I have been hooked to credit cards since I was 21 years old and in a good way. Over the last 10 years I haven’t spent a single penny on interest or late payment charges. I have done a separate article on how to maximise earnings from credit cards, you can read about it here. Considering that one of my biggest hobbies is also the most expensive, every bit of penny saved helps. Travelling is not cheap, so let’s look at the best credit cards for travel. I have personally used/still using all the credit cards mentioned in the article (except Axis Vistara card). Had to put that one on hold due to COVID-19.
HDFC Diner’s Black Review – The Ultimate King of the Best Credit Cards for Travel
Hands down, the best card available in the market if you really want to make a lot of money travelling. I won’t divulge the exact numbers, but I have easily made 6 figure worth of points every year for last 2 years. Probably the best of the Best Credit Cards for travel in India if you can get your hand on it. The criteria is pretty steep and the benefits have been greatly reduced over the last few months, still the best card you can get.
- Reward Rate – 3.33% – 33.3% (10x reward points)
- 10x program on HDFC Smartbuy portal. Yes that makes it a whooping 33% reward rate. Spend 100 Rs and you get back 33 Rs. Isn’t in unreal?
- Unlimited lounge access (Domestic as well as International).
- Forex markup of 1.99%.
- Monthly milestone benefit (Spend 80000/month and you get 2 vouchers worth 500 Rs each every month. This is over and above the normal reward rate).
- Comes with a Global Annual Program (199 INR + GST Extra). You get 500 points worth 500 Rs on first international transaction of the year. Plus a milestone benefit on crossing 1.5 lakhs on annual overseas spend.
- Acceptability of Diners is getting better, but no where close to Visa/Mastercard. More like Amex.
- High Income requirement for approval.
- Annual fee of ₹10000 + 18% GST. Waived off, if you spend 8L in a year.
- The 10x reward had no upper bound earlier. But slowly and surely they have been reducing the limit. It’s now 7500 Rs/month (June-2020). That’s such a shame but even then if you can earn 5000 points/month thats still 60k/year.
More details on the official website – HDFC Diners Black
Standard Chartered Ultimate Review
My other favourite in this list of Best Credit Cards for Travel. This is my go to card, if Diner’s isn’t accepted. Also pretty easy to get compared to Diners. The minimum income threshold is around 5-6L/annum.
- Reward Rate – 3.33%
- Standard Chartered often runs this cash-back promotion of 1-1.5% over and above the reward points, making the effective reward rate 4-5%.
- First year fee is ₹5000 + 18% GST. But you get up to 10,000 cash back on MakeMyTrip on payment of fees. So essentially you spend 5000 + 900 (GST) and get back 10000 in the first year.
- Forex markup of 2%.
- Cash-back of 5% on some duty free stores in India (Mumbai/Delhi)
- So specified income criteria. So will be easier to get compared to Diners.
- There is no waiver of annual fees based on spend. But you get 5000 RP (which are worth 5000 Rs) on renewal. So you just loose out on the GST.
- 1 free lounge access per month but based on spending 20,000/month on the card.
- Reward redemption portal doesn’t have a direct option to book flights/hotels. Instead you can buy vouchers for Yatra/ClearTrip/MMT etc.
More details on the official website – Standard Chartered, Ultimate
TIP – Get this card and make it your default if you can’t get your hands on Diner’s Black.
One Metal Card Review – Newest Entry in my wallet
This card is in my wallet for the sheer oomf factor. The benefits aren’t that great, but looks are.
- Sleek metal body. Looks premium.
- The only metal card in India with 0 annual charges.
- Forex Markup of 1%.
- Points never expire. Can be redeemed instantly
- Comes with an app.
- Visa Signature Privileges (Have to verify though, just got it a week back)
- Reward Rate – 0.1-0.2%.
- If you do minimum 1 transaction in 3 categories, top 2 categories are eligible for 5x. Even then the max reward rate would be 1%.
Axis Vistara Infinite
Had it not been for COVID-19, was planning to get this card. It makes a lot of sense if you want to up your travel game from Economy to Business.
- Hands down the best airline card on this list of Best Credit Cards for Travel.
- Complimentary Business Class ticket on payment of joining fees.
- Complimentary Club Vistara Gold Membership.
- 6 CV points on every Rs. 200 spent. Bonus 10000 CV points on spending 1 lakh on the card in 90 days.
- Upto 4 Business class tickets on milestone spends (1 each at 2.5 lakh, 5 lakh, 7.5 lakh and 12 lakh)
- Use accumulated points to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy and Premium economy to Business.
- Value only if you normally fly in Business or want to fly in Business. For Economy and premium economy checkout other variants of the same card.
- Buy this card only if you are a frequent flyer. Otherwise the rewards wont make much sense.
- High annual fees of ₹10000.
More details on the official website – Axis Vistara, Infinite
Citibank Rewards Card Review
My first credit card. Been using since 9 years now. Used to be my go to card earlier when I didn’t own any of the above cards. Now I just use it for purchases when Citibank has any offers.
Apply for the card using my referral link, Citibank Rewards Card Application and you will get a cash back of ₹1000.
- Annual fees of ₹1000 Waived off if you spend ₹30000 in a year.
- One of the easiest card to apply and get.
- Reward rate: 0.28% – 2.8% (Accelerated Reward Points)
- Citibank allows you to redeem points for cash credit on the statement.
- Reward Ratio isn’t the best.
- Basic entry level card. Not at all for high spenders
Amazon ICICI Credit Card Review
I do a lot of shopping on Amazon, so I got this card as it gave me a reward rate of 5% on Amazon. However, stopped using it after I moved to Diner’s as it was offering 33% reward rate for spends on Amazon. But if you can’t get your hands on any of the higher cards I would recommend this along with the Flipart or PayTM cards, depending on where you spend most.
All three cards roughly provide 5% reward rate for shopping on Amazon, Flipkart & Paytm respectively.
When, I started off my idea was to have as many cards as I could. As a result, at one particular time I owned 13-14 credit cards. But now, I have started trimming down on the cards and have just 5-6, which I use depending on my requirements.
According to you, which other card deserves to be in this list of Best Credit Cards for Travel? Let me know in the comments.