One good part about earning miles neutrally is the choice of transfer partners offered, and the bonuses they run sometimes. For the past two years, we have seen transfer bonuses from Etihad & British Airways on Citibank products, and Jet Airways as well, for Citibank credit cards ex-PremierMiles.

Just yesterday, Citibank and Singapore Airlines have begin to offer a 20% bonus on conversion of Citibank points/miles to your Singapore KrisFlyer frequent flyer account. Now while I won’t be able to post a full review of the KrisFlyer program at this moment, but like most programs in Asia, they charge fuel surcharges, and lots of them. However, the Singapore Airlines product is usually top notch, and you get access to a wonderful Suites Class product as well. To top it up, you need to spend 15% less miles if you book your mileage rewards online on krisflyer.com.

Under the promotion, which is valid till January 31, 2014, you can transfer 1 PremierMile for 1.2 SQ mile, or 1 Ultima mile for 6 SQ miles. Miles usually post within 24 hours, while Citibank will tell you that it would take upto 3 weeks to transfer the miles.

While travelling east from India, I think SQ is one of the best products out of India, and I indeed used some 80K PremierMiles earlier this year to travel back to India from the USA on SQ’s second longest flight from LAX – BOM.

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | One Comment

Citibank seems to be falling off the cliff on the Citibank Ultima credit card, which was their equivalent of the most aspirational credit card in the Indian plastic space. Like I wrote earlier, they recently withdrew the proposition where you could pay the exceptionally high fee for this card and also get Jet Airways Platinum membership in the process.

The few benefits still on the card are also seeming to be withdrawn slowly and steadily. One of the prime benefits of the card, for the travel focussed tribe, was the Priority Pass, where you could access it and bring along a colleague, or two, or three along into the same lounge along with yourself. This was of interest if you frequently travel with colleagues who do not have status and you’d like to bring them along to the lounge.

However, on my latest statement, there was an announcement sneaked in, which stated that with effect from 1st April 2013, the ability to bring in guests on Priority Pass will be withdrawn, which means you and only your add-on card holders will be able to access the lounge, and none of the card members will be able to ‘guest’ someone in.

In my book, that is one lesser reason to retain this card going forward. It is quickly trying to become the lesser cousin to American Express Platinum, and this race to the bottom has not ended yet, specially when the fees they charge is Rs. 50,000.

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Citibank Ultima is was one of the best lifestyle credit cards in the market, and now it seems that it will be losing the edge soon. The invite-only Ultima card has premium proposition that includes an unlimited Priority Pass, a membership to the ITC Culinary Plus program, Golf privileges, an international medical cover for $50K and other stuff. The reason a business traveller would get interested? Till last December, they used to have a product variant, which used to let you get access to the Jet Airways’ Jet Privilege program Platinum Tier, along with the upgrade vouchers and complimentary 50K JPMiles (used to cost INR 50K per annum in fees!!)

Like I reported a couple of months back, this partnership has also gone away now, perhaps as a fallout of the troubles on the Citibank Jet Airways Co-branded CC, which first impacted the famous PremierMiles credit card. But the trouble is, there is nothing great to replace these benefits that are going away now. The benefits which replace the earning of 50K JPMiles per annum, which will be valid from March 1, 2013 are listed below:

  • The annual fee goes down from Rs. 50K to Rs. 30K.
  • Ultima spends earn 1 Reward point for every Rs. 125 spend. Earlier 1 reward point = 2.5 miles, now this goes up to 5 miles
  • Increase in transfer partners. Jet Airways stays,  Air India was also there, while all the PremierMiles card options come on board too: British Airways, Delta, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Etihad and Cathay Pacific. This makes earning at par with PremierMiles, not better! Yes, you do have Jet as a partner, but you could earn better on Jet Airways with ICICI Bank or American Express cards
  • Complimentary Room upgrades at Taj Hotels & Palaces, and 10% off on Best Available Rates
  • Sailing privileges in Mumbai on a yacht
  • Personal Shopping at The Collective, which is a multi-brand luxury store.

However, my problem is, these do not up the game, at all! Not from my perspective. The single Unique Selling Point this card had, which was not existing for another player in the Indian market, was the unconditional membership at Jet Airways’ loyalty program top tier. Earlier the option was also to get top-tier with Kingfisher Airlines but that was withdrawn for obvious reasons.

Now, this makes the Amex Platinum (which I don’t love by the way!) a valid competitor, or maybe better (I don’t know!). Look at this:

  • Membership Travel Services, it is basically Amex’s famous travel agency on the phone for you!
  • Complimentary membership to SPG Gold and Club Carlson Gold Elite
  • The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program, which is one of the best out there
  • Amex Platinum Lounges in Delhi & Mumbai
  • Complimentary membership to Priority Pass’s highest tier
  • Cruise benefits
  • and there is a lot more, and the income qualifier to get in is also lesser.

All in all, Citibank will have to make huge leaps and jumps on this product if it wants to still compete in the premium(est) end of the market. At this point of time, I don’t see the INR 50K paying customers stepping up and retaining their Ultima CC’s just for a status symbol.

What do you guys think this will work out to?

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Posted by Ajay Awtaney | 3 Comments

Things are going sour very fast between Jet Airways and Citibank. Earlier in May 2012, they parted ways on the Jet Airways/Citibank credit card and things have never been the same again between the two. Jet Airways ended up partnering with 3 banks to counter their earlier partner Citibank: HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank & American […]

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