With this post, I am reintroducing the Credit Card Reviews series in India, which I had to stop a while ago due to paucity of time.
Air India & GE/SBI Credit Cards recently teamed up to launch co-branded credit cards which could earn you quite some miles, making me think of calling it perhaps the best credit card to earn miles in India at the moment. They’ve launched 2 credit cards, one at the Signature level and one at the Platinum level, and I will review both separately.
Sign-Up Bonus: This credit card offers a tidy sign-up bonus of 20,000 Air India miles to start you up with the credit card product. You also get an upgrade voucher from Air India.
Renewal Benefits: You get 20,000 Air India miles on payment of fees every year, and another upgrade voucher.
Fee: The credit card fee is tagged at (upto) Rs. 4,999 plus taxes per annum.
Eligibility: Not publicly disclosed
Features: The card comes with the usual stuff, such as a Priority Pass at the lowest end, where you need to pay $27 every trip to the lounge. There is also access built-in to the Visa Lounge Access Program, which offers you lounge access to 9 different domestic airport lounges. Although what I could pick up here, stated only 8 lounges. Only 2 lounge visits allowed per quarter. Perhaps they could have done better, by allowing access to the Air India lounges as well, which I’ve usually found to be empty.
The other feature which is noteworthy, is the ability to step up in the Air India Flying Returns program based on your spend. For spending Rs. 5,00,000 per annum, you get into their Silver tier, and for spending Rs. 10,00,000 per annum, you get into their Gold tier. There is still a platinum tier ahead of you, but this is pretty generous I’d like to believe. However, what I can’t understand yet is how does this work if you’re a frequent AI traveller and you travel enough to earn the status on your own as well.
Earning Flying Returns Miles: To earn Flying Returns Miles, you just got to use the card. You earn 1 mile for every Rs. 25 spent on the card, and 1 mile for every Rs. 5 spent on Air India tickets. That is just not it, you even get milestone bonuses along the way, as shown below.
To put it in perspective, if you spent Rs. 10,00,000 in a year on this card, you could get into the Gold club of the Air India frequent flyer program, which gives you 2 upgrade vouchers, access to AI lounges, and a very low cancellation/rebooking fee of Rs. 200 on all domestic tickets of Air India. Plus, you get the following miles:
Spend Based Miles for Rs. 10,00,000: 40,000 Miles
Cumulative Bonus miles: 90,000 Miles
Total Mileage earned: 130,000 Miles
Which makes it a fabulous spend of only Rs. 7.69 per mile earned. WOW!
Redeeming Flying Returns Miles: Of course you can use your miles on Air India redemptions, but then you can also use these miles for redemptions on Singapore Airlines & Lufthansa, and for upgrades on Air India flights. You need only 112,500 points for a first class redemption to the USA.
Overall assessment: I’ve said it before, and I am saying it again. I’m WoW’d by the earning potential on this card, and does come with nifty benefits as well. However, this being related to Air India, I’m of course always circumspect of the Quality of Service once you are on board the plane. But if you’re not as fussy, this is the card for you! What are your thoughts?
Update (18 Oct 2013): There is also a free Air India Upgrade Voucher that comes along with the card on payment of annual fees.