Citibank Ultima, now just another credit card!

Citibank Ultima is was one of the best lifestyle credit cards in the market, and now it seems that it will be losing the edge soon. The invite-only Ultima card has premium proposition that includes an unlimited Priority Pass, a membership to the ITC Culinary Plus program, Golf privileges, an international medical cover for $50K and other stuff. The reason a business traveller would get interested? Till last December, they used to have a product variant, which used to let you get access to the Jet Airways’ Jet Privilege program Platinum Tier, along with the upgrade vouchers and complimentary 50K JPMiles (used to cost INR 50K per annum in fees!!)

Like I reported a couple of months back, this partnership has also gone away now, perhaps as a fallout of the troubles on the Citibank Jet Airways Co-branded CC, which first impacted the famous PremierMiles credit card. But the trouble is, there is nothing great to replace these benefits that are going away now. The benefits which replace the earning of 50K JPMiles per annum, which will be valid from March 1, 2013 are listed below:

  • The annual fee goes down from Rs. 50K to Rs. 30K.
  • Ultima spends earn 1 Reward point for every Rs. 125 spend. Earlier 1 reward point = 2.5 miles, now this goes up to 5 miles
  • Increase in transfer partners. Jet Airways stays,  Air India was also there, while all the PremierMiles card options come on board too: British Airways, Delta, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Etihad and Cathay Pacific. This makes earning at par with PremierMiles, not better! Yes, you do have Jet as a partner, but you could earn better on Jet Airways with ICICI Bank or American Express cards
  • Complimentary Room upgrades at Taj Hotels & Palaces, and 10% off on Best Available Rates
  • Sailing privileges in Mumbai on a yacht
  • Personal Shopping at The Collective, which is a multi-brand luxury store.

However, my problem is, these do not up the game, at all! Not from my perspective. The single Unique Selling Point this card had, which was not existing for another player in the Indian market, was the unconditional membership at Jet Airways’ loyalty program top tier. Earlier the option was also to get top-tier with Kingfisher Airlines but that was withdrawn for obvious reasons.

Now, this makes the Amex Platinum (which I don’t love by the way!) a valid competitor, or maybe better (I don’t know!). Look at this:

  • Membership Travel Services, it is basically Amex’s famous travel agency on the phone for you!
  • Complimentary membership to SPG Gold and Club Carlson Gold Elite
  • The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which is one of the best out there
  • Amex Platinum Lounges in Delhi & Mumbai
  • Complimentary membership to Priority Pass’s highest tier
  • Cruise benefits
  • and there is a lot more, and the income qualifier to get in is also lesser.

All in all, Citibank will have to make huge leaps and jumps on this product if it wants to still compete in the premium(est) end of the market. At this point of time, I don’t see the INR 50K paying customers stepping up and retaining their Ultima CC’s just for a status symbol.

What do you guys think this will work out to?

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About Ajay Awtaney

With a post-graduate degree in management studies from a reputed business school and graduate degree in computer science from the University of Delhi, Ajay brings a systematic and objective approach on the table for his audience. Ajay has been quoted in various reputed traditional and online media including The Hindustan Times, Inside Flyer, Bloomberg, DNA India, Conde Nast Traveller, The Telegraph, Mumbai Mirror, Mint, MoneyLife and The USA Today.

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  1. Amex Plat card at 50k is a much better proposition now, their benefits far outweigh Ultima, which only had Jet Plat status as the USP.

  2. I already have Prestige card. I learnt that Citi has launched Ultima infinite. Do you have any clue? They say that only 5 out of 100 old Ultima customer would qualify for it.

    • @Krishnakumar the Ultima Infinite is an invite only product and their competition to the Amex Black. Comes with a price tag of INR 2.15 lakhs per annum as fees. Not worth it in my book 😉

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