HDFC Smartbuy Fiasco: Ticket Cancellation Sucks!

While I am overall a great fan of HDFC Bank and their great promotions offering me a crazy number of miles via their promotions, there are some parts of their machinery that are not fully baked, and they can really come to bite them sometimes. I’ve always believed that customer service needs to be a pivot of any business, and credit cards dealing with busy customers need to take away the friction as much as possible from their lives.

Many moons ago, HDFC Bank started to offer 10X points on travel services. Some months it would be GoIbibo/ClearTrip, others it would be MakeMyTrip and so on. Till they created their own white-labelled portal last year called Smartbuy and started to push that portal. The Smartbuy portal is the only way to get 10X rewards on booking flights with HDFC Bank at the moment. So, naturally, I use it a lot every month.

HDFC Bank Diners Club 10X

HDFC Bank Diners Club 10X

However, I wanted to highlight the bad customer service you can run into sometimes with them. This friction in their process needs to go away, but till the time, it hurts customers such as me a lot.

Back in February, Shipra and myself planned a trip to her home, and we booked tickets for a flight back to Delhi accordingly using HDFC Smartbuy. The tickets were booked by Yatra in the backend. Each ticket cost roughly INR 8.2K, so we paid a total of INR 24.4K after applying the INR 200 discount HDFC Bank gives for buying via Smartbuy.

My brother-in-law who was supposed to join us, could not make it for the trip. So, we cancelled his ticket early in March. The cancellation advice that came on the phone, and later in email, never spoke about doing anything else, so I forgot about it. The amount to be sent back to me was a whole sum of INR 5245, so not a couple of hundreds which were not worth chasing up.

Except that the money never came back to my account. So, I called HDFC Bank later in April, who registered a complaint, as a dispute, and started asking me for documents to prove I took the flight. Err.

Eventually, I had to call Yatra, HDFC and everyone in between over and over to make them realise that they were all pointing fingers at each other but no one was refunding me the money.

I don’t know how, in April, one and a half month after the cancellation and multiple followups, the amount came into my account, but it was not the complete amount. I received a shade less than INR 4000 into my account, so I was INR 1245 short as compared to the original amount.

I went over the maths again, and Yatra had levied their own cancellation charges and reversed a discount of INR 200 they had auto applied on the post. Even then, I was supposed to get INR 4645 back and not INR 3950 or whatever the amount was. I took to Social Media, which essentially got me another couple of 100 rupees back.

So, for a ticket that was cancelled in March, by May, I was still not made whole. That is when I started reading the T&C of the cancellation by HDFC Bank. They stated that Smartbuy skims off 2% of the ticket prices to process a refund.

Except, their interpretation was, that they skim off 2% of the entire amount not just the value of the ticket cancelled. So, for doing nothing, HDFC Bank retained approximately INR 500, while all I owed them was INR 162.

I was determined to get to the bottom of this, and HDFC held their fort till I eventually had to write to the grievance department of the Bank, something I should have done long ago, and they got the rest of the amount reversed.

Timeline for this whole thing to be put behind me, 3 months. Compensation for lost time, 0.

Bottomline

Booking via HDFC Bank Smartbuy has its perks, but it also has its own pitfalls. I’ve been in a soup with them a couple of times in the past, but this time was the longest time they’ve gone on with their sluggish attitude on a case that went totally out of hand!

Have you experienced something similar with HDFC Bank Smartbuy? How were your issues resolved?

Comments

  1. VERY BAD EXPERIENCE ! I had asked Smartbuy concierge to book KLM tickets in December ’18 for a trip to Europe in June ’19. Jet was functional then yet I insisted on KLM tickets with a single Jet sector with code share. They didn’t follow my instructions and booked Jet tickets for the entire journey. Tickets are now cancelled and even though Smartbuy personally accept their mistake are not willing to rebook me. So I have to not only follow up for refund but have been left high and dry to book tickets at 4 times the fare. I was so cheated and victimised. I have to pay for their mistake

  2. I booked a ticket from HDFC Smartbuy but never got an email/SMS of the ticket. I called up Smartbuy helplines repeatedly and got them to write an email to me saying that they have no record of the booking (done through Cleartrip). They (Smartbuy) then raised a dispute with my HDFC Diners card on transaction with the cards team of HDFC Bank
    Then i booked another ticket, for the same trip which i received
    The dispute team came back to me with a screenshot of the original booking, saying this actually had been done so they can’t reverse the charge on the booking and i am now down 60k minus whatever i get back for cancelling one of the two tickets

    And now they are creating troubles with me being able to cancel even this ticket

    Use HDFC Diners Black for as long as 10x is on, bleed them dry and then cut up the card and throw it away

  3. I have same issues, booked a flight with ClearTrip through SmartBuy and i am still waiting for my refund of around 40K+ after the cancellation, in simple words “they are frauds”. They have asked a person (who says her name is Tara which i am sure she is lying) to speak same sentences like a parrot whenever someone calls up. She is so pathetic and shameless that whatever you say, she just gonna say “sorry sir” and keeps playing with phone line so the background noise can frustrate you. Cannot understand how #HDFCBank started this kind of business i heard of them earlier as a good company.

  4. I had a similar experience not with HDFC per se but with Jet Airways when i booked 6 flight tickets for Dubai directly on Jet Airways.com and also selected the travel insurance offer while checking out. Later i realized a mistake in travel date and had to cancel and rebook all 6 tickets with 24 hours which I did. Received full refund from Jet but lost entire amount of 5K insurance charges because Jet partners with ICICI lombard for travel insurance and does not process refund of travel insurance. After countless email and phone exchanges ICICI never refunded a single paisa to me and all the while claiming it will go back to Jet Airways.

  5. I cancelled and ticket directly with Yatra and go the refund amount credited without any issues. And i don’t think Smart Buy skimed off their 2%.

  6. HDFC has a special customer service team for Imperia customers. If have access to it, you will skip the queue and talk to experienced professionals. It is comparable to Citi Prestige / Citi Private customer service The regular HDFC customer service team is worse that SBI and some of the other public sector banks. 20-30 minutes average wait times and then you land up with agents who are clueless.

  7. Ajay, I’ve observed that flight tickets in this portal are significantly higher than other sites and sometimes even more than airline websites. What is your experience? You said you paid 8.2k for each ticket RT, was this price at par with other sites?

    • @Vishal, mostly it is in line with the fare at other places. Sometimes they may have different fare classes showing up, but mostly the same.

  8. Now this is scary. I prefer to book direct with airlines whenever I can for these reasons. However, since smart buy doesn’t charge a convenience fee, I end up using it a lot.

  9. I’m not surprised. I submitted an application for change of address in Dec’16. And it’s still not done!

  10. HDFC IS WORST CREDIT CARD!!!
    Lots of hidden terms and conditions
    Customer benefits always kept in dark most of time

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