Mileage Earning Credit Cards 101 – India edition 2013!

I met a fairly well travelled bunch of people this past weekend for a coffee in Mumbai, and I was very surprised at the end of this conversation when we pulled out our wallets to pick the tab. The payment was split between two of the folks, and I was not allowed to pay. However, both the cards used for payment were not mileage earning or anything close!

The scene was repeated later that evening with a bunch of friends. Someone beat me to reaching out for the check, and another non-mileage earning credit card went into the payment mode.

Look, I have nothing against non-mileage earning credit cards. I was using them at a point of time (when there were no mileage earning CC’s in India). But the value they deliver is useless, because I remember redeeming them for worthless stuff such as wall clocks long back.

However, times have changed and people want to travel, for as less as possible. These are the tricks which let you into the travel world without spending extra. I thought I’d quickly lay down my thoughts here for the cards you should look out for in 2013 on the Indian front, which will help you travel well. As a disclaimer, there is no affiliate relationship with any card companies, and I intend to keep it that ways.

Like anywhere around the world, I classify cards into three buckets. The ones that earn you miles and points, the ones that earn you benefits and the regular ones, which earn you some sort of points currency and you can transfer that into your mileage account. Lets look out for type 1 and 2 here. I’ve inserted a link to a detailed review wherever I have it.

Mileage Earning Credit Cards – India:

  • Citibank PremierMiles Credit Card: Perhaps my favourite credit card for all of 2012. Earns 10 PremierMiles for all airline bookings made with the airline, and 4 for all other spends. Spend PremierMiles for redeeming on any airline for 100 PremierMile = Rs. 50 at the PremierMiles website (recent devaluation), or transfer 1:1 to airline loyalty programs of Delta, Singapore Airlines, Air India, British Airways, Etihad, Cathay Pacific and Thai Airways. For an annual fee of Rs. 3,000,you get 10,000 PremierMiles as a welcome gift, and 3000 PremierMiles on renewal.
  • HDFC Bank Jet Airways Credit Cards: HDFC/Jet Airways credit cards come in 3 variants on MasterCard: Titanium, Platinum and World. You earn a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 JetPrivilege Miles per Rs. 150 spent depending on the card variant you have. MasterCard Lounge Access program is added. Additionally, you get anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 JPMiles as a welcome bonus, and Platinum & World Cards also have a free one-way base fare ticket on Jet Airways and a discount code for round-trip booking on Jet Airways. Jet Privilege Platinums get it for free.
  • ICICI Bank Jet Airways Credit Cards: ICICI/Jet Airways credit cards come in 3 variants as well, and are available on the Visa and American Express platform. You can choose to take either the Visa card, or the American Express card, or both. You earn a maximum of 7 JP Miles on everyday spends /Rs. 100 (Sapphiro/Amex) and all the way up to 12 JP Miles on Jet Airways website spend till October 2013, easily making it the best mileage earning rate in the country at the moment (if you are not embarrassed to flash a neon coloured card with clouds on it!). Jet Privilege Platinums get it for free, while others need to pay a maximum of Rs. 5,000 (for the highest version). Visa Lounge Access Program is added. Welcome gifts range from 5,000 JP Miles to 10,000 JP Miles depending on card approved, and a free Jet Airways ticket. Do note, there is a cap of 60,000 JP Miles being earned annually at most.
  • American Express Jet Airways Credit Card: Amex brought its own Jet Airways co-branded card in November 2012, which is a Platinum tier credit card. The earning rate is a flat 6 JP Miles /Rs. 100 on all spend except Jet Airways which earns a higher rate. Alongside, you get complimentary access to the Amex Platinum lounges in Mumbai and Delhi. Welcome gift of 20,000 JPMiles if you pay the annual fee of Rs. 10,000 and alongside a Jet Airways ticket. For the first time, Amex is also offering their Platinum Concierge services to non-Platinum Charge Card holders.
  • ICICI Bank British Airways Credit Card: ICICI Bank also has a partnership with British Airways, where you can earn 4 Avios/ Rs. 100 for daily spend, and 6 Avios for spend on British Airways. You start getting bonuses of 25% after spending Rs. 225K on the card in one year, and 50% after spending Rs. 500K on the card. There is also a signup bonus of 8,000 Avios after first charge on the card, and 25,000 Avios on booking a BA ticket on the card within the first 3 months. The annual fee is Rs. 7,000 per annum.
  • Emirates Platinum Standard Chartered Credit Card: Standard Chartered’s card with Emirates, earns you 4 Skywards miles for Rs. 150 spent. You also get 27,500 Skywards miles when you spend Rs. 13,999 for the fee on the card.
  • Miles & More IndusInd Visa Credit Card: IndusInd got the co-branded portfolio with Lufthansa’s mileage program when they acquired the card business of Deutsche Bank in India. You get 2-3 M&M miles/ Rs. 100 spend depending on your card variant. You can earn a maximum of 90,000 M&M miles with this CC per 12 months.

Benefits earning Credit Cards – India:

  • Citibank Ultima: Citibank’s Ultima Credit Card is by invitation only and comes with a hefty annual fee of Rs. 50,000 Per annum. However, to make up for the fee, you do get 50,000 JP Miles and Platinum status on Jet Airways. However, I am doubtful how long will this continue given the recent breakup on this card between Jet Airways and Citibank. There is another variant as well for Rs. 15,000 fees, which comes without the bonus. Ultima comes with the highest version Priority Pass, which gives you unlimited complimentary access to lounges across the world which participate in the program. You also get membership to the ITC hotels Culinary Plus program, which provides you with dining vouchers worth Rs. 8,000 and 20-50% discount at restaurants inside ITC hotels.
  • American Express Platinum Charge Card: Amex’s highest card in India, which is not as powerful as its USA cousin, does not come with a welcome gift, but still charges the annual fee of Rs. 50,000. However, a lot of soft benefits come along, some of which you could get without the card as well. Complimentary Gold Membership with SPG, Club Carlson, Hertz #1, Cathay Pacific (equivalent to oneworld Sapphire), Access to Fine Hotels & Resorts program, access to the Amex Lounge in Delhi/Mumbai, and an unlimited Priority Pass.

Other Cards:

  • American Express Gold Charge Card: Amex’s Gold Charge Card comes free for the first year and Rs. 4,500 per annum from the second year onwards. The reason I like this card is, it is an easy way to earn 1,000 Membership Reward points every month. Just make 4 qualifying transactions in a month and you get a bonus 1000 MR. An easy way to rack up Membership Reward points. MR can be easily transferred to airline miles, but American Express recently devalued them.

So, this is my masterlist of credit cards, which can earn you miles by the droves in India to make your or your family’s next flight(s) on miles rather than cash! I am aware there a lot of other cards which offer to transfer your points to miles, but I deliberately kept that off the list. There is the Amex Platinum Travel Card which is a misleading name. Any fabulous credit card I missed out on?

Update: I also created this calculator a few days later to help you find your best CC.

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. AJ,

    First of all, let me congratulate and thank you for this blog. It is quite useful. I am not sure if you ahve heard about it but I recently heard about HDFC Diners black card. It is not a travel card but it seems to be giving a lot of travel benefits (apart from a whole lot of other benefits) although the membership and renewal fee is quite high. What’s your take on this card?

    • @Harsh the co-branded cards don’t offer Platinum JP Membership. Amex JP Card is an Amex Platinum level card with JP mileage earning capabilities, not a card which provides you with Platinum membership of Jet Airways

  2. @ manish.. thats what the website says.. as with amex u can ‘convince’ the customer care to reverse it even if ur annual spends exceed 50k per annum!
    i have used it since ’08 but have never been charged with any fees..

  3. Can you transfer Citi PremierMiles to Miles in someone else Singapore/Delta account or does the name on the credit card and on Mileage account has to match?

  4. @AJ.. brilliant analysis! never had all the travel cards being compared side by side!
    Another good non travel card that you might have missed is the StanC Manhattan Platinum card.
    Comes with zero fees (I have been using it since 2008; though sifted to Citi PM and Amex Jet these days)
    You get 5 points (4.15 JP/KF miles) per INR 100 spent and 5% cashback for transactions done on supermarkets.

    A no fuss, no frills card which gives you good returns (limited to JP redemption though)

  5. Hi,
    Thanks Am in the market for a travel miles card. Which one would you suggest. Is there a card comparo somewhere I could refer to?
    I am a jpp so wont have to pay annual fee for some of them.

  6. Let us see how many of these benefits remain as it is in 2013. Was having a word with a friend associated with SBI Cards. All of them are cartelising to bring down their redemption costs (from 40-45% to 30%) because that directly impacts their bottomline in a positive way. Also, it seems ICICI is being very arbitrary in giving out the variant of a card as well as the combination. And personally I guess I need to cick Amex coz they’ve not transferred the JP miles for cards applied for before 31st.

    • @Sahil my view is that Indian banks don’t have the same hold on offering a super premium credit card like the foreign banks. So ICICI and hdfc’s super premium products are both me too!

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