Like my regular readers know, I finally managed to get myself an HDFC Bank Diners Club Credit Card last year, and I was on a roll earning a lot of their points on this credit card. The reason was (is) that they are offering a very liberal 10x points promotion, which allows for points to stack up pretty quickly, if you choose to use some of the big bulge OTAs such as MakeMyTrip to book your tickets (imagine 50 points on every INR 150 spent on the Black card).
In my almost one year of holding the card, I had more than enough points to give a spin to make a redemption. Additionally, I had almost drained out my AAdvantage account, and I could do with a top-up to be ready for the Etihad Apartments upgrade if and when they opened up. for the Diners Black, some of the nicer transfer partners include American Airlines, Marriott Rewards and Hyatt Gold Passport, all of which are of interest to me.
However, the transfer system for HDFC Bank to these partners absolutely sucks! While you can transfer to JetPrivilege and Air India Flying Returns, their Indian partners in a 1:1 ratio online, the international partners require a paper form [PDF] to be filled up and dropped in an ATM correspondence box or mailed to them. This system of filling up forms has been existing forever in the HDFC Bank scheme of things, in spite of the fact that India is known for its IT skills.
So I went about filling up the form and dropped it in ATM correspondence box near my office one fine day in September 2015, and waited for the points to be transferred out. Except they did not. I never received any communication even 14 working days after, so I called and filed a complaint. Turns out HDFC Bank does not have a system to inform you about the status of your request. They just trashed my request because they could not figure out some part of the form filled in Ink. The answer that this was the case however only came to me approximately end of October 2015 on the phone.
This had me seething with anger, however, I filed for a request again, this time also scanning and sending them a copy on email for backup, just in case they claimed again they did not receive the form or could not understand it. I filed this request mid-November 2015.
This time, they called and confirmed that they received my request, but they had no clue how to process it. Since HDFC Bank was such a drag in getting things done, and wanted to charge me money (INR 75) to process the transfer, I was optimising by transferring out as many points as possible to Hyatt Gold Passport and American Airlines AAdvantage on the same request form.
The first reaction I received was after about 15 calendar days, after escalating a complaint all the way to the CEO of the Bank. They were apparently scratching their head on how to transfer out to Hyatt Gold Passport. The senior customer care person who was working on my escalation told me they are going to first transfer to AAdvantage and then process the Hyatt request. In fact, he told me Hyatt was not a partner for transfers and if I wanted to book a Hyatt hotel, I could use HDFC Bank’s concierge service to book it!
It turns out, HDFC Bank does not have backups in place to stick to their own guideline of 14 working days. In the meanwhile, Chennai had massive floods which is where the credit card operations of HDFC Bank are based. I was asked for more time beyond the 14 days, while I wondered why did HDFC Bank not have a backup processing centre in another city for their Card Operations.
I had intended to have the miles in my account well in time to be able to keep scoping for an upgraded redemption on the #redcarpettrip, however the transfer only hit my account on December 12, 2015 which was almost 4 weeks after filing the request. Oh, and despite the repeated assurances by HDFC Bank that they will first help me to the AAdvantage miles and then the Hyatt points, finally the requests worked out together and both the points hit the respective accounts at the same time.
Bottomline: I am very disappointed that a bank which is one of the most valuable banks in the world by valuation, and has been at the cutting edge of deploying technology in their operations from the start, got this piece so wrong. Eventually they wasted my time, time which could have been better spent on other stuff, and which I won’t get back.
My guess is that HDFC Bank needs to route these requests to Diners Club, and all they had to do was to just send them to the right person in Diners who handles reward processing, but they took a lot of time figuring out who was that right person.
Any of you have had similar experiences with HDFC Bank, or am I an outlier here?