Personal Finance

Choosing the right travel credit card

Vivek Ananth | Updated on September 01, 2019 Published on September 01, 2019

Make sure the benefits outweigh the cost

If you are a frequent flyer and are adept at using credit cards, it pays to have a travel credit card in your wallet. It lets you use the points or miles you have accumulated in exchange for a discount on flight tickets or travel vouchers that can be redeemed with online travel aggregators such as Yatra and MakeMyTrip.

Almost all banks have travel credit cards. They also have co-branded travel cards in partnership with airlines.

Travel credit cards that are not co-branded — such as Citibank’s PremierMiles and American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card — allow you to use your accumulated miles or points with any airline. These can be either through yearly travel vouchers or by allowing you to book tickets with your miles. In co-branded cards, the points or miles accumulated can only be used to book flights on that particular airline or its partner airlines.

How does one go about picking the right travel credit card?

Mind the conversion rate

Probably, the most important thing you should look for while selecting any credit card is the conversion rate of your spends into reward points/miles. Travel credit cards usually have an accelerated conversion of spends into miles/points when you book hotels and air tickets through their dedicated portal or with their co-branding partners. You need to pay attention to the rate at which you accumulate these reward points as well as the rate at which you can convert these into travel benefits.

If you look at Yatra SBI Credit Card, a user accumulates one reward point for every ₹100 spent. One reward point converts into ₹0.25 when you book a ticket on Yatra.com.

Axis Bank’s Miles & More World Credit Card’s conversion rate is one mile for every ₹50 spent on the card; its slightly more premium Miles & More World Select Credit Card’s conversion rate is one mile for every ₹33.33 spent.

American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card’s conversion ratio is one point for every ₹50 spent. These points can be redeemed at the end of a financial year for travel vouchers that can be spent on Amex’s website to buy air tickets or book hotels.

The points can be carried forward for three more financial years.

Validity of miles/points

The next thing to keep in mind is the validity of the points or miles. If the validity is infinite, it justifies paying an upfront fee every year. Only a few credit cards let the miles or reward points stay valid forever. This aspect can separate the good ones from the not-so-good ones.

Axis Miles & More and Citibank PremierMiles are two cards that have no validity period on the miles that you accumulate. American Express Platinum Travel and HDFC Diners Club Black credit cards allow you to carry forward the reward points for only three years.

Bells and whistles

Many credit card companies offer a joining bonus to lure customers. These either come in the form of travel vouchers or bonus reward points or miles.

Make sure the fee that you pay is more than adequately made up with the bonus you receive while opting for a card.

Axis Bank’s Miles & More World Select card offers a joining bonus of 15,000 miles, while Miles & More credit card offers 5,000 miles. On renewal, both the Axis Bank cards reward the credit card holder with bonus miles. American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card gives 5,000 welcome bonus points along with ₹4,000 worth of travel vouchers.

Some of the cards bundle in lifestyle benefits such as discounts on movie tickets or on shopping and dining with partner stores and restaurants.

Citibank’s Premier Miles card offers discounts on dining with partner restaurants and on movie tickets.

Yatra SBI Credit Card offers accelerated miles on dining, movies and grocery shopping — six reward points for every ₹100 spent.

Fee and exclusions

Paying a steep fee might seem unnecessary for a credit card, but if the benefit outweighs the cost, it might be worth it. But make sure that if you are paying a steep fee, the exclusions for the reward points are very few or none.

Most credit cards have exclusions on the kind of spends that help accumulate reward points. Some credit card companies cap your travel benefits such as upfront discounts on booking a ticker or hotel for specified number of times a year, like Yatra SBI Credit Card.

Some cards, such as American Express Platinum Travel and Axis Miles & More, define the ‘eligible expenses’ that will enable you to accumulate reward points.

Making the choice

In the end, you should choose a travel credit card based on the most benefit you want — validity of reward points or miles, lifestyle benefits, discounts, a higher conversion rate.

The card that maximises all these benefits should be the ideal choice for a frequent traveller.

Published on September 01, 2019
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