Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Top 3 Travel Credit Cards

Every aspiring traveler in India is envious of his global counterparts when they talk about cheap airfares and redeeming air-miles for holidays. While this is a growing fad in our country, the system and the credit cards have not fully matured to support the model.

So, while you wait for things to catch heat, here are some of the credit cards that could be handy given the current scenario. 

1. Citbank Premier-Miles Credit Card

Source: Google, Citi
Pro's:
  1. You get to redeem your miles for travel and hotels: most of the travel cards have airline tie ups and miss the other essential element - 'stay'. 
  2. Miles utilization is linked to the ticket/room pricing: a fair system that benefit travelers who plan their trips in advance
  3. Never expiring miles: this is possibly the best feature of this card. Unlike JP miles or gift vouchers these miles have an infinite validity period
Con's
  1. Redemption pricing is slightly higher than the pricing in their travel partner's website (GoIbibo is their official travel partner)
  2. Low on miles granted: They offers 10 miles for every INR 100 spent for airline bookings and 4 miles for every 100 spent on other expenditure. 
  3. Low credit limit for non Citibank customers: Card offers low credit limit for non citibank customers
Best recommended usage strategy: For all your travel bookings (except Jet if you have a JP partner card). For other expenses, depending on benefits available in your other cards. 

Fees: This card comes with an annual fee of INR 3000

2. AMEX Platinum Travel Credit Card

Image result for amex platinum travel card
Source: Google images; Amex
While this is not exactly a travel card, it has some excellent rewards which Indian travelers would love to get their hands on. The cards has a milestone based rewards system whereby the customers get Indigo vouchers upon sign up and spending INR. 1.9 lakhs and Indigo and Taj vouchers when cumulative spend reaches INR. 4.0 lakhs. 

So the most cash equivalent of rewards that one can avail in a one year cycle is worth around INR. 33,800. 

Pro's
  1. High on rewards: their rewards is easily among the highest you would find among comparable credit cards
  2. Lounge access - You get limited free access to select Amex lounges and also a free membership to Priority Pass; however, entry to priority pass lounges would be charged. 
  3. Enjoy high credit limit: Amex typically offers a higher credit limit than your other cards
Con's
  1. Voucher benefits come with a limited validity and are restricted to their airline and hotel partners
  2. No benefits for spends over INR 4 lakhs in a year
  3. No accelerated points or miles privileges for frequent travelers except small discounts on travel booking partner Makemytrip. 
Best recommended usage strategy: Use this card for all your non-travel expenses if you use more than one travel card. Limit usage once you have availed maximum rewards (i.e reached the INR. 4.0 lakh milestone). 

Fee: First year fee - INR. 3500 (plus taxes) and renewal fee INR. 5000 (plus taxes)

Hack - You could apply through paisa bazaar and get the first year free. 

3. JetPrivilege HDFC Bank World Credit Card

Image result for jetprivilege hdfc bank world credit card
Source: Google, HDFC
I am wannabe Jet loyalist and have been trying hard to accumulate jetmiles. They are among the few and earliest Indian airline's to launch a loyalty program and is also possibly the best connected in terms air-routes. 

Pro's
  1. High on miles (rewards) - You earn 18 miles for every INR. 150 spent on flights booked using Jet airways website and 6 miles for every INR. 150 spent on other bookings. So if you are a frequent traveler on Jet Airways - this card could come handy. 
  2. Lounge Access: The card provides access to mastercard lounges and also offers free priority pass membership. Unlike your Amex travel card, the cardholder gets 5 five free entry's to the priority pass restricted lounges. 
  3. Receive miles across a host of  non-airline expenditure which include stay, dining, subscriptions, etc
  4. 5% discount on Jet airways flight Bookings
Cons
  1. Only Jet Airways flights: Miles redemption is restricted to airline ticket bookings only and comes with a prefixed validity period. 
  2. Low value for miles: Though the redemption has been linked to airfare, it works on a slab based model; therefore the miles spent per booking might be slightly higher than your bookings with PremierMiles or other cards. (e.g - a round trip from Chennai to Bangalore would cost you INR. 3,500 if booked in advance. The same would however cost you 10,000 miles if one was to redeem miles for this booking. 
Best recommended usage strategy: For all your flight bookings on Jet Airways and hotel bookings through partner websites such as Agoda, Booking.com, Rocketmiles, Kaligo, etc. Some of these sites may be priced slightly premium, especially for bookings with miles as rewards. 

Also, check Jet Privilege website to know what other expenses you can get miles for. 

Fee: First year and renewal fee of INR. 2500 per annum. The renewal fee would be waived based on expenditure milestone being achieved. 

Jet privilege platinum members can get this card for free.  

Note: There are Jet Privilege partner cards, but this had the best return on annual fee. 

About Me
I use all of the above cards and I am currently accumulating miles to see India (if not the world). The above views are based on my personal experiences (positives and struggles) and the views may vary from other users.