What's the noise about super premium credit cards?

  • authorTejas Ghongadi
  • 11-03-2022
Super premium credit cards are a segment of credit cards which move beyond the traditional cashback/rewards of the entry-level and mid-range credit cards. These cards generally offer benefits in travel, dining, movies/entertainment, airport lounge access, concierge services, golf access, etc. The users can enjoy the above privileges apart from reward points on their regular spends. Given its wide range of benefits, these cards do come with a high joining/annual fee which the card issuers compensate by offering welcome gift, bonus reward points, and gift vouchers.

My credit card journey:

My Credit Card journey started back in 2011 with basic entry-level cards: SBI Gold & More Card and then the Standard Chartered Platinum Rewards Card. These cards did not offer anything exciting in the initial 2-3 years of usage. Simple Swipe, Pay Back, Repeat.

An SBI credit card sales guy pitched me the SBI Elite Card (known as SBI Advantage Card back then) with the following features:

  • Annual fee: ₹5000 + Taxes
  • Welcome voucher: worth ₹5000
  • Perks: Two free movie tickets every month up to ₹500
  • Bonus reward points: Up to 50,000 (translates to ₹12,500) on spend milestones of 2, 3, 4 & 5 Lakh in a card anniversary year.

Even if I didn’t spend much using the card, the annual fee was compensated with the other offerings of the card, and I got back three times the value of the annual fees easily.

So, I happily continued using this card till SBI devalued the bonus points milestone spends requirement. All said and done, I started using super premium credit cards quite a while back.

It was only an upward move from here on. I have been very selective with my cards. I don’t like to carry 20-25 credit cards in my wallet which is why even after a decade of credit card rewards minting, I use only 8 cards.

My journey into credit cards diversified when I tasted higher reward rates using the below three cards which I acquired in just over a year’s time.

  • American Express (AMEX) Membership Rewards ‐ September 2017
  • HDFC Regalia ‐ August 2018
  • Standard Chartered Ultimate ‐ Jan-2019

My Goa trip:

My Eureka moment

A combination of these cards resulted in covering a huge chunk of cost (mainly for flights & hotels) for my Feb’19 Goa vacation.

HDFC Regalia:

• Regalia used to get 10X back in 2018. Two major spends via 10X (A phone purchase & a hotel booking) meant I raked in around 25K Points. Ended up using these 25K Points for Return Flights to Goa for family amounting to Rs 12,500.

Savings on flight expenses using HDFC Regalia card

SCB Ultimate:

• Joining Bonus - ₹10,000 Cashback on Makemytrip.com. Booked Zuri White Sands, Varca for 4 nights @ ₹34,000 Approx. via MMT of which ₹10,000 was received as Cashback.

AMEX Membership Rewards Credit card:

• Started raking in those 1000 bonus points every month for 4 x ₹1000 spends and the occasional referral bonus. These Points were converted into Statement Credit. Ended up redeeming 24K points (equivalent to Rs 10,000 as a part of the gold collection rewards) which covered the local expenses of my trip.

While I can’t say that the whole Goa trip was done using credit card rewards but of the ₹60,000-odd spent on the trip, more than 60% of the expenses were covered by credit card rewards, cashback, and perks.

This Goa vacation was a huge trigger in my credit card rewards journey to focus on leveraging my credit cards for travel (free flights and hotel stays). I pushed for an upgrade from HDFC Regalia to HDFC Diners Club Black in May 2019, applied for Amex Gold Charge Card in March 2020, and the pinnacle of retail cards in India ‐ Amex Platinum Charge Card in October 2020 for getting better value out of my credit cards.

Before diving more into redemption stories and strategies, let us look at the overview of the top super premium cards in India.

Some of the top Super Premium Credit Cards in India:

HDFC Infinia Metal Edition Credit Card ‐

This card does not need an introduction. The Top Tier Offering from HDFC Bank. For the past many years, this card has sat at the top of the Super-Premium Credit Cards list.

HDFC Diners Club Black ‐

Another Card from HDFC stable that needs no introduction. This card is pretty close to being an identical twin of Infinia Metal Edition.

American Express Platinum Card ‐

This card is fondly known as the ’Metal’ Card globally. It is also one of the highest fee retail credit cards in India. The Joining / Annual Fee of this card is sure to raise a lot of eyebrows regularly.

(Find out here if the card was able to justify its extremely high annual fee of ₹60,000 + Taxes)

Axis Reserve Credit Card ‐

This is one of the latest entrants on the scenes with some different lifestyle benefits.

Feature comparison of the above listed credit cards:

HDFC Infinia Metal EditionHDFC Diners Club BlackAMEX Platinum CardAxis Reserve Credit Card
Joining FeeNIL (offered as first year free)NIL (offered as first year free)₹60,000 + Taxes₹30,000 + Taxes
Annual Fee₹12,500 + Taxes₹10,000 + Taxes₹60,000 + Taxes₹30,000 + Taxes
Standard rewards3.3% (5 reward points per ₹150)3.3% (5 Reward Points per ₹150)Welcome Bonus ‐ 100,000 MR PointsBuy 1 Get 1 on BookMyShow on movie tickets up to ₹500 ‐ 5 times a month.
Amazon ‐ 16.67% (25 reward points per ₹150)Monthly benefit on crossing ₹80,000 spends - ₹500 (BookMyShow / Tata CliQ / Ola)Fine Dining ‐ Unlimited discounts at some of the finest restaurants in major metros in IndiaBuy 1 Get 1 on BookMyShow on non-movie tickets up to ₹1000 ‐ 5 times a month
Gift vouchers of 100+ brands (Via Gyftr) ‐ 16.67% (25 reward points per ₹150)Accelerated reward rate via SmartbuyAccelerated reward rate via SmartbuyBuy 1 Get 1 on BookMyShow on non-movie tickets up to ₹1000 ‐ 5 times a month
Flipkart ‐ 10% (15 reward points per ₹150)
Travel & StayFlights / Hotels ‐ up to 33.3% (50 reward points per ₹150)Flights / Hotels ‐ up to 33.3% (50 reward points per ₹150)Exclusive Offers on International airline ticket bookings24 / 7 Global Concierge
Train/Bus Tickets ‐ up to 16.67% (25 reward points per ₹150)Train/Bus Tickets ‐ up to 16.67% (25 reward points per ₹150)25% off on stays at Taj, SeleQtions & Vivanta, 50% Off at oberoi hotels & resorts
ITC Hotel Benefits ‐ Book 2 nights & 3rd night stay is free, 1 + 1 on weekend buffet at participating hotels ’Do Anything’ Platinum Concierge
24/7 global concierge
MembershipsClub Marriott,membership for one yearAmazon Prime, Zomato Pro, MMT Black, Times Prime, Club Marriott & Forbes Digital membership free (Minimum ₹8 Lakh annual spend required)Complimentary EazyDiner Prime & Taj Epicure Reimagined MembershipITC Culinaire, Accorplus (Includes 1-night complimentary stay across Asia Pacific), Club Marriott Membership
Elite Tier membership - Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Hilton Honors Gold, Radisson Rewards Gold, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards EazyDiner Prime Membership
Lounge AccessUnlimited domestic & international lounge access for primary & add-on cardholders via priority pass membershipUnlimited domestic & international lounge access for primary & add-on cardholdersUnlimited complimentary international lounge access for primary & one add-on cardholder via priority pass membershipUnlimited domestic & international lounge access for primary & add-on cardholders
Complimentary access to Amex proprietary & domestic lounges12 Complimentary visits for accompanying guests at domestic lounges
4 complimentary luxury airport transfers within India
8 complimentary VIP assistance services at domestic & international departures / arrivals
Fee Waiver (for a 12-month period)Spend ₹10 Lakh - get 12,500 Points as renewal benefit if annual fee is leviedSpend ₹5 LakhNot AvailableSpend ₹25 Lakh
Golf Club AccessYesYesYesYes
Note: It is always recommended to refer the bank’s website for the latest updates on the benefits offered by the credit cards as these are subject to change.

Some of the other popular options in this segment are:

  • Standard Chartered Ultimate (Joining / Annual Fee - ₹5000 + Taxes).
  • SBI Aurum (Joining / Annual Fee ‐ ₹10,000 + Taxes).
  • AMEX Platinum Travel (Joining Fee - ₹3500 / Annual Fee - ₹5000 + Taxes.

As it can be seen from the above list, the common privilege across all the super-premium credit cards are the lifestyle benefits. If your monthly spend crosses ₹50,000, I strongly suggest you consider holding a super-premium credit card to amplify your savings and experiences.

You have read about my initial journey into super-premium cards which are some of the bests in India. In the next set of articles, let us delve into cracking the utilisation of these cards one by one.