Best HSBC credit cards of 2019

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In a Nutshell

HSBC credit cards could be a great fit for those who want perks like cash back, an intro APR for purchases or balance transfers, or rewards on travel, dining and entertainment. Some of these cards even offer special features like a $0 annual fee for qualified cardholders, travel perks and late-payment fee waivers. But make sure to read the fine print — some of the HSBC cards are reserved only for bank members, and some of these perks may come with a catch.

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HSBC Bank offers six credit cards based on how you typically spend, but half of those options require cardholders to have an account with the bank. Here’s what you need to know about our picks for the best card for each category.

Best for cash back rewards: HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card

Here’s why: If you prefer the flexibility of cash back rewards, the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card could be for you. This card offers plenty of ways to earn cash back — and you don’t need to be an HSBC member to apply.

With the HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card, you’ll earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which is pretty standard. But what sets this card apart from other similar cards is the 10% anniversary bonus on all cash rewards earned each year. That effectively boosts your rate to 1.65% — a great rate compared with other cash back cards — and the card has a $0 annual fee, which is nice since it won’t subtract from your earnings. Plus, during your first year of having the card, you’ll earn cash back at a rate of 3% on all purchases (on up to $10,000 spent).

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Best for intro APR period: HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card

Here’s why: The 18-month introductory purchase and balance transfer APR period and simple card structure can be a good tool for harnessing personal finances for some.

At first glance, the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card may look boring. The bare-bones credit card doesn’t offer a rewards program and provides only a handful of shopping and travel benefits.

But the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card does offer a few ways to manage your money, especially if you need a little help getting out of debt. Cardholders get an introductory 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. After the intro period ends, your variable APR for balance transfers will be 12.74% - 20.74%, based on your creditworthiness. One thing to keep in mind before transferring any balances: This card comes with a 4% ($10 minimum) balance transfer fee. So make sure that it still makes sense to use this card after you tack on the fee.

The HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card also offers an introductory 0% APR for 18 months on purchases. After the intro period ends, your variable purchase APR will be 12.74% - 20.74% based on your creditworthiness. With this feature, you can finance a purchase or pay down debt over the 18-month introductory period while saving on interest costs. But you should only spend what you can comfortably afford to pay off — and before the intro purchase APR period is over. Finally, the card also offers a $0 annual fee and $0 foreign transaction fee, which are nice perks if you’re trying to save money.

There are additional offerings that come with the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card that are worth noting. For example, the card doesn’t charge a penalty APR, and offers one late-fee waiver every year (the late-payment fee is up to $37 after the first instance). But be careful here: Late payments can still affect your credit if they’re reported to any of the three major consumer credit bureaus, so you should aim to pay your monthly card bill on time and in full every month. And if your payment is 60 days late or more, HSBC might cancel the intro 0% purchase and balance transfer APR, leaving you on the hook for interest costs on the balance.

The lack of a rewards program for the HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card isn’t so bad if you think you might be tempted to spend beyond your means to earn more rewards. But if you’re still happy with the card issuer after paying off your balance transfer, consider looking for a rewards credit card to add to your wallet.

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HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card

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Best for travel rewards: HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card 

Here’s why: This card is generous to avid travelers. You’ll earn two points per $1 spent on travel purchases, one point per $1 spent on all other purchases — and a hefty sign-up bonus along with several travel perks, too.

The HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card offers a lot to get excited about. The card offers a sign-up bonus of 35,000 bonus points, which is worth at least $400 in air travel, after you spend at least $3,000 in purchases within 3 months from account opening.

Among the list of travel perks you’ll get with the HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card is an $85 TSA PreCheck credit to reimburse you for the application fee; $50 annual statement credits for Uber and Lyft rides; and a 10% discount when you book your hotel or vacation home stay through Expedia, Agoda or Onefinestay.

But here’s the catch: You must have an eligible HSBC checking account to apply for the HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card. And while you won’t pay an annual fee the first year, you may be hit with an annual fee afterward. To qualify for the $0 annual fee for the first year, you’ll need to have an HSBC Premier checking account and maintain a whopping $100,000 in combined U.S. personal deposit and investment balances. If your combined account balance dips below that threshold, you’ll pay a $50 monthly maintenance fee on the checking account, plus a $95 annual fee going forward. And you’ll continue to pay a $95 annual fee after the first year if you don’t have a qualifying HSBC Premier checking account. If you love travel, have an HSBC bank account and can maintain that kind of balance, this card could be a good fit for you.

How we picked these cards

To choose the best credit card for each category, we reviewed all the credit cards offered by HSBC Bank and identified which ones offered the most valuable rewards or features in each category. These are meant to fit different spending profiles or cardholder needs.

We also considered card requirements. For example, three of HSBC’s six credit cards require you to hold an account with the bank to apply. That may be restrictive for those who don’t have an HSBC checking account or can’t maintain the minimum balance required. Then, we compared the cards’ fees and interest rates, noting where they offer an intro APR for purchases and balance transfers, charge an annual fee or carry a balance transfer fee or foreign transaction fee.

How to make the most of HSBC credit cards

If you’re looking to apply for an HSBC card, be sure to check out the fine print. Three of its six cards are only available for HSBC members. These credit cards require you to maintain an eligible HSBC checking account.

  • HSBC Advance Mastercard® credit card
  • HSBC Premier World Mastercard® credit card
  • HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard® credit card

Although these cards offer solid rewards and benefits, qualifying for an HSBC relationship can mean keeping a lot of your money in an HSBC account. If you fall below the minimum deposit amount, you may have to pay a monthly maintenance fee on top of an annual fee on the credit card. So consider whether having a card like this would be worthwhile.

These HSBC credit cards don’t require you to maintain an HSBC checking account.

  • HSBC Gold Mastercard® credit card
  • HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
  • HSBC Platinum Mastercard® with Rewards credit card

Once you select a card — if you’re approved — you can use it to build a solid credit history. That will mean paying your bill on time and in full each month; keeping the account open to build a credit history; and keeping the balance low, usually around 30% of the credit limit. If you establish strong credit, you may be able to take on bigger credit responsibilities like getting an auto loan or personal loan.