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:
- Ability to status match on Air India with any other competing airline
- Ability to earn status all the way up to Air India Golden Club based on spends
- Earn 4 Flying Returns points/INR 100, but 20 FR points/INR 100 on Air India spends
- Earn up to 90,000 bonus Air India miles by spending
- Upgrade vouchers that come with status
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!).
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.