My 2015 Indian Credit Cards Mileage Earning Strategy

I’ve been meaning to write a post similar to my 2013 Credit Card Miles earning and my 2014 Mileage Earning Strategy (updated here). Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to doing this all the past 4 months due to a very rigorous schedule, just like many other things which continue to stay in my head till I can type them out for you…

I still have a lot of credit cards that I keep on myself, but there are cards which I carry in my money clip, and those that I leave behind in my wallet. The ones in my clip are the ones I use the most, and the ones in the other wallet, I use them sparingly or on a need basis. Here is my list of credit cards:

In my Money Clip

  • Citibank Prestige (Keep): I got my first Citibank Prestige Credit Card in July 2014, when I swapped one of my two PremierMiles Credit Cards (2011 issued) from Citibank for the Prestige. This card quickly replaced the PremierMiles as my primary card for all day to day expenses since I earn 4 airmiles/INR 100 here, as well as my international travel expenses which earn me 8 airmiles/INR 100 as long as the spend is in foreign currency. Also, Priority Pass for everyone in the family.
  • Citibank PremierMiles (Cancel): I also swapped my Citibank PremierMiles Visa credit card earlier this year for the Prestige, when Citi was devaluing the PremierMiles proposition, just to be able to save the value of my miles and double them. It cost me a lot of money, but I think the INR 20,000 value is justified when you receive INR 10,000 hotel vouchers, 10,000 airmiles and so on. For the INR 3,000 pricepoint, however, the PremierMiles is a good product still because you get 10,000 miles on your first purchase which are equivalent to INR 4,500 as cash for tickets, or 5000 airmiles. I do suffer everytime I want to book an airline ticket since I’d have still gotten 5 miles per INR 100, but I now usually book with co-branded cards and come out ahead.
  • HDFC Bank Diners Club Black (Keep): The HDFC Diners Club Black arrived in my wallet a couple of months back, after a few months of waiting. HDFC Bank was pretty selective about issuing these cards, and I really had to get my Relationship Manager to do a lot of pleading and follow up to get it approved. Why does it find its place in my wallet? Because I get 5 points/INR 150 spend on everything, 10 points/INR 150 on dining and an eyepopping 50 points/INR 150 on some websites such as Yatra, Flipkart for the time being. I can use these points for 1:1 transfer to Hyatt Gold Passport, Marriott Rewards and American Airlines.

In my Wallet

  • Air India SBI Signature Credit Card (Keep): I am now in the second year of holding this credit card, and I’ve also paid the fees. Since I don’t go out of my way to hit the INR 10 Lakh limit for spends to be able to get 90,000 bonus points, I don’t mind paying and keeping the card. Additionally, on the INR 10 Lakh spend, I also get the Gold Tier for Air India, which comes in handy every now and then when I fly Air India, or towards the Star Alliance Gold on other Star Alliance partners. However, I don’t really agree with their expensive Star Alliance redemption chart and the hoops you have to jump to get an AI issued Star Alliance ticket.
  • ICICI Bank Jet Airways Sapphiro cards (Amex + Visa) (Keep):  I’ve held this card for a while now, and I don’t use it much except for the movie offers (buy-one-get-one-free) they have with Bookmyshow. I receive my free ticket every year and the JP Miles to hold the card, and that evens it out for me since the card comes free of cost to me (JP Platinum). I do use it to book Jet Airways tickets every now and then since it gets me 10 JP Miles/INR 100 spent on those.
  • American Express Jet Airways Platinum Card (Keep): Since I gave up on the Amex Platinum, the only way for me to access the American Express Lounges in India is the Amex Jet Platinum CC. I keep it with me even though I don’t get any renewal benefits (free due to JP Platinum). Also, with their change in JP Miles earning last year, they offer 16 JPMiles/INR 150 spent on Jet Airways, which is still one of the best way to buy Jet Airways tickets on an ongoing basis (10.66 JP Miles/INR 100).
  • HDFC Bank JetPrivilege World Card (Cancel): HDFC Bank/JetPrivilege was the first credit card to go live under the new Jet Airways’ co-brand card partnerships. However with 6 JPMiles/INR 150 on day-to-day spend it never really made it to my wallet big time. Additionally, I could only keep one HDFC Bank credit card, so I swapped this for the Diners Black when they finally approved it.
  • HDFC Bank JetPrivilege World Debit Card (Keep): Everybody needs a debit card, and when you get this one free for being a preferred customer of the bank or Jet Platinum, you should definitely keep it. Most people get it for INR 500.  I hardly use it for regular purchases, but I do make it a point to get my renewal benefits every year. Also, this is the least you can do to get your JP miles validity extended for 2 years.
  • IndusInd Jet Airways Odyssey cards (Amex + Visa) (Keep): These cards have been in my wallet only for about 6 months now. I initially got them because I could, as a JP Platinum, get them for free, and there were 20,000 miles on the table for a minimum spend in three months. However the limits are so tiny I can hardly use them on an on going basis. If I am making any Jet Airways’ ticket purchases on the weekend, I do try and use them since you get 16 JP Miles/INR 100 spend, which is the best of the lot.

Not in my consideration set

  • Lufthansa Miles & More Axis Bank Credit Card: Nah. I don’t find accumulating Lufthansa Miles as a great proposition for the money I spend, and I guess only people who are very well entrenched with Lufthansa must be taking this card, given the reduced award availability on LH in the past year.

Do you guys have a similar or different view than mine about the credit cards discussed above? What would you do if you were in my place? Is there another credit card I should consider adding to my portfolio? Of course, I’m waiting for an Air Vistara co-branded card to come out soon as well.

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About Ajay Awtaney

Ajay is a financial services pro, working to bring order to the chaos of the financial industry on an everyday basis! Beyond that, he dons the hat of India's favourite frequent traveller, trying to help people elevate their travel experience via tips and tricks they never knew before, or introduce them to the world of miles and points. Armed with an MBA from MDI Gurgaon and graduate degree in computer science from the University of Delhi, Ajay brings a systematic and objective approach on the table for his audience in dissecting travel and loyalty programs in India and around the world, and how to benefit from them. 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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Comments

  1. Hi,
    Interesting analysis! Could you shed some light on point value of Kotak Royal signature vs diners premium as the former now is claiming 10x n 5x Pts on spends?

  2. Great post! I am unclear about the choice of cards and spending patterns. Forgive me for the naive questions.
    1. Why is HDFC JP not a good option? It is the only one that gives tier points and has helped me (not a very frequent traveller) upgrade my JP status. Does the high frequency of your travel make the tier point earning potential irrelevant for you or is it some other reason?
    2. With the objective of getting tier points, I maximize my spends on HDFC JP rather than split them across more cards linked to JP. Why split spends across multiple cards rather than just one or two? Is it limits or other benefits?

    Even a 1-2 line reply is appreciated.

    • @Subhash Rao, I could only keep one HDFC Bank Credit Card, and hence I switched to the HDFC Diners Black, which runs far more promotions and so on. Additionally, I maximise my spend on Citi Prestige because I get miles I can transfer to different programs there, and only spend on a JP card when I need to book Jet Airways tickets. Additionally, personally, I find INR 2 Lakhs too much of spend to get a tier point. I could get it for INR 1500 by making a flight. For INR 2 Lakhs x 5, I could get Air India gold status requalified, so I wouldn’t direct my spend here for that reason.

  3. Informative post, even though I wouldn’t go through the hassle of figuring out which CC to use every time i make a purchase.

    • Quite surprisingly, I submitted the online application in the morning and got a verification call by afternoon, that too on a Saturday! Worth checking it out…

  4. Nice. I have applied for the HDFC Diners thanks to the posts here. Online application was quite simple.

    @Vignesh, where do you check the validity of 10x offers?

  5. Interesting posts and comments. As many people are asking about card limit and eligibility, how about low cost card, All Miles from HDFC. it don’t require double digit income and redemption is 1 :0.75 miles or rs. Can be done via allmiles website or can be transferred to any airline. Although accrual is slow, but it also features Priority Pass membership. Card is lifetime free if applied online, or get 1000 miles by paying annual 1k fees.

    What do you all think about it ?

  6. When I spoke to HDFC regarding upgrade to Diners Black, they told me that the salary criteria is >4L per month. And for Diners Premium, it is >1L per month.

  7. @Ajay,
    You are wrong.
    The minimum limit of 10 Lakhs in neither on any of the Cards except for HDFC Infinia,Indusind Indulge,Amex Plat Charge and ICICI Diamant

    • @Shubham the HDFC Product Management team told me the INR 10L Limit. Amex platinum is a charge card so there are no limits there.

  8. @Ajay,
    Youvare wrong.
    The minimum limit of 10 Lakhs in neither on any of the Cards except for HDFC Infinia,Indusind Indulge,Amex Plat Charge and ICICI Diamant

  9. @kunalvt – I have mentioned the strategy to maximize the spendings where I am also not having privilege of having citi prestige and hdfc diners black card

  10. @Ajay: Don’t mistake me for saying this, but instead of just talking about credit cards, going one step further and talking about how a person spends his money (or how he should spend his money) to maximise returns (miles/points) will be a much better take away for a reader.

    And for this reason, IMHO, Sanjeev’s comment is more valuable than your post.

    • @Narayanan well, posts’ can’t be customised to each individual’s liking since the intention is to give out broad parameters and my line of thinking on how to earn miles and points. You’re very welcome to engage with me on my paid consultation service if you require customised advice. Cheers!

  11. Hi Ajay,

    What should be my credit card strategy if card eligibility doesn’t permit Prestige and Diners Black card. Considering the fact that I wish to get maximum miles for domestic and international travel.

    • Try getting a Diners Club Rewardz or Premium card. For preferred partners they come up with offers like 10x points(flipkart, snapdeal, yatra, cleartrip etc), this would mean for every 150Rs you spend you end up getting 30(Rewardz)/40(Premium)/50(Black) points . You can ask your friends, colleagues and relatives to let you know if they will be purchasing anything from those sites (80-90% of the people you know use debit cards which mostly do not carry any benefits as such). 1L spend on those sites will net you 20000-32000 points depending on the card type. These can be transferred in a 1:1 ratio to JP Miles or Air India miles and also be used to book tickets in 0.75Rs:1P on HDFC Banks site. You also get unlimited access to 30+ domestic lounges on rewardz card, 2 international diners club lounges on premium, unlimited dom/int lounges on Black.

  12. Inspite of the praises for HDFC cards, I think I will never go for one issued by that bank. They miraculously rejected my application for a HDFC card after soliciting one from me and rejected it even though my entire family (including me), with 5 bank accounts, is a Classic customer. Only HDFC can be so pathetic in managing IT systems and a terrible customer care. That’s why I thoroughly appreciate the customer care of MNC banks like Stan C and Citi.

  13. The best Jet miles earning card (for spends on jetairways website) is the HDFC Jet co-branded world card
    Gives you 18/150 (12/100)
    On weekends, the IndusInd Odyssey Amex gives 16/100 on jetairways website.
    The 2nd best is the Jet Amex card, 10.66/100

  14. I spend my all everyday expenses through Air India sbi card . For 10 lacs spent on same in a year , I get 90000 bonus plus 40000 regular miles . Plus if you have spent some on air India tickets that gives u extra miles @20%. This is enough for 2 air India business class return tickets for Europe . Also , nowadays all weekend spends now go to IndusInd jet Amex where earning miles rate is 8% . For movie show bookings I use four cards 1. Icici jet sapphire- buy one get one free 2. Citibank premier miles – 10% miles on bookmyshow 3 . Axis miles and more – 10% miles on movie tickets 4. IndusInd jet Amex – discount and free tickets

  15. Hi Ajay,

    I thought I will share my strategy. I have a slightly different yet similar profile and therefore requirements. May be this could benefit some of your readers and may be I could learn a few things from comments on it.

    To begin with my profile. I am a consultant and travel a lot domestically. And what I expect from my cards is to pay for atleast one holiday (travel and stay) every year for me and my family.

    So here is what I have done last year and intend to continue this year:

    1) Amex Platinum Travel: Start using it from the beginning of its annual cycle till I achieve 4 lakh spend to get my Indigo Travel vouchers worth 19.5K and an additional Taj Stay Voucher worth 10K. I usually achieve this in 4-5 months of usage in an annual cycle.

    2) Amex Jet Platinum: As soon as I reach the 4 Lakh spend on the first card I move to this because post the first 4 lakhs its points acquisition is not very exciting. This cards gives me the fastest mile acquisition that I have come across. It also helps access the lounges during my domestic travels.

    3) Citi Bank Premiermiles card: For places that do not accept Amex cards I use this card. Also this card comes handy when I am making airline bookings since this offers the best mile earning capabilities on them.

    Apart from this I make sure to use preferred partner offers on each of these cards.
    A few examples:
    1) Bookmyshow offer on Amex cards which earns me a couple movie ticket on each of my amex cards
    2) I make fuel, utility and insurance payments only through my premier miles card since Amex does not give any points on these expenses
    3) Online offers on the premier miles cards such as the flipkart etc

    What am I giving up this year:
    1) Amex Platinum card: It was good in the first year because I got 40K worth Taj couchers against the 50K membership fee paid and access to international lounges during the year when I had a lot of foreign travel. But I dont see the sense of paying up another 50K for renewal without any benefits.
    2) Kotak Royal Preferred Visa Signature: Pathetic redemption catalogue. I have no more to say.

    What do I intend to add to the portfolio:
    1) I am seeking to swap my premiermiles card for the Prestige card. This would come in where premiermiles is in the usage strategy
    2) Probably add the HDFC Diners Club Black to the portfolio and decide where it fits in the over all scheme of things

    Any suggestions for improvement on this?

    sanjeev

    • This is what I was looking for, thanks Sanjeev! This helps more than just a listing of credit cards, which takes us nowhere.

      • @Narayanan Hariharan, I did mention I use prestige for all my spends, and where I use another card for anything else it is stated in the bullets there.

  16. Hi Ajay,

    I thought I will share my strategy. I have a slightly different yet similar profile and therefore requirements. May be this could benefit some of your readers and may be I could learn a few things from comments on it.

    To begin with my profile. I am a consultant and travel a lot domestically. And what I expect from my cards is to pay for atleast one holiday (travel and stay) every year for me and my family.

    So here is what I have done last year and intend to continue this year:

    1) Amex Platinum Travel: Start using it from the beginning of its annual cycle till I achieve 4 lakh spend to get my Indigo Travel vouchers worth 19.5K and an additional Taj Stay Voucher worth 10K. I usually achieve this in 4-5 months of usage in an annual cycle.

    2) Amex Jet Platinum: As soon as I reach the 4 Lakh spend on the first card I move to this because post the first 4 lakhs its points acquisition is not very exciting. This cards gives me the fastest mile acquisition that I have come across. It also helps access the lounges during my domestic travels.

    3) Citi Bank Premiermiles card: For places that do not accept Amex cards I use this card. Also this card comes handy when I am making airline bookings since this offers the best mile earning capabilities on them.

    Apart from this I make sure to use preferred partner offers on each of these cards.
    A few examples:
    1) Bookmyshow offer on Amex cards which earns me a couple movie ticket on each of my amex cards
    2) I make fuel, utility and insurance payments only through my premier miles card since Amex does not give any points on these expenses
    3) Online offers on the premier miles cards such as the flipkart etc

    What am I giving up this year:
    1) Amex Platinum card: It was good in the first year because I got 40K worth Taj couchers against the 50K membership fee paid and access to international lounges during the year when I had a lot of foreign travel. But I dont see the sense of paying up another 50K for renewal without any benefits.

    2) Kotak Royal Preferred Visa Signature: Pathetic redemption catalogue. I have no more to say.

    sanjeev

  17. @AJ – Can you please share the eligibility criteria details for the Diners Black card and what is the minimum credit limit with which it is issued ? The HDFC folks appeared confused when I tried extracting an answer for the above questions. Also, do they have separate customer care (like Citi has for PM, Prestige) or is it handled by their regular crappy customer care ? I currently hold a Diners Premium and would like to upgrade to Diners Black.

    I also hold 2 credit cards from Citi, one PM and one Titanium, the combined limit of both the cards are shy of the 5L limit criteria of Prestige by some 2500 INR. Any trick/strategy I can use to ask Citi to upgrade me to Prestige ? I requested them once, they asked me to apply for limit enhancement first using my income documents. I don’t stay in India now and do not have any income proof whatsoever. I could really use Prestige card’s 8 miles per 100 Rs spend.

    • @anil can’t answer the criteria bit but it is issued with a minimum of 10 lakh limit. As for prestige, just combine both your credit links on one card by placing them a call, and call a few days later to ask for the upgrade after the limit is combined

  18. @Akhil,
    you can convert to prestige based on your existing Citi CC limit too. You need more than 5L limit. According to my experience, citi gives very high credit limits sometimes, which doesn’t have a close correlation to your salary, especially for the 2nd card that you apply through them. People could use that to upgrade to Prestige

    • Yes you are right. The first card we got was the Citi IOC card which had a limit of 70k which we kept hitting. In spite of multiple requests to increase the limit, it was rejected. Recently applied for the premiermiles card and received an eye popping limit of 8 lakhs.

  19. HDFC still has the 5X points for all spends in the first 3 months and life time free offer for select cards according to their website.
    My CC strategy is Diners for all 10X online spends (flipkart, snapdeal, cleartrip) and Citibank premiermiles for all other spends and airline ticketing directly from the respective websites. This is because I will be converting to Prestige by end of this year and will be getting upto 18 miles/100Rs upon conversion(2:1 conversion to prestige as mention by Ajay before).

  20. HDFC was running a promotion of 5X points and lifetime free for the last few months for new card applications.
    So, I ended up getting a Diners Premium, and got 60 (40+20) points /150Rs on purchases in flipkart and snapdeal.
    This is the best point earning deal i’ve ever got from a credit card

  21. @Ajay, just sharing my view . Citi prestige is mostly out of hands of middle class people as eligibility criteria is 40lacs per annum . So , if someone doesn’t have prestige than it makes sense to spend with ur co-branded cards of jet and air India only

  22. Along with your credit card strategy, it would also help readers if you can split credit cards based on their expenses. For eg., if you spend 10L a year on CCs with a typical split across categories, ideally you should own these cards and spend in this manner. That would be even more helpful.

  23. How did I miss the renewal?? Did u get any communication about the renewal till 15 may?
    Which are the sites where this promotion is valid? Im also not able to open the diners club hdfc website. I shall try my best to take advantage of this offeron these last few days!

  24. Is the 50 points / rs. 150 on HDFC Diners Black card on certain websites still valid? I understand it was only till 31 March. If it’s still valid, do you know until when? This was / is a great promotion.

  25. Agreed that HDFC Diners Club cards are awesome. I have a Diners Club rewardz card which gives 30P/150rs for time being, and the best part is the card was issued for free. Also they have a portal where in you can redeem your points for airline tickets in the ratio of 1P : 0.75Rs and 1:1 for black card holders. The voucher codes generated are for a particular amount, no need to pay extra YQ which is a big relief. Got this confirmed by Diners Club executives as well

  26. Dear Ajay,
    I think that’s the best proposition since i also use the same cards as you are using and have coincidentally cancelled the ones which you have cancelled as well(Even i used to hold 2 Premiermiles and others).
    The only difference is that I have been holding these cards before they were publically launched.
    What i would suggest would be to get the Standard Chartered Emirates Platinum since those 27,500 miles will be ONLY WORTH their price when using it for the flight upgrade.And this card also pays off really well in the long term in case you fly frequently on EK since 16,000 Skywards miles get you a proper return Jet Airways ticket on direct flights anywhere in India.What makes this card disappointing is that its useless for an EK economy class ticket,spend rewards,tier matching and other perks.

    • @agarwal I’ve made the case in the past for the prestige. INR 20000 gets you 10000 vouchers, 10000 airmiles in any program they have a tie up with, 5000 BA Miles + BA status upgrade, 5000 Etihad Miles, Etihad Gold Status and multiple priority passes for family members. I find it a good price to pay for that amount of features.

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