My 2016 Mileage Earning Credit Card Strategy

One of the key ways of earning miles, apart from the travel, is mileage-earning Credit Cards. If you look at my 2015 Mileage Haul, a quarter of the miles were earned via Credit Cards, and this excludes all the miles I transferred out from my credit card accounts, which makes it another quarter. Hence, there is a total of 50% of my miles and points earned in 2015 from Credit Cards and conversions.

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It is hence, very essential to have a credit card or credit cards which will help you earn all the miles which you require towards your goal of earning trips of a lifetime, such as my #redcarpettrip. For the past three years, I have been detailing all the cards I look at favorably for my spends. I’d advise you to look at my 2013, 2014 and 2015 thoughts before you go forward to read this year. I’d like you to do that to realise that credit-card churning is not the name of the game in India, and since I anyways don’t have the kind of time to kill and get new cards, I don’t churn. My credit cards remain the same, until and unless there is a massive shift in the card proposition which beckons an addition or deletion from my collection.

Also, there are cards I use on a daily basis, and cards I use infrequently. So, the ones I use all the time are in my money clip, while the others are in my wallet, which I reach out for when I need these cards in specific. With that context, lets see what I am keeping, acquiring or cancelling this year.

In my Money Clip

  1. Citi Prestige x 2 (Keep): I got my first Citi Prestige Credit Card in July 2014, and the second in early 2015. These are my go to cards for most of my spending. I used to have two PremierMiles Cards, however, I found it better to move to Prestige because of my frequent travel, which makes Prestige a better fit for my requirements (8 airmiles/INR 100 instead of 4 for international travel). Why do I have two of these? It is just because I don’t want to combine two of my existing credit lines I have with Citi into one. Additionally, I easily recover my INR 20,000 fees with the INR 10,000 Taj/ITC vouchers and the 2500 miles provided on renewal every year. Also, Priority Passes for everyone in the family!
  2. HDFC Diners Club Black (Keep): HDFC Diners Club has one of the most generous 10x Partner program, and they also have an assortment of transfer partners not available on any other card platform in India such as Hyatt, Marriott and American Airlines. Also, they frequently keep doing promotions for putting more points in your pocket. However, they have horrible redemption formalities.
  3. Amex Gold (Wondering): American Express Gold Card came to me free for the first year last year, and offered 4000 points for sign up. I prefer to keep at least one charge card in my pocket, since it is easier to work with this at hotels. There is no pre-defined credit limit, hence there is no limit blocked per se. The card offers 1000 MR points every time I use it for at least 4 times a month for INR 1,000 which is a gimme. However, the card will come up for renewal this year and I’m wondering if it is worth the fees or not.
  4. HDFC Bank JetPrivilege World Debit Card (Keep): I need to keep a debit card to withdraw cash from my bank account, period! However, I get it free for being a Jet Airways Platinum customer and you can have 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.

In my Wallet

  1. ICICI Jet Airways Sapphiro (Visa & Amex) (Keep): I’ve held this card for a while now, and it comes to me free of cost as long as I am a JetPrivilege Platinum member. I don’t use the card much except for buy-one-get-one free movie offers every month, and the free Jet Airways tickets and renewal miles which come every year. I do use it off and on to book Jet Airways tickets however.
  2. Jet Airways American Express Platinum (Keep): Ever since I gave up on my Amex Platinum, the only way to get in the Amex Lounges in Delhi and Mumbai was this card. Since they only allow for access for one person, I also got Shipra to sign up for this card during a higher signup bonus offer in the end of 2014. Now we both head up to the Amex Lounge in Delhi whenever we are transiting there. With all full-service carriers now at Terminal 2 in Mumbai however, I don’t use the Mumbai lounge much anymore.
  3. IndusInd Jet Airways Odyssey cars (Visa & Amex) (Keep): I initially got the card since there were JPMiles on the table for a minimum spend. However, this card is now in my wallet for the free Jet Airways tickets, since they devalued their earning potential just a few days ago.
  4. AI SBI Signature Card (Cancel): I’ve mulled on this subject a lot, and looking at my spend patterns, the new features of this SBI Card do not fit into my scheme of things. Additionally, with the whole AI devaluation, I’m sitting on tonnes of AI miles which value lesser than when I earned them. I don’t want many more AI miles at the moment. However, I will move to another credit card from SBI instead of cancelling my credit line with them for the time being.

On my wishlist

  1. Axis Vistara co-branded card: This is a yet-to-be launched card and I’m waiting to see what they come up with. Hence, await this card.

Rationale

I do have many different pockets of spends. I’m forever travelling, eating out or entertaining people. So I put almost all my expenses on my cards, depending on the category where I can earn the maximum miles for those categories. I don’t scout for tier points really. For travel and e-com spends I am currently driving it to HDFC Diners at the moment, and every thing else to Citi Prestige.

Do you guys have a similar or different view than mine about the credit cards discussed above? I know these are all top-end credit cards, but they do make sense since the fee is more than recovered with the mileage amounts we earn on these cards.

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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. Thanks for sharing this in detail Ajay. HDFC earlier this year launched JetPrivilege Diners club card. I would like to know your views in comparison to CP or HDFC Diners Club Black.
    TIA

  2. Good article. AMEX PLATINUM RESERVE is also a good card. Very easy to spend 4 Lakh by adding cash to wallet and transferring to bank. Gives the best benefits of them all. 10k, Taj voucher and 23500 Indigo voucher. They even reverse the annual fee if you call them and request. I also have the premiermiles card which gives me lot of 10x. Wondering if I should upgrade to Citi Prestige.

  3. hi Ajay, what would be your options with SBI even I plan on giving up my AI SBI card because of the massive devaluations, I called them up they said a downgrade is not possible , so basically we don’t have much to choose from

  4. What are your views on the Axis Bank Miles and More Card? For a SEN with LH?
    Also currently hold the Citi Premier Miles Card, now planning to change to Prestige after your post!

  5. Can someone advise me on the best Jet Airways card apart from the Diners Jet Airways which I wont get since I am already Diners Black. I have ICICI Sapphiro. I have used HDFC before (2 yrs back but no change to its program) and there are some more like AMEX and IndusInd. All cost perhaps the same amount of 5000 a year. The benefits on Diners is best, but like I mentioned, I wont get 2 Diners from HDFC.

    • @ Ashutosh.. For many years I was holding 2 credit cards from HDFC . One was Jet Master world card and another one Diners Premium. HOwever recently while upgtrding to Diners black I had to give up the second card because only then I was able to match the minimum 5 lakh limit criteria. SO if you have existing limit of say- 6 lakh or so on your Diners black, ask them to distribute the limit. .. RS 5 lacs for Diners Black and remaining for Jet Master world card.Hope this helps.

  6. Hi
    Your article is super and bang on with the reviews on cards. Wanted to ask you what about the jet Hdfc world card ? Do u think that is worth keeping for someone who is looking at tier points and miles for flights ?

  7. Have 2 cards, Citi prestige and SCB Emirates. 100% of spending is on CP, with Emirates being the backup (Visa/Master).

    On target for 350k points on the CP card this year with (hopefully) a 100k bonus coming from the CitiGold relationship making a grand total of 450k points or 1.8m miles, all of it going to Jet.

    Use the miles for upgrades and holidays.

    Strategy simply is:

    01. Get a card with a large limit and generous redemption partner options (even on the airline front)

    02. Only Citi offers this, but check to see if having another relationship (in my case CitiGold) that gives you upto 30% delta on points yearly and;

    03. Spend the hell out of the card monthly.

    • You reward point target is impressive. If you could share the breakup of spends categorically monthly or annually it would be great. Could give a better insight. I am mostly using AMEX jet platinum for spends on jetairways and other spends – mostly related to air ticket and hotel bookings for frequent travel on citibank premiermiles. At the end of the year manage to get about 150K miles on jet privilege, which feels much lesser when I read this blog.

  8. Ajay – do you get bonus miles and free ticket codes on ICICI Jet Amex card even if they didn’t charge you any fees given your Jet Platinum status? I ask because I got this card free last year due to my JP Platinum status and they didn’t give me anything!
    On the other hand, Indus Ind and Amex gave me these benefits despite no joining fee.

    • @amar I paid for my Amex first year because the launch offer was 30k miles. Next year I went free and Amex does not give anything on the free card. But still, I get lounge access which counte

  9. Thanks, Ajay! I was waiting for this post for some time now.
    Do you know how many add on cards/priority passes(in addition to the primary card holder) are available with the Citi Prestige?

    Thanks

  10. Someone posted on a forum that we get 2x points on online transactions when using diners card. Can someone please confirm it.

  11. Oh didn’t realize you could just switch cards with SBI instead of canceling. I’m definitely not keeping my SBI AI and one reason is I have quite a few AI points. Amex travel platinum and citi premier are all I’ll have I guess and a couple non travel.

  12. Have been using the Prestige for almost all spends recently. However, only a few days back I calculated the returns I would get on various other cards that I have. Surprisingly, even after all the devaluation, the AI SBI card is still quite good for redeeming miles on AI flights. A 10 lac spend would get you 90k miles including the bonus and this is good for a business class one way ticket to Europe. Same spend in INR on Prestige would get much lower mile value. So for INR spends where no other bonus can be taken advantage of, i still find SBI to be quite good.

    • @vik in pure numbers the Sbi card will give you 90k miles yes. But it does not give me miles which I can use at will across various partners. Hence you are captive to one partner. Additionally I have way too many air india miles right now anyway. That is my perspective.

  13. Citi Prestige is a Bliss. The only Card that has ever come close to this was Deutsche Bank Signature Miles & More Credit Card. I still miss it!!
    I am basically a two Card person, the other being American Express.
    Truly appreciate the way you get value out of all the Cards. Would have learnt so much more about American Express if you had stayed with one. Would have been definitely talking about Centurion at this stage. Cheers!!

  14. While I love my Jet Airways Amex Platinum Card , it’s become a struggle to get my complimentary ticket every year. My card gets renewed in October , and I’ve been contacting Jet since January , but it was only yesterday ( almost 6 months later ) that I received the promo code. That too after I involved Amex in this tussle.

  15. I want to ask you a question about Credit Card Churning? Does it affect your CIBIL Score? Let’s say I have an XYZ Card. I submit it after one year and i again apply for it just after one month so that i get that hefty amount of miles for signing bonus. Will the company be willing to give me the card again? Want to know your insight on it.

    • @Saumya, I am no expert on this, but one of the factors that help in credit cards is the “debt service time duration” which means the amount of time you use the credit for. Also when you cancel a card your number of cards reduces hence your utilisation of limits increases. Hence, I’m not sure in either case the score goes up. As for the bonuses, I don’t think we do such high bonuses in india to bother about churning.

  16. Was wondering today. your yearly credit card review has not come. But as soon as I opened the computer in the office I saw your mail, good telepathy.
    By the way I was wondering Jet Airways coupon the whole month April bangalore delhi sector seats are not available or if it is available they are either for early morning or late night. little surprising

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