucher (FairPrice, Grab, Shopee etc.)

Receive an additional S$100 cashback on top of the above reward when you charge at least 1 qualifying transaction by the end of the month after date of card approval.

Spend S$500 in eligible spend by the end of following month from card approval (e.g. approval in June, make spend by end July).

⚠️ Consent to HSBC’s marketing materials during application. Complete SingSaver Rewards Form to qualify for rewards.

Optional:

  • S$200 top up – Sony HT-AX7 Portable Theatre System (retailing for S$769)
  • S$588 top up – Sony ZV-1M2 Vlog Camera (retailing for S$1209)
  • S$1,099 top up – Apple iPhone 15 Pro 128GB (retailing for S$1,664.25)

Existing HSBC Cardholder²

  • S$50 cashback (with S$500 min spend)

⚠️ Important – complete all the following steps to be eligible for rewards:

  1. Provide HSBC consent to receive marketing/promotional materials during application
  2. Fill up SingSaver gift redemption form
  3. Make a min. spend of S$500 by the end of the following month from card approval date to be eligible for rewards

Last date to apply: 21st July 2024

For quick reference only; refer to terms and conditions for exact terms and save a copy for future reference:

  1. Terms and conditions
  2. Terms and conditions (existing cardholder)

Get upsized 8% cashback on dining and shopping until 31st December 2024 and 5% cashback on fuel.

5% on dining, shopping, entertainment and fuel with 3% bonus cashback until 31st December 2024

The normal earn rate of HSBC Live+ is 5% cashback on certain dining, shopping, entertainment and fuel Merchant Category Codes (MCC). 5% isn’t the most exciting of rates, but until 31st December 2024, there is a bonus 3% cashback on dining, shopping, and entertainment expenses. This makes the card an attractive 8% cashback card for those categories, though note that fuel which remains at 5%.

While it’s not a permanent earn rate, I see it more as a glass half-full or half-empty situation. HSBC could have positioned it as a permanent 8% card, then bring down the earn rate after it has captured enough marketshare. The approach it took by giving a time-limited boost is at least upfront; we know that there is an end-date to this generous earn rate and can decide for ourselves whether to apply for it now.

In any case, 8% is a very good earn rate and 6 months is good enough a period of time to milk the cow while it’s still fat.

A whitelist card

High-earn cards like the HSBC Live+ typically work on a whitelist basis. This means that it has a list of approved Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) that would earn the high earn rate of the card. The utility of such “whitelist cards” thus depends on the categories they work with, and in this regard I find the HSBC Live+ pretty decent.

Whitelist cards benefit greatly from apps like Minstant, heymax, or Dobin to suss out the MCC of the place you are making your spend at, so make sure you have these downloaded and ready to use if you opt to use the HSBC Live+.

Dining

Merchant Category Code (MCC)Description
5811Caterers
5812Eating Places and Restaurants
5462Bakeries
5814Fast Food Restaurants

When it comes to the Dining categories, the great news is that both 5812 and 5814 are listed here. When it comes to the world of MCCs, 5812 refers to Restaurants and Eating Places while 5814 means Fast Food Restaurants. In practice, quite a few places are coded as 5814 even if they have all the trappings and menu prices of a restaurant. This makes the HSBC Live+ a lot more versatile as a true dining card, though take note that 5813 (relating to venues serving alcohol) is not covered. I would personally be more diligent with using the MCC apps when visiting gastropubs or places that serve alcohol – those may not qualify for 8% cashback.

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Shopping

For the list of shopping MCCs, you’d find exactly 16 codes. It’s a relatively scant selection compared to DBS Live Fresh’s very extensive list, though you’d find a few more than OCBC Rewards’ list of MCCs. It’s almost as if HSBC copied and pasted OCBC’s list, added 3 more MCCs (5265, 5309, and 5331) and called it a day.

Merchant Category Code (MCC)Description
5262Marketplaces
5309Duty Free Stores
5310Discount Stores
5311Departmental Stores
5331Variety Stores
5611Men’s and Boys’ Clothing and Accessories Stores
5621Women’s Ready to Wear Stores
5631Women’s Accessory and Specialty Stores
5641Children’s and Infants’ Wear Stores
5651Family Clothing Stores
5655Sports and Riding Apparel Stores
5661Shoe Stores
5691Men’s and Women’s Clothing Stores
5699Miscellaneous Apparel and Accessory Shops
5941Sporting Goods Stores
5948Luggage or Leather Goods Stores

Whether this list is sufficient to you depends on your shopping preferences, but to me, there are a few glaring omissions. 5411 (Groceries) isn’t present, so this card isn’t useful for supermarkets. This isn’t too bad considering how we can supplement it with cards like DBS yuu or Citi Cash Back, but that is also provided you can hit the minimum spend on both HSBC Live+ and your grocery card of choice.

5732 (Electronics) and 5712 (furniture) are other common shopping MCCs that are missing. Don’t put your Apple or Challenger spend here since electronics do not get the 8% cashback of this card, nor would this card be useful for Ikea or Courts expenditure since furniture isn’t covered.

5311 is a useful MCC to have

Thankfully, 5311 is found here, and while it refers to Departmental Store spend, heymax currently also sells vouchers under this code. There seems to be more than 100 different vouchers there, many of which belong to Courts, Ikea, Best Denki etc. and even FairPrice Online, so this expands the utility of HSBC Live+ and overcome its short list of MCCs. Simply buy the vouchers with your HSBC Live+, earn your 8% cashback, then use those vouchers at the retailer.

Entertainment and Fuel

Lastly, we have the Entertainment category which is an even shorter list. Nonetheless, streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ are covered, and Apple Music and Spotify should fall under 5815. For good measure, there are Record Stores if you want to buy… physical CDs.

Merchant Category Code (MCC)Description
4899Cable, Satellite and Other Pay Television/Radio/Streaming Services
5735Record Stores
5815Digital Goods Media – Books, Movies, Digital artwork/images, Music
7832Motion Picture Theaters

Fuel has to be one of the following codes below, and apply only to Caltex or Shell in Singapore only. Once again, note that fuel does not get the boosted 3% cashback and will thus get 5% if the minimum spend is met.

Merchant Category Code (MCC)Description
MCC 5541Service Stations
MCC 5542Automated Fuel Dispensers

Low S$600 minimum spend with quarterly cashback mechanic

High-earn cashback cards tend to come with minimum spends, and the HSBC Live+ is no exception. While many such cards like DBS LiveFresh or OCBC 365 have moved to S$800, HSBC Live+ has a reasonable S$600 amount to hit each month for its higher cashback rate.

It does, however, have a quarterly cashback mechanic. This means that you need to hit S$600 per month for 3 consecutive months within a calendar quarter in order to get your 8% cashback. This is reminiscent of cards like UOB One and Maybank Platinum Visa, and you have to make sure you hit the spend dutifully because a single month missed and you will get a paltry 0.3% cashback on the entire quarter.

The good thing about HSBC Live+ is that you do not need to make sure that your spend is consistent (which UOB One and Maybank Platinum Visa require). If you spend S$600 in July, S$700 in August, and S$1,500 in September, you can get 8% cashback across the entire quarter’s eligible spend.

With a cashback cap of S$250 per quarter, you can also put up to S$3,125 of spend per quarter on this card if we assume every dollar earns 8% cashback. That’s quite a sizeable amount which is quite rare for cashback cards. A spending of S$600 in July, S$600 in August, and S$1,925 in September is entirely possible to keep within the cashback cap for the 8% earn rate.

No category sub-limits

Another positive thing about the card is that there are no category sub-limits. Unlike cards like Maybank Family and Friends which has a cap of S$25 per category, you are free to put all your spend on a single category with HSBC Live+ and get the full cashback rate. Heavy diner? Put all S$600 (or more) of the card’s minimum spend on your HSBC Live+ and get the full 8% cashback. Want to buy just heymax vouchers? You are also free to do so.

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ENTERTAINER and Live+ dining programme

Lastly, the card also comes with HSBC’s ENTERTAINER programme which offers perks and benefits for dining, hotels and more. I haven’t had much experience with this, though that would certainly change since I plan to use the HSBC Live+ card, so stay tuned for updates.

On top of that, HSBC Live+ card also has its own exclusive Live+ dining programme that offers 15% discounts for selected restaurants across Asia. It stacks with your 8% cashback rate, so it’s quite a good deal if you wish to dine at any of the featured places.

A dining card with some element of shopping

With a strong earn rate on both 5812 and 5814 dining categories, the HSBC Live+ is an obvious pick for those who have at significant amount of spend each month on food and restaurants. While the card’s shopping MCCs aren’t strong, it still helps that some amount of shopping spend can indeed get the 8% cashback. heymax vouchers are also a great workaround to expand the card’s utility, so it’s definitely a strong card until at least 31st December 2024.

I compared the card to a few others in my video, but for a written article on that, make sure you stay subscribed for updates. My updated card strategy for the second half of 2024 is also coming soon!

The good:

  • High 8% cashback
  • Both 5812 and 5814 are present
  • 5311 has expands card’s usefulness given heymax’s vouchers
  • Relatively low S$600 minimum spend per month

The bad:

  • Shopping MCCs are limited
  • Quarterly spend mechanic is troublesome

The ugly:

  • Missing one month’s spend to lose 8% cashback across your entire quarter

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