Average card, above-average airline: A review of the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card

May 30, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.


Cathay Pacific Visa Signature® Card overview

The Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card is an airline credit card that offers decent benefits for occasional Cathay Pacific flyers. However, if your goal is to accumulate miles towards redeeming for Cathay Pacific and partner flights, you’d likely be better off earning on another card that allows you to transfer points. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

While flights have been significantly reduced during the global pandemic, Cathay Pacific ordinarily offers a robust route network from its base in Hong Kong. That includes 10 North American gateways like New York, Chicago, and Seattle, with connectivity to much of Asia and the South Pacific. The Synchrony Bank-issued Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card specifically caters to U.S. audiences — but does it make sense to apply for the card?

There are several valuable credit cards from foreign airlines and while this Cathay Pacific card didn’t top our list, it does deserve at least a mention. A few money-saving perks for those who fly Cathay Pacific with any regularity are included but think twice about being locked into earning Asia Miles, especially if you’re only looking to get this card for flight redemptions.

Let’s take a closer look at whether the card deserves a spot in your wallet.

Want more credit card news and travel advice from TPG? Sign up for our daily newsletter.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

If Cathay Pacific is your carrier of choice and you are invested in the Asia Miles program, then you may want to consider this card. 

If you’re a true frequent flyer with Cathay Pacific with elite status, many of the card’s perks may be redundant. Of course, the sign-up bonus might still come in handy and offer an easy way to pad your Asia Miles balance.

The Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card is the only U.S.-issued card that allows you to rack up Asia Miles directly. With that said, Asia Miles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One miles.

However, if you have maxed out bonuses on one of these programs, then applying for the card can make sense. Amex has a once-per-lifetime per card welcome bonus restriction while Citi limits sign-up bonuses to once per 24 months.

Sign-up bonus: Worth $520

(Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)

The Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card has a modest sign-up bonus of 40,000 Asia Miles after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. That’s worth $520, based on TPG’s valuations. It’s nothing to sneeze at but also far from the most generous. The card also comes with a $95 annual fee which is not waived the first year.

If you’re getting this card for the sign-up bonus alone, you’d come out ahead. However, before you transition all of your everyday spending to this card, consider the opportunity cost of using it over other cards that earn you valuable bonus rewards on purchases like dining and airfare.

Perks and benefits

A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)
A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

One of the most notable benefits on this Cathay Pacific Visa Signature card is a complimentary Green membership to the Marco Polo Club for the first year of enrollment. The Marco Polo Club is Cathay Pacific’s loyalty program. Unlike many other airline elite programs, flying isn’t enough to get you status — you have to pay to even participate.

With this card, you’ll get a waiver for the first year of enrollment — worth $100. Here’s a run-down of all the benefits offered by this card:

Marco Polo Green Membership 

With the Green tier, you’ll get access to Premium Economy class check-in and priority boarding on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights. You also get extra baggage allowance and the ability to redeem Asia Miles for extra-legroom seats and lounge access.

Savings on select Asia Miles redemptions

Get a 10% savings on Asia Miles Gift Miles, mileage renewal, and mileage transfer fees. Also receive a 10% redemption discount on hotel, car rental, and experiences awards.

No foreign transaction fees

Use your card abroad without accumulating extra charges.

Two-day priority flight award redemption

You may get advance notice for discounted flight award bookings before the general public. While there’s no specific cadence, Asia Miles will notify you beforehand.

Visa Signature perks

As a Visa Signature card, the Cathay Visa Signature offers perks including lost baggage reimbursement, trip cancellation and trip protection, travel accident insurance, and access to the Visa Signature Concierge.

These are all decent — but not outstanding — airline card benefits. Unfortunately, the $100 Green Marco Polo fee is only waived for the first year, or else this card would prove to be much more valuable. Additionally, while a 10% redemption discount on car rentals, hotels and experiences is great, redeeming for non-air travel is usually not advised since it’s a poor value relative to flight redemptions. This benefit would be much more valuable if it applied to flight award bookings as well.

Earning Asia Miles

With most cobranded airline cards, you’ll earn the most number of bonus miles when spending directly with the airline. This card is no exception: you’ll get 2 Asia Miles per $1 on Cathay Pacific purchases, 1.5 miles per $1 on dining worldwide and 1 mile per $1 on all other spending.

These are all middling bonus categories, but there’s a unique one that I haven’t yet mentioned: 1.5 Asia Miles per $1 on purchases outside of the U.S. A broad-based category for foreign spending is unique and if that is something you can take advantage of, then this card might be worth a closer look. Especially since the card has no foreign transaction fees.

Fortunately, starting for miles earned in 2020, Asia Miles won’t expire as long as there’s activity in your account at least once every 18 months. Previously, miles expired three years after being earned — regardless of account activity.

Related reading: How to use 60,000 Asia Miles

Redeeming Asia Miles

Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy
Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy

Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program isn’t the easiest to immediately decipher. Thankfully, we have a full Asia Miles guide on all the nuances and nitty-gritty details of the program.

Cathay is a member of the Oneworld alliance so you can redeem your miles with carriers such as American and British Airways, as well as several non-alliance partners like Lufthansa and Alaska Airlines.

Asia Miles offers three basic award types:

  1. Awards for itineraries operated only by Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon: There are three subcategories here: Standard, Choice and Tailored. Each level essentially gives you more award seat availability in exchange for paying more miles for the flight.
  2. Single-partner awards: This applies for when you only use one partner carrier for an award itinerary. There is no published award chart for this award type.
  3. Oneworld multi-carrier awards: This applies to itineraries operated by two Oneworld members without Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon or three or more Oneworld members with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.

All award charts are distance-based, and the sum of all sectors in your itinerary are added together to determine which zone your ticket will be priced within.

If you think redeeming Asia Miles is the cheapest way to fly on Cathay Pacific, think again. While there are still lucrative opportunities to redeem Asia Miles for flights, you can do better when it comes to flying on Cathay Pacific. For instance, a one-way first class flight from New York to Hong Kong requires 125,000 Asia Miles, 110,000 American AAdvantage miles, or just 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles. 

Finally, you can also redeem Asia Miles for other non-air travel, entertainment awards, and lifestyle awards — none of these are particularly good value, however. 

Related reading: The ultimate guide to Cathay Pacific first class

Which other cards to consider?

Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program is a 1:1 transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou as well as a 2:1.5 transfer partner of Capital One, so it’s fairly easy to rack up Asia Miles through credit cards.

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

For instance, American Express’s trio of charge cards (The Platinum Card® from American Express, American Express® Gold Card, and American Express® Green Card) make a compelling case in lieu of — or to complement — the Asia Miles-earning Cathay Pacific card. The Platinum Card from American Express earns 5x back on airfare purchases made directly with the airline or Amex Travel (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year). With TPG’s valuation of Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece, that’s effectively a 10 cent return on a Cathay Pacific fare. Then, you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points directly to Asia Miles. 

If your goal is to simply fly on Cathay Pacific, consider a credit card from Oneworld alliance partner American Airlines or non-alliance partner Alaska Airlines. American’s Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is currently offering a 50,000-mile sign-up bonus after spending $2,500 within the first three months of account opening.

The information for the Amex Green Card and Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

Bottom line

Diversifying your portfolio of loyalty currencies is critical in the world of travel rewards, and the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature represents a satisfactory way to do that. If you’re ineligible for a sign-up bonus with card programs that transfer to Asia Miles — and you want to earn those miles specifically — applying for this card can make sense.

However, if you are expecting top-notch benefits or earning categories with this card, you might want to look elsewhere.

Featured photo by John Gribben / The Points Guy

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold, please click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.