Calgary-based financial technology company Neo launched the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo in November 2023. Neo entices new cardholders by advertising an average earning rate of 5 Asia Miles per dollar spent with its exclusive partners.
Despite using the promise of elevated partner earning rates in promotional material, Neo doesn’t make the list of partners available until after you’ve applied for the card, leaving potential cardholders to guess at the value of these rates.
Conveniently, one member of the Prince of Travel team recently received a Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo, and we teamed up to share some insight into the deals being offered on their account.
Neo’s List of Partners
Since Neo Financial doesn’t make its list of partners publicly available until after you’ve applied for a card, getting the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo is a bit of a leap of faith.
Additionally, the company’s reward structure, based on these ever-changing elevated partner rates, is unique in a way not typically seen in the Canadian consumer lending market.
Neo’s list of partnered companies can be found through the company’s app once you’ve received your card.
As a financial technology company, Neo strives to steer its customers toward its mobile app on iOs and Android. While desktop compatibility is supported, the app appears to be the most optimized way to view offers.
Within the program, there has two types of partner companies: National Favourites, which are available Canada-wide, and a more curated list of local vendors which include small businesses and major corporate franchises alike.
It’s worth noting that the partner list for the Cathay World Elite Mastercard – powered by Neo differs from the one offered through Neo’s other cards, so don’t expect to see the same company names if you have both cards.
As of January 2024, the current National Favourite partners for the Cathay World Elite Mastercard – powered by Neo are as follows:
- Jack & Jill Health
- Harry Rosen
- Public Mobile
- Bailey Nelson Optometrist
- Landmark Cinemas
As you can see, this list of vendors is rather short, and the utility of some of these options might be questionable. For example, exactly how many pairs of eyeglasses does a single individual need?
Similarly, while it’s nice to see a non-Cineplex movie theatre chain form an outside loyalty partnership, not every major city has a Landmark Cinema available, so the utility here is potentially limited for many cardholders.
The second group of partners for the Cathay World Elite Mastercard – powered by Neo are its local vendors. As can be seen from some of the following screenshot, these will vary based on your current location:
Interestingly, there are other “national” options that don’t show up on the National Favourites list, but that are still available coast-to-coast via the Neo dashboard.
A clear example of this is the Shell listing, which can be seen here offering 3.5 Asia Miles per dollar spent, up to 529 miles (or $151 in spend).
Neo’s First-Time Purchase Bonuses
Neo provides its cardholders with a plethora of partner options based on their current location, and one of the ways it incentivizes cardholders to spend with its partners is by offering elevated earning rates on first-time purchases.
The default earning rate for the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo is 1 Asia Mile per dollar spent. With the elevated first-time bonus earning rates, cardholders can expect to see rates above this baseline.
Accessing these bonus rates is very straightforward: when you see an offer in the Neo app, you can choose to redeem it simply by making a purchase with the partnered vendor with your Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo. The earned points then show up in your Neo app and will post to your Cathay Pacific Asia Miles account after your next statement date.
For example, in the image below, we can see a juice shop in central Toronto offering a staggering 12x Asia Miles bonus on the first purchase.
As shown in the image, the maximum number of miles you can earn is listed alongside the earn rate. In this example, you can earn up to 519 Asia Miles if you’re able to make your first purchase a single transaction equal to or greater than $43.25 – which is quite a bit of juice!
After making this first purchase, the earn rate for this partner will drop to a reduced level.
To again use the example above, if you were to make a $30 purchase (earning a cool 360 Asia Miles in the process) and then decide on having another $5 purchase there later that day, the miles earned on the second purchase will come in at a much lower earning rate.
A good example of where the first-purchase bonus can be maximized is with one of Neo’s National Favourites, the legendary menswear company Harry Rosen.
If you’ve ever taken a gander inside one of their elegant shops, you’ll notice that their style is bold and their prices are often even bolder.
There are currently three offers for Harry Rosen in the Neo app, which can be seen in the image below.
As the image shows, you can currently earn 4.5x miles on your first purchase with Harry Rosen, up to a total earn of 5,298 Asia Miles.
To max out this offer, it would mean buying items worth at least $1,178.
Spending this amount wouldn’t be difficult at Harry Rosen, since it’s a luxury retailer with luxury price tags to boot. Therefore, if you’re in the market for high-end men’s clothing, this isn’t a bad way to finance your next voyage across the Pacific.
Furthermore, and quite notably, with the Neo app, you’re actually able to stack offers to improve your earning potential.
The available data on stacking offers is still limited, so you’ll want to check the fine-print before investing a lot of time or money in this. However, so far, there seems to be some good opportunities to leverage this feature.
For example, by stacking the first-purchase offer of 4.5x with the other two available Harry Rosen offers, you could earn a pretty substantial amount of miles.
Looking at the available offers, you’ll net 1,655 bonus Asia Miles on any purchase over $615, and you’ll earn 3.5x miles for every $995 spent. This means that as long as your purchase is at least $995, you’ll net 5,138 total Asia Miles from these two offers alone.
By also stacking these two offers with the first-time purchase offer, and spending at least $1,178 in a single transaction to max out the number of earnable first-purchase miles, you’ll garner a whopping 11,079 Asia Miles.
To put that in perspective, that’s enough for a one-way economy ticket within Asia of up to 2,750 miles distance.
Neo’s Elevated Earning Rates with Partners
Neo’s bonus model continues with two novel methods of garnering bonus points.
The first method offers the ability to earn bonus points after spending a certain amount (as in the Cold Pressery offer of 6.5x Asia Miles per $50 spent), or to earn points at an elevated rate up to a certain amount of spend (as with the Shell offer of 3.5x Asia Miles, up to 529 miles earned).
The second method that Neo uses to promote its partners is to offer an Asia Miles earning boost after a set number of purchases.
Keep in mind that with both methods, once you’ve earned your bonus points and exhausted the offer, you revert to earning Asia Miles at the base rate of 1 point per dollar spent with that vendor.
To illustrate how the second method works, let’s look at this offer from The Keg on York Street in Toronto.
The offer is for 6x Asia Miles after you’ve made three purchases at that specific location. This really doesn’t provide great value, since it both requires you to buy something three times, and because it’s tied to a specific location (not the national restaurant chain as a whole).
Unless you regularly make purchases at the exact locations listed in this type of offer, then this structure is not beneficial, and actually fairly inaccessible.
This is the sort of offer structure that makes a canny purchaser ask the server at the York St. Keg to process the bill via three separate transactions of $1, $1.50, and then the remaining balance (probably with a hefty gratuity for their patience) to gain access to the elevated rate in a single visit.
How Do Neo’s Earning Rates & Welcome Bonus Compare with Other Cards?
Now, the inevitable questions: how do the earning rates of the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo compare to other credit cards, and based on this, is Neo’s new card worth getting?
The current welcome bonus offered is structured as follows:
- 15,000 Asia Miles upon making your first purchase
- 15,000 Asia Miles upon making $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of the card’s activation
This bonus of up to 30,000 Asia Miles is arguably competitive with similar credit card products; however, it must also be weighed against the card’s $180 annual fee.
Most other comparable credit cards have lower annual fees and higher welcome bonuses. Plus, many of these cards offer to waive or rebate those fees for the first year, making Neo’s offer less competitive.
Still, the welcome bonus is big enough to be worth considering, and if you’re able to maximize your partner spending while hitting the $3,000 minimum spending requirement needed to earn the second half of the welcome bonus, it wouldn’t be at all difficult to acquire the 45,000 Asia Miles needed for a medium-haul business class redemption of up to 5,000 miles in distance.
Now, looking at the standard earning rates, if we begin by comparing those from the Cathay World Elite Mastercard – powered by Neo with other World Elite or Visa Infinite cards (such as the CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card), a case can be made for the Cathay World Elite edging them out.
While the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® has earning rates of up to 12x (and occasionally higher), the earning rate for cards like the CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card tops out at 1.5x. This is a pretty considerable difference, and it can certainly have an impact on how many points/miles you’ll earn.
To illustrate this comparison, let’s imagine you were to max out both of the 12x rates offered on first-time purchases at the listed coffee shops. By doing this, you could earn 1,038 Asia Miles (the 519 Asia Mile maximum at two locations) by spending only $86.50.
To earn the same number of Aeroplan points with the CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card’s rate of 1.5x, you’d need to spend $692.
Now, with the CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card, you may be earning the points by spending in common categories that you access frequently, such as gas and groceries at businesses of your choice; however, it also seems pretty easy to maximize Neo’s offers with fairly small adaptations, such as switching gas stations for each fill-up in order to access the multiple first-time bonus offers.
That being said, there is an opportunity cost to the latter strategy, since not only do you have to use your time and mental capacity to find Neo partners via the app, but the offers you see in the app are location-specific, adding an additional barrier to access.
Plus, without a partner offer available, the card’s baseline earning rate of 1 Asia Mile per dollar spent and the dearth of other meaningful category multipliers is fairly weak.
With location-specific offers in the Neo app, you may not see offers that are relevant to you.
For example, if I’m in my home city of Edmonton, the Neo app will exclusively provide me with offers that correspond to my current location.
The app won’t, for example, give me offers for hotels and restaurants in Victoria to help me plan a visit to that fine city.
If I wanted information on offers available beyond my current location, I’d have to manually search for them, which is no small task and which I may not remember to do, thus costing Neo its share of my business.
Category spend, like that offered by the CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card in the earlier example, also simplifies the inconsistency and ambiguity issues of location-based offers – I know I will always get 2x the points plus travel insurance when booking hotels via the American Express Cobalt Card, no matter where that hotel is located.
Furthermore, when you add on the fact that with Neo’s offers there’s no way to determine if it’s expiring soon, the contrast with category spend’s simplicity is as jarring as it is obvious.
To drive this point home, when we compare Neo’s Cathay co-branded credit card to the “5x” family of credit cards – the American Express Cobalt Card, Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, and BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card – which all earn at least 5x on dining and groceries, the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo falls even further behind.
The reason for this comes down to ease of access and convenience.
Many of Neo’s bonus offers refer to specific restaurants/cafés, and travelling to these particular locations requires considerably more mental work and travel time than just getting 5x at any dining establishment, anytime, anywhere.
There’s also the fact that spending $500 on groceries to earn 2,500 points with one of the abovementioned credit cards is almost certainly easier for regular Canadians to accomplish, rather than fishing for four to eight first-time offers on Neo’s app to earn a comparable quantity of Asia Miles.
The Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo is the best and only way to earn Cathay Pacific Asia Miles directly in the Canadian market. These miles can provide excellent value to the savvy traveller, and can certainly be attained in large quantities with the right strategy.
However, the lack of transparency from Neo on its partners makes it hard to recommend the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® – powered by Neo.
When one considers the $180 annual fee that needs to be offset to make holding the card worth it for the long-term, the requirement to constantly find good first-time purchase offers seems like it could get exhausting quickly (though the welcome bonus does help to offset some of the pain).
With the Cathay World Elite® Mastercard® –powered by Neo, Neo Financial presents a new and bold face in the Canadian financial space, with a unique approach to earning; however, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth getting the card at this time due to its reliance on partners in specific locations and the limited number of national brands.
As it stands, time will tell if this individual partner-based model bears fruit.
Until next time: when chasing earn rate bonuses, make all your first-time purchases at vendors where you actually want to buy something.