Best super premium credit cards in India

HDFC Bank Infinia Credit Card

Banks offer a bouquet of credit cards suitable for a wide range of audiences, from entry level cards to super premium credit cards. Well, I did write about a few entry-level credit cards here, it’s now turn to look at the other extreme, the best super premium credit cards available in India.

Banks look to make their super premium credit cards an object of desire or a status symbol and as exclusive as possible. They start with making super premium credit cards available only to HNIs or select customers, high annual fee, high spending limit and exclusive or curated offers & experiences. Another common theme across all super premium credit cards is concierge service. While some concierge such as one from the Amex is way ahead of others, but nonetheless all banks will offer one.

Below is the list of top super premium credit cards available in India. I have ranked the credit cards based on reward points accrual based on a set template of annual spend. The template is spread over various categories, details in footnote.

HDFC Infinia credit card – Best super premium credit card

HDFC Infinia Best Super Premium Credit Card

Fees and Eligibility

  • Annual fees of 10,000 /annum +GST. Waived off on annual spends of 8lakhs
  • Approx. 45/lakh ITR income. A lot depends on your existing relationship with HDFC Bank and spend patterns on current HDFC credit cards.

Rewards and Benefits

  • 5 reward points for every 150 spent (3.3% earn rate)
  • 10,000 reward points on payment of annual fees
  • 10x reward points with select HDFC partners and on purchases via SmartBuy platform
  • 2X reward points on Dining, Air Vistara and HDFC Infinia website
  • Unlimited lounge access, both domestic and international, via PriorityPass for the primary and supplementary cardholders. Also, 4 domestic lounge access/quarter via Visa/Mastercard lounge program
  • Other benefits:
    • Complimentary rounds of golf;
    • Club Mariott membership;
    • Vistara Gold membership

Bottomline

HDFC Infinia is no doubt the best super premium credit card in India currently. It comes with low annual fees, great reward rate (up to 33%), achievable annual spend target to get annual fee waiver and, of course, unlimited lounge access for primary and add-on cardholders.

Well, it is difficult to choose between HDFC Dinersclub Black and HDFC Infinia. However, Infinia has a slight edge simply because its on Visa/Mastercard network thus it is accepted everywhere. Also, the unlimited lounge access for add-on cardholders is like icing on the cake for frequent travellers. And of course, not to mention the 10X rewards points (33% earn rate) on select partners and Smartbuy platform.

The difficult part is getting approved for Infinia. As it is true for any other super-premium credit card, getting approved for HDFC Infinia is difficult. Even if one meets the income criteria, one needs to have a long-standing and profitable (for the bank that is J) relationship with HDFC bank. I have known many people who didn’t meet the income criteria for Infinia but were able to get the card simply because HDFC Bank is their primary bank i.e. these people have paid fees for several years to HDFC Bank for many services such as MF, demat, insurance etc.

HDFC Diners Black credit card – Almost the best super premium credit card

HDFC Diners Black - Super Premium Credit card

Fees and Eligibility

  • No joining fees, annual fees of INR5,000 + GST (waived if annual spend is 5lakhs or above)
  • Salary of 1.75 lakh/month or ITR of 21lakhs, plus existing relationship with HDFC Bank

Rewards and Benefits

  • 5 reward points for every 150 spent (3.3% earn rate)
  • 5000 reward points on payment of annual fees
  • 10x reward points with HDFC Diners partners and on purchases via SmartBuy platform
  • Unlimited lounge access, both domestic and international, for the primary cardholder
  • 6 complimentary golf games every quarter

Bottomline

HDFC Diners Black in the strictest terms is not a super premium credit card but is a notch below. However, its features and reward rates make it comparable to a super-premium credit card. Thus included in this review.

HDFC Diners Black is one of the most aspirational cards giving up to 33.3% earn rate, thanks to Diners 10x program and HDFC Bank’s Smartbuy platform. Smart use of the card allows one to achieve a reward rate of the north of 20%. Diners Black also provides unlimited lounge access both on domestic and international circuits, something which many super-premium cards don’t provide.

One can achieve an earn rate of 2.7% at the minimum based on template spends easily with this card. On using the card with Dinersclub 10X partners or on Smartbuy platform the earn rate can above 20% on the card. The only downside of this card is limited acceptance of Diners Club as compared to Visa/Mastercard.

Axis Bank Magnus credit card

Axis Bank Magnus credit card

Fees and Eligibility

  • No joining fees, annual fees of 10,000 + GST ( Waived off if one spends 15lakh in a year)
  • Eligibility: Annual income of 18lakh

Rewards and benefits

  • One complimentary flight ticket of up to 10,000 every year
  • 12 reward points for every INR200 spent. Resulting in a reward rate of 1.2%
  • 2X reward rate on MMT, Yatra and GoIbibo
  • Lounge access: Unlimited domestic lounge access
  • Other benefits:
    • 8 complimentary airport concierge service at 29 Indian airports;
    • Discounts and room upgrades at Oberoi properties;
    • BookMyShow 50% off up to 500, 5 times a month;
    • complimentary spa sessions + other medical benefits

Bottomline

Axis Magnus is a very recent launch and it is Axis Bank’s second attempt at super-premium credit card category. Axis has taken its learning from Axis Reserve and came up with a much better super-premium card in form of Axis Magnus.

Magnus credit card has a good set of offers including annual fee waiver, a recurring benefit of a complimentary flight ticket, 2X reward points with certain partners, lounge access etc. The card provides unlimited lounge access only on domestic lounges, which is a bit disappointing given that super-premium credit cardholders tend to travel internationally quite often.

However, with a cumulative reward rate of 2.3% on the set template of annual spend, this super-premium credit card offers a good mix of offers with a decent reward rate.

Citibank Prestige credit card – Internationally renowned as a super premium credit card

Citibank Prestige - Internationally renowned Super Premium Credit Card

Fees and Eligibility

  • Joining and an annual fee of 20000/ annum +GST. Fee waiver depends on the relationship with Citibank
  • Eligibility: Annual income of 25 lakhs

Rewards and benefits

  • Joining benefits of 10000 reward points, on payment of joining fees
  • Earn 1 reward point for every 100 spent in India. 2 reward points on 100 spend abroad. One can also earn up to 50% higher reward rate depending on the relationship with the bank
  • 1 Reward point is worth INR 1. Thus giving a 1% earn rate at the minimum. The best way to redeem reward points is to convert to Airmiles, conversion option is 1 reward point equals 4 air miles with leading airlines.
  • Recurring benefit: Vouchers worth 10000 from Taj or ITC hotels every year.
  • Lounge access: Unlimited domestic and international lounge access via Priority Pass, applicable for add-on card member too.
  • Other benefits:
    • One night complimentary on booking a minimum stay of 4 nights at a hotel.
    • Annually 2 complimentary meet & greet and airport transfer in APAC region.
    • Membership to Taj Epicure Plus and Innercircle Silver
    • Annually 4 complimentary golf rounds and golf lessons in India

Bottomline

Citibank Prestige after Amex Platinum is the only card on this list, which is recognized globally as a super-premium credit card.

While at first glance the reward rate of 1% for an annual fee of 20000 is pretty low, but the kind of other benefits one gets covers up for the low reward rate. This includes unlimited lounge access (domestic and international both) for primary and add-on card members; one complimentary night on booking continuous 4 nights at a hotel, resulting in a straight 20% savings on your booking. Further, it also provides 2 complimentary airport transfer in the APAC region, which can turn into huge savings when travelling to costly cities such as Tokyo.

Well, the only grouse with the card is low earn rate of 1%. However if one is a frequent flyer than he/she can convert reward points into air miles at a mouth-watering rate of 1 reward point = 4 air miles. The conversion options include major airlines such as British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Air India, Etihad, Virgin Atlantic etc. Frankly, this single feature of Citibank Prestige would make it a must-have super-premium credit card for all frequent flyers.

ICICI Bank Emeralde

ICICI Bank Emeralde Credit card

Note: This card comes in two variants, Amex and Mastercard. Amex variant is superior in terms of benefits.

Fees and Eligibility

  • No joining fees, annual fees of 12,000 + GST ( Waived off if one spends 15lakh in a year)
  • Eligibility: 3lakh/month income or ITR of 30lakh/annum for self-employed
  • On joining one gets 5000 Da Milano vouchers ( only on Amex variant)

Rewards and benefits

  • Reward points are in the form of Payback points. Redemption option is limited to Payback catalogue and Payback partners.
  • Reward rate is 1% on all transactions, and 0.25% on utilities and insurance.
  • Lounge access: Unlimited international lounge access via Dragonpass for international lounges. Unlimited domestic lounges via Amex domestic lounge access.
  • Recurring benefit: 7500 worth Trident dinner voucher every year on birthday (On Amex variant only). BookMyShow Buy 1 Get 1 free offer up to 750, 4 times a month. Complimentary golf lesson if spending in a month is above 50,000.

Bottomline

To me, ICICI Emeralde appears to be an average super-premium credit card. Reward points in the form of Payback points is a big downer. The reason being, one needs to remember a separate username and password to redeem reward points. Also, Payback’s reward catalogue is pretty mediocre.

Further, the reward rate is a bit low at 1%, the reason it is ranked above Yes Bank Exclusive is that ICICI waives off annual fees on spends of 15lakh/year and for Yes Bank to get additional rewards points the limit is 20lakh/year.

Nonetheless, the best offer on the card is BMS 1 on 1 free of up to 750 every time, up to 4 times a month, that’s like almost every weekend one gets free movie tickets.

Yes Bank First Exclusive card

Yes Bank First Exclusive credit card

Fees and Eligibility

  • No joining fees, annual fees of 10,000 + GST
  • Eligibility criteria: 3lakh/month income or ITR of 40lakh/annum for self-employed. This can be relaxed in case of an existing relationship with the bank
  • One get 50,000 reward points as joining bonus on the first transaction

Rewards and benefits

  • Reward rate of 1.5% on all transactions (except fuel); 3% reward rate on spends towards travel agencies/operators, domestic airlines and dining
  • Lounge access: Unlimited domestic and international lounge access via Priority Pass, applicable for add-on card member too
  • Recurring benefits: 40,000 reward points on payment of annual fees. 25,000 reward points if one spends 20lakh a year on the card
  • Other benefits: Complimentary membership to Taj Epicure, One complimentary Golf lesson every month, 25% discount on movie tickets

Bottomline

Yes Bank being a recent entrant in the credit card space has brought a decent super-premium credit card in the form of First Exclusive credit card. While it has steep eligibility criteria, but my conversation with the customer care indicate that one can get this card if his spends are 15lakh/year on any existing credit card. Further, the bank may also offer this card without any annual fees depending on existing credit limits with other bank and your negotiation (read bargaining) skills. It comes with a decent earn rate of 1.5% of every transaction and 2X on travel and dining spends.

Further, Yes Bank has launched 5x reward point scheme (a la HDFC Bank’s 10X scheme), where one can earn 5x points when shopping on Amazon, Flipkart via a dedicated microsite.

Nonetheless, the most attractive offer of this card is unlimited lounge access both domestic and international to primary and all add-on card members. If one tends to travel too often with family, then taking this card even with the annual fee option makes complete sense.

Indusind Celesta card – Super premium credit card only in terms of fee

Indusind Celesta Credit card

Fees and Eligibility

  • Joining fees of 50,000 and annual fees of 5,000/year.
  • Eligibility is at bank’s discretion.
  • The annual fee is waived off if one spends 10lakhs in a year (easily achievable for the segment it is targeted at)

Rewards and benefits

  • One earns reward points worth 1% for every 100 spent. For overseas spends, one earns 3% for every 100 spent.
  • Lounge access: Unlimited domestic lounge access
  • On joining one gets, vouchers worth 50,000 from Oberoi hotels or Montblanc
  • One also gets a complimentary membership to Shangri La Golden Circle Jade and Taj Innercircle Gold
  • 3 complimentary golf games and golf lessons
  • 2 complimentary movie tickets via BMS every month

Bottomline

While Indusind Celesta positions itself as a super-premium credit card the features of the card are very mediocre. With an annualized earn rate of just 1.1%, no recurring benefits and high joining fees not sure how many people would want to opt for this card. What is also surprising is that this card does not offer any international lounge access; this again seems to be at odd given the card is targeted towards high spenders who tend to travel overseas quite often.

Frankly, Indusind Celesta could have been at the bottom of this list, but on the template annual spend it scored marginally over Amex Platinum Charge card thanks to its low annual fees of 5000 from the second year onwards.

Axis Bank Reserve credit card

Axis Bank Reserve Credit card

Fees and Eligibility

  • Joining and annual fees of 30000 + GST
  • Eligibility and fee waiver both are at Axis Bank’s discretion

Rewards and benefits

  • One earns 10 reward points on every 100 spent with one point valued at 0.20 paisa. Giving an earn rate of 1%
  • Joining benefit: Luxury dining experience for 2 and Tata Cliq voucher worth 10000
  • Recurring benefit: Tata Cliq voucher of 10000 + 30000 reward points ( value of INR6000)
  • Lounge access: Unlimited domestic and international lounge access via Priority Pass
  • Other benefits: Membership to Club Marriott, Club Vistara Gold membership, Complimentary rounds of golf, 50% cashback on BookMyShow up to 2000 every year

Bottomline

In my view, Axis Bank Reserve credit card along with Indusind Celesta are super-premium cards only in terms of fees charged. The kind of rewards rates/ benefits they offer are just about equal or even below to what is offered by most other credit cards in the market.

In the case of Axis Reserve card, the benefits are very mediocre; plus the lounge access is only for the primary cardholder. Given that the fee is high at 30000/annum, they should have provided lounge access on add-on cards too. Besides, the redemption option is only Axis Bank’s catalogue, which again sort of limits the options one has.

Amex Platinum Charge Card – Another internationally renowned super premium credit card

Amex Platinum Charge card

Fees and Eligibility

  • Annual fees of 60,000 + GST. The annual fee can be waived off on Amex’s discretion.
  • Eligibility is generally at 15lakhs annual income but largely depends on Amex’s discretion.
  • On payment of annual fees, one receives 100,000 membership rewards points or Taj vouchers worth 40,000 as a welcome gift.

Rewards and benefits

  • One earns reward points worth 1% on domestic spends and points worth 3% on international spends.
  • Lounge access: One gets access to exclusive Amex Centurion lounges. Also, one gets unlimited domestic and international lounge access via Priority Pass program
  • With Amex Platinum Charge card one also gets a complimentary membership to Hilton Honors Gold Tier, Shangri-La Golden Circle Jade tier, Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite Status, Radisson RewardsTM, Taj InnerCircle Silver tier
  • Complimentary Membership to EazyDiner Prime
  • Complimentary Golf access and 2 complimentary lessons every month
  • Depending on the airline and destination you can save up to 15% compared to standard fares

Bottomline

Amex Platinum Charge card is one of the best super premium credit card available in India. It is a Charge card, i.e. it comes with no pre-set spending limit and provides access to awesome Amex’s “do anything” concierge. Also not to forget, it’s the only one of the two cards in this list that is recognised all over the world as a super-premium credit card. Thus with this card in wallet, one makes a style statement with ease.

Then the question, why is this card at the bottom of the list? Well, for the first year the rewards earned are worth it, but based on the reward earned in the set template of annual spend the benefits are very low from the second year onwards. Also, a big downside is the hefty annual fees of 60000 and no recurring benefits against it. From the second year onwards if one tends to stay at the hotel chains mentioned above (where Amex give complimentary memberships), then this card completely makes sense.

 

Do you own any of the above super premium credit cards? Do share your views on the same.

 

Detailed comparative of super premium credit cards:

Super Premium Credit Cards Summary

Super Premium Credit Cards Summary

Note:

The template-based spends used to rank the cards consists of the following categories and spend assumptions:

Super Premium Credit Cards Template Spend

Super Premium Credit Cards Template Spend

4 Responses to Best super premium credit cards in India

  1. RC says:

    Interesting write up – haven’t seen too many Indian premium card comps that are current.

    I would recheck the eligibility criteria though – Prestige at INR25L income seems rather low to me 🙂

    An interesting analysis would be to look at the segment each card would appeal to.

    What is important to consider when looking at these cards is not just the headline earn rate, but also the avenues for burning points. While the headline earn rate for Prestige is low (1 point), as you’ve pointed out, it effectively works out to 4 air miles – while international spends on the Prestige earn double points (effectively 8 airmiles for Rs100 of international spend). Typically, most cards would have a narrow range of options. I would say that HDFC is ahead of the game among the domestic banks.

    The international cards (Prestige/Amex) have a wide range of airline and hotel conversion partners. As a result, the conversion to airmiles option isn’t used much for other cards (HDFC has a very poor list of airline/hotel partners) – but becomes a real option to burn points with Prestige/Amex – so I would give some weightage to that. Add the airport transfer facility, and 5th night free, and the appeal of the Prestige increases.

    HDFC has also discontinued the Vistara relationship (Vistara has got an Axis co-branded card now, if I’m not wrong)

  2. Harshvardhan Agrawal says:

    Thanks RC.
    On Prestige eligibility, 25lacs/annum is what the Customer care mentioned on call.

    The analysis aspect you mentioned is interesting, would surely explore that in coming days.

    Also, on the factor of earn rate vs other redemption options, as you would agree these are more user dependent, sort of linking to your previous comment on different user segments.

    For this post, I stuck to single factor of earn rate, as that makes ranking the cards possible, if one brings in many factors in the ranking model – comparison gets lost in the middle.

    Once again, thanks a ton for your views and feedback. Will surely writeup on cards segmented by customer categories.

  3. RC says:

    Fair point on having a standard comparison base. On HDFC – they do keep changing the 10x partners (and the upper limit of points to be earned through such promotions – Infinia is now capped at 25k points on Smartbuy)

    I would say though that the demographic that uses these cards is likely to be traveling often, and likely in premium cabins 🙂

    If Prestige has cut eligibility to 25L (it was significantly higher when I got the card) – I fear there will be a stealthy devaluation around the corner (or they are reintroducing a more premium card – they had cut back on the Ultima in India a few years ago if I’m not wrong)

    The annoying thing about HDFC is that they have cut the relationship with Vistara, and older members do not get the Marriott benefits (not that Club Marriott is great in anycase)

  4. Harshvardhan Agrawal says:

    Citibank is sort of devaluing its cards. In one of my recent posts, I did highlighted that where they will now not offer reward points in many categories.

    So, what you say might be true that they plan to launch some product in the super premium segment.

    HDFC credit cards are one of best. No doubt about that. But they tend to make things a bit cumbersome for their customers. Be it reward redemptions, frequent changes in partners for 10x or adding/removing offers. One who relies on HDFC cards, needs to be on the top of all T&Cs which keep on changing every now and then.

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