I cancelled my SBI Air India Credit Card

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Earning and burning miles is a hobby I’ve had for a very long time, and in India, there are not too many products with lucrative signup bonuses and the opportunity to earn miles on an ongoing basis. Keeping this in mind, the Air India card on launch was a very lucrative proposition, back in 2013:

The purpose was to bring Air India miles in the market. Air India is not good at marketing itself and making partnerships, unlike Jet Privilege, for instance where you have over a 100 program partners. With SBI, they had the government backing as well, and it was easy to push this through initially. Not to mention, Air India’s membership to the Star Alliance could have helped use these miles with Star Alliance carriers as well.

Over the next two years, everything was okay, but in 2016, things started to change for the worse. First, in early 2016, the status match program was discontinued. Fair enough, I say. Maybe Air India now found themselves with a little too many number of elites. But they need to realize that status is no good without business, and with howsoever I was getting the status, I was actually paying Air India with business. In spite of the fact that it was irritating.

The bigger problem was Air India scaled up the amount of spend required to get the Elite status altogether. Now, Air India SBI Signature Card would get you an upgrade to Gold status when you spend up to INR 10 Lakh per annum, out of which INR 5 Lakh was on Air India tickets. Also, the reward structure changed and the bonuses moved to double the tier, effectively halving the earning on the card. But I did not move my finger on cancelling the card just yet.

Later last year, however, it all fell apart. Air India withdrew the tier support to SBI Card, and hence, all you could earn was SBI Card points, which could be transferred to Air India. The case was so weak to pay up another fee. When the fee got debited to my account, I tried to reason with SBI Cards that they should let me have the card for free, after all, there wasn’t much I could do with it.

They denied the fee credit, and then, after earning 362,000 Air India miles with them, I had to ask them to let me go. There was no other card from SBI Cards which I found good enough (they all offered INR 0.25 cash value per point and no transfer partners apart from Jet Airways, useless!).

Bottomline

Oh how the mighty have fallen. From being the most lucrative card to being just another credit card, Air India’s tie-up with SBI Card has been a long nosedive. I’m sure there are a lot of you who would have done the same thing that I did. Can I hear your views about why you kept or cancelled your SBI Air India Signature Card.

So long Air India SBI Card.

Comments

  1. Hi Ajay, talking purely in terms of miles given / money spent, I find this to still be the best card in India – am curious as to what I am missing here :

    Assuming only normal spends (i.e no accelerated partners etc), if you hit the 10L milestone, you get 50K bonus miles. That basically means you got 40K normal miles (on spending 10L) + 50K = 90K miles, or effectively 9 miles / 100 Rs. Most other cards I know offer a base rate of 4 miles / 100 Rs (for domestic spending at least). So this still seems a very good proposition to me. Am I missing something here ? Would love to understand.

    • @Swapnil, facts of life. Not everyone is out there to spend 10L on a card. If you would achieve that, you are stuck with Air India miles, which are not the best investment since they expire so soon, and they have a bloated award chart. To get Star Alliance Tickets is a mess. When you spend on a neutral card like Citi or Amex you get tonnes of options to transfer. When you spend to vistara you get better service, and when you spend to 9W you get access to tonnes of partners and reasonably okay inventory. All in all, it is an investment vs returns kind of thing, and everyone will seek a different outcome basis their spending and expectations of what they want in return.

  2. @Ajay..what did you with your SBI points? If you have converted them to AirIndia miles, they will now expire within 3 years. Any way to cancel the card and simultaneously extend the expiry of converted airindia miles?

  3. Hey Ajay, On a related note, I am waiting for your article on Air India’s new Star Alliance partner award options. 5k/10k in US & Europe.
    Any plans of writing a post about that?

  4. I canceled it last year when they mandated Rs 5 lakh spend to maintain gold. Good thing those changes came just before my card was up for renewal. Ajay, curious to know what made you not pull the plug around then & still keep the card up until now ?

    • @amit my fee cycle is December and I was hoping there was a better card in the sbi system but they came back to their lack of imagination. Additionally I had to hold the card to get my air india gold upgrade one last time (which I hardly use)

  5. I had asked them to downgrade my card to a free /500 Rs type. They asked me to pay the full fee and would refund the balance once the new card got issued. Unfortunately since I am abroad, I wasn’t able to complete the formalities. So bearing it for the time being. Maybe try that approach.

  6. I cancelled the SBI card few days back as it was due for renewal. I asked for a fee waiver but was denied. After spending over 25 lakhs on this card in past couple of years, it truly nosedived and had little value for me.

  7. “They denied the fee credit, and then, after earning 362,000 Air India miles with them, I had to ask them to let me go. ”

    Sounds like a breakup – It’s not you… it’s me…

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