What is YOUR Mileage Accrual Strategy 2016?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the cards I intend to use for earning myself some miles for my regular spending this year. I’ve received tonnes of email enquiring about this post, and people are also sharing their own insights. The purpose of this blog is to share of course, so that we can learn from each other. And to have a dialogue, rather than a monologue from our side.

As a recap, here is my 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Credit Card spending strategy to earn miles.

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Your turn to speak up

So, I do want to hear from you as well about what is YOUR spending strategy in the current year to earn more miles. Of course, if the plan is to use cash, then that does not count because that does not earn you back anything. Ideally, I’d like to hear the spend you make, the stuff you spend on, the cards you use and how do you see value in those cards, and what is the goal if you have one.

There is a prize

I’m happy to run a prize of an INR 500 gift card to one person who shares his/her strategy with us. This will be awarded to one of the people purely on a random basis.

The rules

Since we are focussed on Indian spend here, anyone who spends in Indian currency on Indian credit cards counts. Also, I’m keeping the thread open for prize till a week from now (April 15, 2016). One person one entry. To ensure that there is sufficient number of people sharing, I’d like at least 30 entries from different people to draw a prize.

So, I’m waiting to hear your comments about how you’re going to get some miles in your accounts this year…

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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. Hey Ajay,

    Big fan of your blogs and the in-depth analysis of each credit card/reward programme etc., I would like to clarify one thing.

    I am going to be booking a revenue business class ticket with BA. Was weighing out the options on my prestige or premier miles card.

    It looked like my premier miles gives more points because I get 10 for every 100RS. Although it’s devalued I finally get 5 point for 100rs. Compared to prestige where I get only 1 point for every 100 which again translated to 4 for every 100RS.

    What are your views on the same? Just for this transaction.

    • @Mukund yes, you would come out ahead with the PremierMiles on this, but if you use your Prestige CC, you could get a status upgrade on BA as well for buying the ticket on your Prestige CC

  2. I am keeping it quite simple this year. I expect to spend in the range of 10-15 lacs on credit cards and my primary focus is to earn air miles.

    Cards in my money clip:
    1) Amex Platinum Travel Card x 2: to be used for only 4 lakhs of expense in each card (4lakhs x 2) to get a total of 40K worth of travel benefits with Indigo and 20K worth stay benefit with Taj. Will not use beyond this since card becomes useless after this.

    2) Citi Prestige: For all those expense which cannot be made on Amex cards and for all those incurred after 4+4 lakhs limit reached. Most importantly it gives me and family lounge access across the world.

    Cards in my wallet:
    1) Jet Airways Amex Card: For for only Jet Bookings while it is still valid. Will dump it after in may once annual cycle ends unless Amex agrees to renew without fee.

    Dumping for sure:

    1) SBI Indian Airlines Signature: I just have one thing to say about them. They broke my heart. Thankfully it was right after I reached 5 lakhs spend limit. So i stopped using it immediately

    What am I keen to get: Any Vistara partnership card.

  3. Spends:
    Regular household spends like shopping, bills and recharges.
    Corporate travel, reimbursed by my employer, mostly on 10x Diners rewards at Goibibo for a couple of lakhs each year. Some foreign travel, which mostly goes to Amex/Citi.

    My Point earning strategy:

    1. Amex Travel Plat Card: Once the billing cycle starts, I put all possible spends (other than diners 10x of course) on this to hit 4L on the card in 3-4 months to get 30k worth of benefits. Easy 7% return on the spends. After 4L, this goes into the drawer till the next year.

    2. Diners Rewardz: All possible expenses in terms of 10x rewards on Goibibo / Flipkart / Snapdeal go on this card for lots of rewards points. All other online purchases / bills on this as well. One of the things that people miss is that the standard 1.5% return on Rewardz doubles once you spend more than 10k per month. So it achieves parity with Premium at 15k spend, and if you spend more than 15k monthly, Rewardz earns you more in terms of points (4 points per 100 = Rs. 3 worth).

    3. Citi Premier Miles: This is my backup Visa for places that dont accept Diners/HDFC/Citi card machines. Only use if the Diners doesnt work.

    Upgrade Plans: Try for Diners Black if I can get it. Premium is not useful enough for me.

  4. Firstly I am new to the points & miles game and have been following your blog quite regularly and is one of the reasons I entered in the points/miles race:

    So this year I have got the following cards:

    1) HDFC Diners Premium : Have a family trip of 4 to US this summer … so earning points on this card big time with 10x bonus.. will try upgrade it to Diners Black by end of the year… One question if the card gets upgraded do all the points I have earned are carried forward or would be reduced in the proportion of their redemption rates?

    2) Jet HDFC World CC: Got this card for travel on Jet Airways specifically as it eanrs 18 miles per 150 , plus the freebies and 5% discount.

    I have both the cards LIFETIME FREE .. so I missed out on a few benefits of paid card.

    Have earned around 1 Lakh points in my first month of purchases.
    Will book most of my travel and online shopping thru Diners and retain it for long time.Jet Card will keep at least this year.

    • Points on premium to black will be reduced, probably by more than the proportionate rate, please confirm from the bank before upgrade. You may want to redeem before upgrading for better value.

    • @NIHIT How do u hold two credit cards with HDFC? They provide only one credit card per customer isn’t it?

      • I spoke to my RM on this today,
        So basically the policy is that HDFC won’t issue two premium cards to a customer (specifically diners), since these cards have to come with an high credit limit. ~5L/card HDFC doesn’t want to increase the credit exposure to a high limit.
        The only way to get an exception is to show net monthly income of 3.75L to be eligible for both diners cards (black & Jet Diners)

  5. I would be relocating to US this year, so pretty much retiring from the game
    1) Citi Prestige – Cancel once cycle ends ( due top pt 2)
    2) Citi Premier miles- ( Upgrade) Fattening the goat till cycle end and would upgrade it to Prestige and double my kitty. Will keep it alive for now as family uses the add ons and Priority pass is always useful. Will be my main card for now. Probably stock up on GC’s of a 10x partner to maximize points.
    3) AI SBI – Cancel ( Not much value post devaluation)
    4) Amex Gold- Will cancel once cycle ends , just recharge paytm 4 times to get the bonus pts.
    5) ICICI Jet Saphiro Amex- My latest acquisition. 12500 jet miles at only 2500 Rs is a great deal. Needed a jet cobranded card since I cancelled the jet amex last month due to the unreasonable 2nd yr fee. Will use for booking Jet and bookmyshow and occasionally where amex is accepted.

  6. Most of my spends goes towards Utility bill payments visit TANGEDCO. Normally I spend 80,000/month on Electricity bills. I don’t travel much. 95% of my spends (including Electricity bills) are online.
    I pay my company fuel bills by cash, since my fuel spends exceed 1.5 lakhs per month.(To save on 2.5% surcharge, since the surcharge waiver is limited on all cards.

    Here are the cards I own :
    1) SBI VISA SIGNATURE CARD : (KEEP)
    I get 50,000 bonus for spending 5 lakhs in a year, which I can reach without much fuss. After crossing 5 lakh spends, this card becomes useless since it earns only 2 points/100 rupees. This card offers Two free Movie tickets every month without any terms and attached. Even though the card comes with an annual fee of Rs.5000, they provide gift vouchers worth 5000. U earn 15000 rupees for 5 lakhs, along with 2 free Movie tickets every month. So I would keep this card.

    2)HDFC ALL MILES VISA SIGNATURE CARD : (UPGRADE TO DINERS/REGULAR CARD):
    This card earns only 3 reward points per 150. But each point is worth 75 pause, so 1.5 rupees per 100 earn rate. There is nothing special about this card. I would like to upgrade it to DINERS CLUB /REGULAR CREDIT CARD.

    3)AMEX JETAIRWAYS CARD: (KEEP)
    . Though I don’t travel a lot, I hold this card mainly for Excellent customer service from Amex and complimentary domestic lounge access. The earn rate is 8 JP Miles/150 Rs, which is the best among all cards after Indus ind card devaluation.

  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.

    • Hi VC

      I am curious what the strategy is to transfer 1.8m miles to Jet? Aren’t there other airline partners giving a much better redemption rate? Also if you are transferring 100% to Jet, whether owning a jet co-branded card (such as Diners) would make sense?

      • @Manish – no it wouldn’t. The max miles that you can get per 100 spent is 5.33 using Jet-Amex combo or HDFC Diners (using 8 miles per 150 spend from their websites).

        Using my method (charging all spends to one card including USD), you get a rate of 2 CP points per 100 spent, which at a conversion of 1 CP point to 4 Jet miles gets you 8 miles per 100 spend.

        Add a 30% bonus because of the Citi Gold relationship and you are now looking at 10.64 miles per 100 spend. This is easily the most you will get out of every 100 spend, mile-wise, across partners.

        Of course, you can always choose other redemption partners to cash the miles out to, but redemption is a bi*ch as we all know. On hotels, I am PLT with accor so can’t cash out using CP. The rest of the airlines, I am not at a tier where there’s leverage on redemption, therefore this strategy.

        1.8m is not all that much. Flying BOM-AMS-BOM business for 3 pax is .51m miles as is. Throw in upgrades for relatives and 3 trips a year and you’re out of miles rather quickly.

        • Wouldn’t converting to Etihad be more beneficial?
          Since Etihad redemptions (on jet) need way lesser miles than redeeming JP miles. Like a BOM-DEL Business class requires 10,550 EY miles whereas you need 17k JP miles for the same!!

        • Hi Karthic,

          Isn’t it 1 CP point per 100, not 2? (except for Intl. transactions). That gives you 4 JPmilles per 100, 5.2 if you count the Citigold bonus.

  8. My strategy for 2016
    HDFC Diners Black (Keep) – Got this card lifetime free due to by Banking relationship with HDFC. Have ‘exploited’ the 10x offer like crazy grabbing close to half a million miles. Just hoping they will extend this beyond April 2016 as well.
    I have moved from India to US but this continues to be my go-to card.

    SBI Air India Signature (Keep) – Although devalued now, SBI doesn’t charge me for the card so keeping it. Usage only where Diners is not accepted

    Citi Prestige (Cancel) – Got it cancelled at the beginning of the year just prior to renewal. While the perks were nice, I could never utilize them fully

    • Avi,
      What kind of relationship do you have with HDFC? Trying to figure out what I need to get an upgrade to Black. 🙂

  9. Hello,

    My credit card strategy for this year is( i dont travel much so try to get maximum points with everyday spends)
    1. Amex gold card: use this card for minimum of 4 times a month for 1000 rs and i get 1000 bonus points. (4 transaction include all my recharge and few books shopping online)
    2. SBI platinum card: i use this card for all the retail spends . I get 10 reward points for rs 100. On reaching 2 lakh annual spend i also get a gift voucher for the annual fee paid so its virtually free card with lots of points.
    3. Citi bank premier miles card: I use this card for all the places where i do not get any extra reward points. This card give me 4 reward points for every 100 rs.
    4. Citibank reward card: I use this card for all the retail spends and spends of flipkart as i get 10 X reward points. Basicaly a free card with 500 bonus points for shopping on birthday
    5. Amex platinum travel card: Use this card for 1.9 annual spends to get around 7500 bonus points
    6. Also have the icici rubyx debit card which gives me 6 reward points for every 200 rs spent including some on the banking transactions.

    All the cards above can be transferred to Jet airmiles and also i have an option to club all my points through Amex+icici to one payback account and then transfer this to jet airmiles.

  10. My creditcard mileage earning strategy:

    AI SBI credit card– am sticking to this card for this year for the AI points I earn, which are use for domestic redemption for me– though am disappointed by all the devaluing they have been doing

    Jet Airways HDFC World mastercard debit card– useful for mastercard lounges, and the renewal benefits.

    Jet Airways Amex creditcard– useful for booking Jet Tickets and also for accessing the Amex lounge

    HDFC Visa Signature creditcard– will probably switch to the all miles hdfc visa signature creditcard– lifetime free so makes sense.

  11. Hi Ajay…. I’m reading your blog since 2013 but have rarely commented. this is to support your blog. I really enjoy reading your blogs…I feel 30 should be easy….

    My strategy was simple so far, I needed air India miles and SBI provided it in plenty.

    For year 2016 I intent using only 4 cards

    1) Citi Prestige Card- Routine expenses restricted to miles requirement

    2) HDFC Infinia – for all international spends and Hdfcinfinia website related spends (I think this is a great value card for features and overall benefits that it provides)

    3) HDFC Jet card (my wife’s) for jet airways Spends and SBI Air India for Air India related spends

    I may cancel my SBI Air India Card at the time of renewal.

    Keep the good work Ajay

    Thank you.

  12. Hi Ajay! Love your blog!

    My strategy considers the following facts:
    – I am 24, salaried and my net pay in hand is < INR 1 L p.m.
    – My total spend in a year is around INR 6 L. However, it is spread moderately across all category spends (online, utilties, retail, insurance, etc); i.e. I am not a heavy spender on any 1 specific category, say travel.
    – My annual spend on travel is < INR 75K, all of which is purely for leisure and none of it is for official purposes.

    Cards in my wallet:
    (1) American Express Platinum Travel CC:
    I know this one isn't in Ajay's good books, but considering my lack of high spend on travel, I won't be able to earn a lot of miles and perhaps what suits me best is a card which gives me maximum return against my annual spend in the form of milestone rewards. And what better card than Amex Platinum Travel for this! Offering net benefits worth INR 29K against a spend of INR 4 L, this card gave me the best-in-class return of 8.25% in the first year! The top-notch Amex Customer care and free monthly movie tickets for avg. 8 months (@ INR 1K p.m.) were an added bonus! Definitely my primary card for all spend upto INR 4 L in 2016.

    (2) HDFC Diner's Club Premium:
    Now I had to chose a card for a majority of the remaining spend of INR 2 lac (Amex gives milestone benefits only uptill a spend of INR 4L). Ajay's review of HDFC Diner's Club Black card raised my eyebrows – 10x rewards across 6 major vendors and frequent bonus reward promotions resulting in a return exceeding 20%, combined with free Golf privileges and 2x reward on all telecom utility spend (through HDFCDinersclub.com) – suddenly the HDFC Diner's became my second favorite!
    Considering my current pay and lack of any prior banking relationship with HDFC, I was only able to grab a LIFETIME FREE Diner's Club Premium (instead of the top end but scarcely available DC Black), but it still offered me a damn good deal. I have just ordered this one, and am still awaiting its delivery. Hopefully I will not have a disastrous experience like Ajay's, while redeeming the reward points.

    (3) Citibank Indian Oil Titanium (MasterCard):
    Fuel is one of my key spends, considering that I travel a lot by my car from Delhi to Uttarakhand. And in the fuel category, Citibank IOC offers me the maximum value – Re 1 reward point against a spend of Rs 150 (4x on Indian Oil fuel pumps). I am yet to come across a card which gives me a better value for money spent on fuel. Further, lack of acceptance of Amex and Diner's club cards at many locations in Uttarakhand makes this card a life saver!

    Wish list:
    (1) HDFC Diner's Club Black:
    For all of the above mentioned reasons combined with an even better reward rate, HDFC Diner's Black remains on the top of my wish list. Hopefully by maintaining a good relationship with my Bank, who knows I might just strike Gold with this one!

    (2) ICICI Jet Privilege Sapphiro (Visa & Amex):
    I dropped going for this one due to the exorbitant annual fee of INR 5K + Service tax (I am not a JP Platinum member) and a lack of high travel spend, but in the current crop of credit cards available, this one offers some pretty good benefits. With a highly rewarding miles rate clubbed with the dual card benefit, free movie tickets and other freebies, this card is 'on my cards'.

    @Ajay – Considering all of the factors including my spend trend mentioned above, do you think my selection of credit cards is the best possible one? Or do you differ? Would love to hear your advise on what could be the best card portfolio for me!!

    Thanks once again for all the amazingly interesting yet well informed blogs! Awaiting your valuable inputs! 🙂

    • Hey Ajay!

      Would love to hear your inputs on my strategy and how I can maximize my benefits! 🙂

      Thanks,
      Rahul Maheshwari

  13. 1) HDFC Diners Black – For all travel related spends as well as shopping on Flipkart and Snapdeal. Just before there offer was supposed to expire on 31st march (which hasn’t) I loaded up on gift vouchers of Flipkart/Snapdeal/WooHoo (through Snapdeal) so that I could still spend through rest of the year.
    2) ICICI Jet Airways Sapphiro amex card – Free for me as a JP Platinum member but I need one ICICI card.
    3) Indusind Jet Airways Odyssey Amex card – Free for me as a JP Platinum member but I keep it for free miles and ticket code every year.
    4) Amex Platinum travel card – Used to be my go to card before I got HDFC Diners Black. Now I use it to reach the INR4lac spend threshold (it counts even if I pay my large insurance premium through it – thus earning 7% return on it upfront).
    5) Citi Prestige – Had taken this before I knew about HDFC Diners Black. Now just enjoying the vouchers that came with it and plan to cancel.
    6) Standard Chartered Manhattan card – Plan to cancel this year even though its free.
    7) Citi Indian Oil card – Plan to cancel as I now mostly use Ola and Uber. Hardly drive my own car except for weekends and for that HDFC Diners suffices for fuelling up.
    8) HSBC Platinum – Plan to cancel.
    Well as you can see I have got too many cards. HDFC Diners Black is my current go to card as even without the 10x rewards, it gives 3.3% value back on all spends, which probably is the highest amongst all cards (except until you reach the 4l threshold for Amex Platinum Travel).

  14. Just applied for the ICIC saaphiro amex due to 12500 bonus JP miles & only 2500 joining fee along with unlimited domestic lounge access. plan to cancel after 10-11 months & using the JP miles

    otherwise use Diners premium of my wife ( yes I am somehow not getting HDFC bank credit cards but my wife got it online based on my relationship status …..) this is good one good points on snapdeal/cleartrip.

  15. I don’t have any premium credit cards or I don’t spend a lot just to earn points. But, I spend almost everything on my credit card. Even if it’s paying as less as ₹50 or doing a meagre ₹5 recharge.
    I hold
    1. HDFC Diners Rewardz Card (Lifetime Free)- I use it for all my spends. I easily cross ₹10K a month and once I do that my base earning becomes 6 points/₹150 spent. This feature is only with Diners Rewardz. Also I try to make use of Diners 10X programs on all their partner websites, making me earn a lot (30 points/ ₹150) spent.
    2. HDFC Regalia World MasterCard (Add on Card on my wife’s CC)- I use it for all my international spends. That includes the various products I buy from international merchants, domain names, hosting services, Evernote, Photography websites etc… This saves me a lot of money as only 2% mark up fees is there on Regalia. Besides, we get 4 points/ ₹150 spent too. Plus I use it also as a back up card for all merchants or websites where Diners Card is not accepted.
    3. Citibank Rewards Visa Card (Lifetime Free Card)- I keep this card as an additional credit line in times of need. Besides its from VISA, so just to make sure I have a card from each of Diners Club International, Mastercard and VISA. Besides, I frequently look out for sales wherein you specifically get discounts of Citi cards like the current discount going on Amazon.in on Citi Cards for all Moto Mobiles..

    I am not a compulsive shopper and I value money but I make it a point to NEVER buy on cash. All my cards are lifetime free and as a result, any gain I make using points in an earning for us. Needless to say, free lounge visits on domestic sectors (Diners) and international too (Regalia Priority Pass) are an added benefits that came for free. This is my humble spending strategy.

  16. Citi Prestige: For ticketing of my international flights,hotels and international spends dealing with small amounts.
    HDFC Bank Infinia: For all utility, fuel and high value international spends.
    American Express Platinum Travel: For all entertainment and leisure purposes like dining,domestic stays,domestic flights,etc until I reach the 4L spending threshold.
    Standard Chartered Emirates Platinum: After they made my card free for lifetime(at a very nominal fee) along with 27,500 FREE miles, I have thought to hold on to this card.
    Jet Airways AMEX Sapphiro Card: Since this card comes with no renewal fee for me along with free 5000 miles and a base fare waived off ticket, free bookmyshow movie tickets and my banking relationship with the bank, I am holding on to this card.
    Indusind Bank Signature Card: Cancelled the card a month back because of the bad service and product.
    Air India SBI Signature Card: Due to the devaluation by the Airline and the Bank, I am cancelling this card soon.
    Apart from this, all other expenses like online spends, magazine subscriptions and other miscellaneous transactions depend on the offers going on (i.e cashbacks, discounts,etc) or on my mood,acceptance,etc

    • I wanted to understand the reasoning behind putting high value international spends on Infina vs Prestige. Is it because of the lower forex markup? That would be valid for small amounts too though.

      • There are 2 reasons:-
        The first is the lower mark up fee and the subsequent service tax.
        The second is because I have usually observed that HDFC provides a much better exchange rate than Cities does.
        Though that’s there that you get 8 miles for those spends(on cities whereas you get 3.33 out of ₹100), its as good as buying miles. You pay extra 1.72%(1.5%+14.5%) for those extra 4.66 miles.

  17. Citi Prestige: All my USD and Non-Airline INR spends go here.
    Citi Premiermiles: All my Airline spends go here except Air India and Jet Airways.
    Jet Diners Card: All my Jet Airways ticket spends go here.
    SBI Airindia Card: With recent devaluation of this card, I use it only when I have Air India spends. Planning to cancel/switch when the card comes up for renewal.

  18. Here is my strategy.
    a) HDFC Jet Diners card for jetairways spends.. (24 JP Miles for 150 spent) **This is the max one can get for jetairways spends.
    b) Have a round trip to US planned and want to use airindia miles for that. I completed the 10L threshold on the SBI AirIndia card. just a few thousand more needed for the 160K miles required for a round trip. After I collect the required miles, I will cancel out this card as it is no longer a good card after the dual devaluation.
    c) For all other spends, Using the Citibank PremierMiles card, Once I have enough miles, I will upgrade to Prestige to double my miles + have the other benefits.

      • So when one upgrades from Citi Premier Miles to Prestige.
        The mile transfer ratio is 2:1
        so for 100,000 PM, i would get 50,000 Prestige points.
        each prestige point = 4 air miles..
        so in effect, 100K PM would become 200K Air Miles.
        now when you think about it, 100K PM = 50K airmiles..
        so in essence its 4x

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