Business Standard

Love travelling? The best credit cards for discounts, cashbacks and more

If you are a frequent traveller, be to for work or because you love vacations, there are credit cards designed exclusively for this purpose that come with several exciting features and rewards on ever

Credit card

Sunainaa Chadha New Delhi
If you are a frequent traveller, be to for work or because you love vacations, there are credit cards designed exclusively for this purpose that come with several exciting features and rewards on every travel spend . Such cards allow you to  redeem points for air tickets, give you complimentary lounge access and priority check-in.

What are travel credit cards?

Travel credit cards are a special category of credit cards that offer cashback, discounts, and other benefits on a variety of travel-related expenses. Usually offered in partnership with a hotel chain or airline, these cards will typically offer points or miles for flight ticket, hotel, and other travel expenses. Some cards even offer benefits such as discounts on the base fare of your flight ticket, priority check-in, extra baggage allowance, etc.

What to look out for when choosing a travel credit card?

When choosing a travel credit card, look for cards offering flexible redemption options.

"This includes the facility to transfer points to a different airline or hotel loyalty programs, as well as discounts for travel expenses. Some premium travel credit cards offer complementary airport lounge access, golf course access, and offers on booking hotels and flights. There are also some cards which allow you to transfer points to travel partners, which can enhance the value of your rewards," said Adhil Shetty, CEO of BankBazaar. 

When choosing a card, you must also do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether the benefits being offered offset the card’s annual fee. Most importantly, compare different cards and understand their usage and offer terms to select the one that suits your travel needs and lifestyle.

"With the right travel credit card, users can save a considerable amount on their travel expenses through points/miles, discounted flights/hotel stays and complimentary memberships. For maximum value, consumers should choose a card that carries features and benefits more suited to their travel preferences. For example, for someone who frequently travels overseas, a card with low forex mark-up fee and complimentary international lounge visits would be better. Travelers who prefer a particular airline or travel portal should look for co-branded cards," said Rohit Chhibbar, Head of Credit Cards, Paisabazaar.

Which are the best travel cards in the market right now? 
For travel credit cards, there are plenty of feature-packed options available right now.

These include the Yatra SBI Card, Air India SBI Signature, HDFC Bank Superia, InterMiles HDFC Bank Diners Club, Axis Bank Miles & More World Credit Card, to name a few.

 To help consumers begin their search for the right card and make an informed decision, here is a list of  the best travel credit cards in India from leading issuers, according to data analysed by Paisabazaar.

Axis Bank Vistara Signature Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs 3000

Travel Benefits:
  1. Vistara Premium Economy Class ticket as welcome and renewal benefit
  2. Complimentary Club Vistara Silver Membership
  3. 3,000 CV Points on spending Rs. 75,000 in the first 90 days of card issuance
  4. Up to 4 premium economy tickets on achieving spending milestones
  5. Complimentary lounge access at select airports in India
  6. Air accident cover of up to Rs. 2.50 Crore

Other Benefits:
  1. 4 Club Vistara (CV) Points per Rs. 200 spent across all categories
  2. 3 complimentary rounds of golf every year
  3. 25% off up to Rs. 800 through Eazy Diner Membership
SBI Card ELITE
Annual fees: Rs 4999

Travel Benefits:
Complimentary Club Vistara Silver Membership
  1. 1 complimentary upgrade voucher through Club Vistara Membership
  2. Low forex markup fee of 1.99%
  3. 2 reward points on every Rs. 100 spent on international transactions
  4. 9 CV Points for every Rs. 100 spent on Vistara flights
  5. Complimentary Trident Red Tier Membership with 1,000 welcome points on registration and 10% instant discount on booking through the hotel’s website
  6. 2 complimentary domestic airport lounge visits every quarter 
  7. Complimentary Priority Pass Membership worth $99
  8. 6 complimentary airport lounge visits per calendar year, outside India (Max. 2 visits per quarter)

Other Benefits:
Welcome e-gift voucher worth Rs. 5,000
5X reward points on dining, departmental stores and grocery spends
Free movie tickets worth Rs. 6,000 every year
Up to 50,000 bonus reward points worth Rs. 12,500 in a year on achieving spending milestone

Intermiles HDFC Signature Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs. 2,500 (Waived off on annual spends of Rs. 3 lakh)
 
Travel Benefits:

  1. Complimentary InterMiles Silver Membership
  2. 8,000 bonus InterMiles on achieving spending milestone
  3. Discount voucher of Rs. 750 on return flight tickets booked through the InterMiles website during the first year
  4. Discount voucher of Rs. 2,000 on hotel bookings for the first year
  5. 6 InterMiles per Rs. 150 on all spends
  6. 12 InterMiles per Rs. 150 spent on flight/ hotel bookings via InterMiles website
  7. 3,000 InterMiles on spending Rs. 6,000 within the first 30 days of the anniversary date
  8. Up to 10% off on Etihad Airways
  9. Complimentary Priority Pass Membership with 5 free visits every year to international lounges
  10. 16 free domestic lounge visits under Visa Lounge Access Program per year (4 per quarter)
Other Benefits:
Complimentary Dineout Membership
Flat 25% off at 2,000+ premium restaurants

Air  India SBI Signature Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs 4999

Travel benefits 
  1. Complimentary Air India Frequent Flyer Program Membership
  2. Up to 30 reward points for every Rs. 100 spent on Air India tickets booked through airindia.com, airindia mobile app
  3. Up to 30 reward points when booked for self and 10 reward points when booked for others
  4. 10 reward points for every Rs. 100 spent on Air India tickets for self or others, booked through Air India booking offices or Air India call centres
  5. Complimentary Priority Pass Membership
  6. 8 complimentary visits per year to domestic VISA lounges in India (Max. 2 visits per quarter)

Other Benefits:
10 reward points for every Rs. 100 spent on SuperSaver booklet purchases
Up to 1 lakh bonus rewards on achieving spending milestone
5,000 bonus rewards in each anniversary year
20,000 reward points as a welcome gift on the payment of joining fee

MakeMyTrip ICICI Bank Signature Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs 2,500 

Travel Benefits:
  1. MakeMyTrip holiday voucher worth Rs. 2,500 and 1,500 My Cash as a joining benefit
  2. Complimentary MMTBLACK Exclusive Membership
  3. 1.25 My Cash per Rs. 200 spent on domestic transactions outside MMT
  4. 1.50 My Cash per Rs. 200 spent on international transactions outside MMT
  5. 2 My Cash per Rs. 200 spent on flight bookings via MMT
  6. 4 My Cash per Rs. 200 spent on hotel/ holiday bookings via MMT
  7. 1 complimentary railway lounge access in a quarter to participating lounges in India
  8. 2 complimentary domestic airport lounge access by spending Rs. 5,000 in the quarter
  9. 1 international lounge access and 1 spa session at select airports in India through complimentary Dreamfolks membership
Other Benefits:
Up to 4,000 My Cash on achieving spending milestone

Standard Chartered EaseMyTrip Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs. 350 (Waived off on annual spends of Rs. 50,000)

Travel Benefits:
  1. 20% instant discount on domestic or international hotel bookings
  2. 10% instant discount on domestic or international flight bookings
  3. Rs. 125 off on bus ticket bookings
  4. 10X reward points on every Rs. 100 spent at standalone airline/hotel websites, mobile applications or outlets, except any travel aggregators
  5. 1 complimentary domestic lounge visit per quarter
  6. 2 complimentary international lounge visits per year through Priority Pass
2 reward points per Rs. 100 spent on the retail category

Club Vistara IDFC FIRST Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs 4,999Other Benefits:

Travel Benefits:
  1. Low forex markup fee of 2.99% 
  2. 1 complimentary Premium Economy Ticket voucher and Class Upgrade voucher on the payment of joining fee 
  3. Complimentary Club Vistara Silver Membership
  4. Up to 6,000 bonus CV Points on achieving monthly spending milestone in the first 3 months
  5. Up to 5 complimentary premium economy ticket vouchers on achieving spending milestones
  6. 2 complimentary visits to domestic airport lounges and spas per quarter on monthly spends of Rs. 5,000
  7. 1 complimentary international airport lounge visit per quarter on monthly spends of Rs. 5,000
  8. Cancellation For Any Reason (CFAR) Insurance of up to Rs. 10,000 on 2 claims annually
  9. Other Benefits:
  10. 6 CV Points on every Rs. 200 spent on spends up to Rs. 1 Lakh in each statement cycle
  11. 4 CV Points on every Rs. 200 spent on spends above Rs. 1 Lakh in each statement cycle
  12. 10 CV Points on every Rs. 200 on all dining spends on your birthday
  13. 1 CV Point on every Rs. 200 spent on fuel, insurance, utility, rent & wallet load

Yatra SBI Card
Annual fees: Rs. 499

Travel Benefits:
Yatra.com welcome vouchers worth Rs. 8,250 on the payment of first year annual fee
Rs. 1,000 off on domestic flight bookings on transactions worth Rs. 5,000 or more
Rs. 4,000 off on international flight bookings on transactions worth Rs. 40,000 or more
20% off on domestic hotels on a minimum transaction value of Rs. 3,000
6 reward points on every Rs. 100 spent on international spends
Other Benefits:
6 reward points on every Rs. 100 spent on departmental stores, grocery, dining, movies and entertainment
1 reward point on every Rs. 100 spent on all other categories

HDFC Infinia vs Axis Magnus as the most preferred premium card
Among the elite, the HDFC Infinia credit card and the Axis Magnus Credit card are the most popular because of their lifestyle benefits. Both of these cards have certain eligibility criteria that you have to qualify for to apply for the card.

With a high reward rate and travel-focused features, Infinia makes a great choice for frequent travellers and high spenders. However, being an invite-only card with relatively stringent eligibility terms, it could not become a card for the masses. Axis Magnus is a worthy competitor  and the eligibility criteria for the card is those earning Rs 18 lakh and more annually. 

HDFC Bank Infinia Metal Edition Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs 12,500 

Travel benefits: 
  1. Low forex markup fee of 2%
  2. Complimentary Club Marriott Membership for a year 
  3. Up to 20% discount on dining & stays across the Asia-Pacific region through the membership
  4. Complimentary nights & buffets at participating ITC hotels
  5. Unlimited complimentary lounge access at airports within and outside India under the Priority Pass Program
  6. 10X reward points on your travel and shopping spends on SmartBuy

Other benefits: 
12,500 reward points upon fee realization and card activation
Renewal benefit of 12,500 reward points
5 reward points on every Rs. 150 on retail spends

Axis Magnus Credit Card
Annual fees: Rs 12,500

Travel Benefits:
  1. Low forex markup fee of 2%
  2. Luxe gift card/ The Postcard Hotels/ Yatra voucher worth Rs. 12,500 after the payment of joining fee
  3. 60 EDGE reward points per Rs. 200 spent on Travel EDGE portal, up to cumulative monthly spends of Rs. 2 lakh
  4. 35 EDGE reward points per Rs. 200 spent on Travel EDGE portal, above monthly spends of Rs. 2 lakh
  5. Unlimited complimentary international lounge visits with Priority Pass with 8 additional guest visits per year
  6. Unlimited visits to domestic airport lounges
  7. 8 complimentary end-to-end VIP services at the airport

Other Benefits:
12 EDGE reward points on every Rs. 200 spent on cumulative monthly spends of up to Rs. 1.5 lakh
35 EDGE reward points per Rs. 200 spent above cumulative monthly spends of Rs. 1.5 lakh
Buy one movie/event ticket on BookMyShow & get up to Rs. 500 off on the second ticket

Axis Bank Magnus credit card may lose some of its appeal
Point to note:  Axis Bank’s Magnus credit card may lose some of its appeal following the bank’s  announcement last week that it would devalue rewards on the card and exclude certain purchases from earning points.  Effective from 1st September 2023, the card would lose its monthly milestone benefit of 25,000 points and also have a lower ‘points to miles conversion’. The annual fee of Axis Magnus has also been increased from Rs 10,000 + GST to Rs. 12,500 +GST. 

The most important benefit of Axis Magnus Credit Card was its monthly milestone benefits wherein users could earn 25,000 bonus reward points on reaching monthly spends of Rs. 1 Lakh. These accumulated reward points, when redeemed against air miles (5:4 ratio), led to significant savings for frequent travellers.This benefit will be discontinued from 1st September, so many may choose to opt for HDFC Infinia.

Also this: Previously the Magnus card had no restrictions related to reward point earning. Users could earn 12 points per Rs 200 across all spend categories along with 5X rewards on Axis Travel EDGE Platform. However, now Axis Bank has added revised rules related to the maximum monthly spends, giving high-spenders more opportunities to earn rewards across categories other than the travel EDGE spends. 

Devaluation in Miles Transfer Program
Effective 1st September 2023, Axis Magnus cardholders will be able to transfer reward points to partner airlines and hotel loyalty programs in 5:2 ratio, as opposed to the previous ratio of 5:4. This means for 50,000 reward points, you could get 40,000 air miles but now the number will be reduced to 20,000 air miles. Also, users will be able to transfer up to 5 Lakh reward points to partner airlines/hotels in a year. Remaining points, if any, can be used in the next calendar year or redeemed against vouchers or products from the rewards catalogue for a value of 1 RP = Rs. 0.20.

Axis Bank has added a condition that the cardholders can continue to redeem against partner airlines in 5:4 ratio if they open a Burgundy Account with the bank, which again comes with its own terms and conditions.

Axis Magnus held great value for frequent travellers mainly because of three reasons as per Paisabazaar:

  1. Opportunities to earn substantial reward points under the monthly milestone program
  2. Excellent conversion rate of 5:4 under the Miles Transfer Program
  3. Free flight ticket as welcome/renewal benefit
From 1 September 2023, all three of these are either discontinued or devalued, which would be a major disappointment for travellers.

"Apart from benefits like lounge access, free tickets, etc., each credit card, at its core, offers value in the form of points/miles/cashback. Hence, it is important to compare the reward rates on travel cards. Choose one that compliments your spending habits and offers greater flexibility on redemption. Welcome/renewal benefits on the cards may also be enticing but should not be the sole reason to opt for a card. Look at the long-term value offered by the card, instead of making a choice based on one-time benefits," said Chibber.








Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Jul 27 2023 | 12:11 PM IST

Explore News