Best Mile Earning Credit Cards – India

My love for travel has taught me a few things and one of them is to maximize the miles you earn while spending through your credit card. While I evaluate the credit card options that are available in the market, the biggest issue in India is the lack of full service carriers which have a Frequent Flyer Program (FFP). Jet Privilege by Jet Airways was the clear leader when it comes to the best FFP in India but recent changes in the program on the lines of Etihad have dampened the offering of Jet Privilege . Jet offers a variety of co-branded card options to choose from which I will review later. Air India’s Flying Returns is a good FFP but recent devaluations there too have resulted in reduced miles accrual and lack of co-branded card options reduce the opportunity to earn Air India Miles. The Air India – SBI co-branded card remains the only option in the market and the earning potential of the card is  average. India’s largest domestic airline, Indigo does not have a FFP, though there are cards which offer you options of earning Indigo vouchers. Vistara has announced its co-branded card with Axis Bank and the deal there looks average though all the details of the product are not revealed yet. Go Air and Spice Jet do not offer any mile or voucher earning potential.

I personally like to keep options of earning miles on different airlines and keep shuffling  my credit cards basis the options and propositions available. I currently use 2 credit cards, the American Express Platinum Travel Card and the SBI Air India Visa Siganture. I have also made my wife choose the HDFC Jet Privilege World Card. The three cards give me miles or vouchers on Jet, Air India and Indigo which gives me the flexibility to choose the airline when I book tickets. All the other Jet co-branded cards still offer great value for miles and after the recent changes in the program, they offer more value than actually flying the airline.

I use my American Express Platinum Travel Card for the first 4 lakhs worth of spending as it gives me Indigo Vouchers worth INR 19.5k and Taj Vouchers worth INR 10k. At INR 5000 of annual fee, I feel it is a good deal to have benefits worth INR 29.5 k. This also gives me options on Indigo which has the widest flight options to choose from. Post the INR 4 lakh annual limit, I switch to my secondary card which till now was SBI Air India Signature which comes at an annual fee of INR 3000. It offered good returns till earlier this year but with the recent changes and milestone based earning, the card has lost its sheen. For a spend of INR 5 lakhs, all the three cards, HDFC Jet World, SBI Air India Signature and Axis Bank Vistara Signature offer the same value. However, since HDFC has a fee waiver clause, a lesser annual fee and its partnership with Jet (my favorite airline), it clearly wins the battle among the three.

Another card worth considering is the Citibank Premier Miles which is an airline agnostic miles earning card and offers decent returns. Its mile earning potential is above average but redemptions do not offer value for money. Premium cards whose annual fee is more than INR 10k per annum offer a variety of services but at their price tag, they do not offer the best value for money. E.g. cards like the Citi Prestige, HDFC Jet Diners, Axis Vistara Infinite or the AMEX Jet Plat  can be of good value if your annual spends are more than INR 12 lakhs.

Earning miles through your everyday spends can be a great idea if you know how much you spend and which airline you wish to collect the miles on. Basis my understanding, I have summarized the best card for a particular airline below. You can choose to stick to one card or diversify basis on your preference.

  • Indigo : American Express Platinum Travel Card
  • Jet Airways : HDFC Jet Airways World Card
  • Air India : SBI Air India Signature Card
  • Vistara : Axis Bank Vistara Signature Card

Do let me know your views by leaving a comment or writing in to me @prateektweeting on Twitter.

Happy Flying !

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