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My credit card strategy 2021

Credit Card Strategy

In this post, I will share my credit card strategy that I follow to maximise rewards from the 10 credit cards I own. Further, given that this is my 50th blog post it makes sense that I discuss my own thoughts and strategies rather than putting a review. J

Currently, I own 10 credit cards as mentioned below. Honestly, I don’t use most of them. Most of my spends are concentrated on the first 3 cards and maybe on 2 other. The remaining credit cards rest in my locker hoping to be swiped someday. 😀

HDFC Bank Diners Black Credit Card

HDFC Bank Dinersclub Black Credit Card

This is my primary credit card for obvious reasons. 3.3% reward rate on most spends, very few excluded categories and the famous 10x/5x reward program. A detailed review of Diners Black is available here.

What is my strategy with this credit card? Target the 10x/5x program. Buy Amazon/Flipkart/Uber vouchers as needed to get 10x points. Then use these vouchers to buy monthly groceries or for office travel. Book flight/train tickets using the SmartBuy platform to get 10x/5x points.  Swipe on Ola and other 10x partners, if possible.

A simple strategy with 10x is to buy INR5000 Amazon voucher every month without fail to get 10x points. Once my Amazon voucher limit is over, I buy the Flipkart vouchers on an as-needed basis. Until last month, Uber vouchers were available too. So used a few for my office commute. This month, since Uber vouchers are not available, am using Ola and pay for the trip using DCB to get 10x points.

Apart from the above, I use Diners Black as my primary card and present it as the first card for payment. Luckily, in Mumbai, I face very few rejections for Diners credit card. Further, have given the add-on cards to my parents and wife to swipe for the purchases they do during the month.

In the last 7 months that I have been using Diners Black, my reward rate on this card is at ~9%. This is not taking into account the INR500x2 vouchers you get for spending 80k. Since I don’t hit this milestone every month I don’t account for it in my reward calculations.

Amex Platinum Travel Credit Card

I have written about the Amex Platinum Travel card several times on how this card can earn a 6% reward rate in the first year and around 4.5% from the second year onwards. However, thanks to Amex, who gave some excellent offers in 2020 (e.g. Shop Small Offer, 10% cashback on Amazon spends, 2x rewards on utility spends, Amazon vouchers on specific monthly spends etc.) my reward rate will be closer to 8% this year. This is assuming I will reach 4L spends in the next 2 months and will get additional reward points and the Taj voucher.

My strategy with the Amex Platinum Travel credit card is to reach 4lakh spends every year. I primarily use this card for my insurance payments i.e. life + health insurance policies for 4 people. The trick here is to pay insurance premium using AmazonPay by loading the wallet thru an Amex credit card. This way you not only earn reward points on the Amex card but also achieve the spend milestone. This card acts as my backup for Diners Black, in case it is not accepted.

You can apply for the Amex Plat Travel for first year free and 4000 reward points from here.

 Amex MRCC credit card

Amex Membership Reward Credit Card

Recently, Amex MRCC has made changes to its reward structure.  Now doing 4×1500 will be a bit more difficult than doing 4×1000 transaction every month, but guess it should be manageable. A detailed review of Amex MRCC is here.

My strategy with the Amex MRCC credit card is obviously doing the 4 monthly transactions to get 1000 reward points and reach the fee waiver limit of 150,000. I use Amex MRCC for my monthly subscription to SuprDaily (milk supply app here in Mumbai). Besides that, most transactions on this card are wallet load, since Amex still gives reward points for wallet load.

You can apply for the Amex MRCC for first year free and 4000 reward points from here.

Axis Freecharge credit card

I applied for an Axis Freecharge credit card after being rejected for an Axis Ace credit card. The customer care told me that after using this card for 3-4months, I can request for card change and will ask for Axis Ace then. Until such time, I am stuck with this.

The strategy with this card is to keep it in my wallet as a backup card. Just in case my Diners and Amex are not accepted.  Once I convert this card into an Axis Ace credit card, will apply for an add-on card for parents to make Axis Ace a common backup card.

ICICI AmazonPay credit card

ICICI Amazon Credit Card

ICICI AmazonPay is a lifetime free card that I hold and works as a backup card for my parents, in case their Diners Black is not accepted. Although, I don’t use this card very often as I use SmartBuy vouchers for Amazon purchases.  This is a solid card with 5% cashback on Amazon purchases for Prime members. I strongly suggest that one should keep this card in his/her portfolio.

IDFC First Bank credit card

I recently applied for this IDFC First credit card and was approved for the First Select credit card. My strategy for this credit card is to use it as my movie ticket card. Once I feel safe going to movies again, I will use the IDFC First credit card to book my movie tickets and use the Buy One Get One offer on movie tickets. Until such time this card will remain as a reserve card for me.

Other cards

Citibank Rewards credit card

Citibank Rewards Credit Card

I got Citibank Rewards card as LTF when I downgraded my Premiermiles credit card. If you were to read my review of this card, you would definitely ask what my strategy with this credit card is. The answer is there is no strategy. Since its LTF I am not paying any fees I don’t mind holding this card.

SBI Simply Save

SBI Simply Save Credit Card

SBI Simply Save is one credit card where I pay the annual fees of 500+taxes and still dont use it. I applied for this card hoping that I will eventually upgrade to SBI Prime. However, before I could do that, I was approved for Diners Black so chucked the idea of upgrading. At the moment the strategy is to use it for any decent SBI offers. However, will eventually cancel the card if I find that I didn’t use it even for a single transaction in the last 12-18months.

Yes Bank First Preferred credit card

This is an LTF card I hold and I don’t remember when it was last swiped. The only reason for holding onto this card is the international and domestic lounge access this card offers; 4 international lounge access thru Priority Pass and 3 domestic lounge access every quarter.

IDFC OneCard credit card

3 reasons I applied for OneCard credit card, lifetime free, metal form factor, and lastly hoping that once this card gains scale one may expect good partner offers/redemption options. While the fad of metal form factor is far lost, now I am just hoping that this card gains some scale and starts bringing good offers.

Conclusion

Overall, my reward rate for April-2020 to March-2021 was ~6%. It is lower because I didn’t have HDFC Diners Black for the full year. I am hoping that April-2021 to March-2022 will be a better period and I am hoping to achieve a ~10% reward rate.

As with other things in the credit cards ecosystem, no one strategy fits all. So your strategy for the same card could be different from mine. However, the important thing is to identify 2-3 credit cards in your portfolio that give max rewards and just use them frequently.

Do let me know how does your credit card strategy look like nowadays?

25 Comments

  1. SH

    Great post. Congratulations on that.

    I would add the Citi Prestige to the portfolio. It is a solid card, because of the unlimited PP, the Taj Epicure membership, the good earning rate, and an array of transfer partners. The concierge service is decent too. The fees are 20k + taxes, but one get 10k vouchers and 10k miles, bringing down the effective cost. So the cards in my portfolio are: Infinia, Prestige, and the Amex MRCC and Plat Tavel. I recently got approved for the ACE (yet to get the card) but I don’t see it being a significant player. I applied for ACE so that I can cancel the Stan Chart Ultimate, as I don’t see much value from it, and the fee for ACE is much more affordable.

    • Comment by post author

      Harshvardhan Agrawal

      Indeed Prestige is a good card. However, the earn rate is not very great. The area where it scores is Taj Epicure membership. So, unless one makes full use of that Prestige wont makes sense for the fees paid.

      • RC

        I would qualify the remark that the earn rate is not great on the Prestige card – it certainly can be an excellent option, for many users. While burning points as cash may make it seem like the rate is low, it gives you 4 miles per INR100 spent (and double on foreign currency transactions). It also has the widest range of transfer partners among airlines / hotels – unlike HDFC cards which have a very poor list. You also get INR10k worth of Taj/ITC vouchers, and points worth 10k miles on paying the yearly fees. So I would say that if you travel regularly (unlimited PP for all add-ons as well), it could actually be one of the best options out there

  2. Rajaram

    Thank you . Very useful article. I am using diners black and it’s really a good card. I am checking if I can upgrade it to infenia

  3. Ranjan

    Great article!!

    Please see below my card list. Let me know if you think I need to make some changes.

    Primary drivers:
    1. DCB Black
    2. SCB ultimate (DCB has bit of refusal of acceptance in BLR, DCB is LTF hence don’t want to upgrade to Infinia which is FYF only)
    3. Amex MRCC

    Offer based:
    4.SBI simply click (500+gst)
    5.ICICI Amazon pay(LTF)
    6. ICICI platinum (LTF)

    Others
    7. Yes bank first preferred (LTF)
    8. Indusind iconia (LTF)
    9. One Card (LTF)

    My nature of spends are around 10L per annum. With 75% online (rent, LIC, dineout etc) 25% in store swiping. I don’t stay in hotels much

    • Comment by post author

      Harshvardhan Agrawal

      Good collection of cards you have. While I dont think you need to change anything, because it seems a thought out strategy. However, had a query as to why 2 ICICI cards? Why not keep only one? and also any specific reason for not having any Axis card?

      • I have a similar situation. 2 ICICI cards because Apay is often excluded in offers on sites like Myntra. No Axis card because their service is very poor in my experience.

        • Ranjan

          Just added Citi rewards credit card to my portfolio. This was done out of curiosity as to who will acquire Citi credit card. Also Citi is running a sweet offer of 3K CB on 5K spends within 60 days of issuance along with some 1K worth reward points.

      • Ranjan

        I mainly see value from Vistara credit card of axis. But all the places i frequent, Vistara doesn’t have service to. Hence no axis. But once in a year axis has an offer on dining. I will take that card once available. I recently applied for neo, cibil check done but no update from bank.

  4. NT

    Hi,

    My Portfolio, Your Inpurs

    HDFC Infinia
    ICICI Intermiles and Amazon Pay LTF
    Indusind Intermiles Voyager Waiver on Plat status (Not Usable at large)
    Amex Payback and Smart Earn
    SBI Prime
    Yes First Exclusive
    Axis Vistara Infinite

    • Comment by post author

      Harshvardhan Agrawal

      Good collection of cards you have. However, you seem to have 3(or at least 2 high fee paying cards) – SBI Prime and Vistara Infinite (assuming Infinia is LTF). So unless you have spends/benefits to justify those I would suggest trimming them and try to accumulate your rewards on 1-2 cards.
      Again, not sure what strategy you have in having 2 intermiles card.

  5. Sham

    Very good article.

    I have 4 cards.
    1. DCB – primary
    2. AXIS ACE – back up + utility bill using gpay/payzaap
    3. YES FIRST PREFERRED – LTF
    4. SCB TITANIUM VALUE – LTF

  6. VG

    Good Article !!!!

    I have 7 cards in my portfolio.
    Your inputs please.

    HDFC Infinia – Primary card
    Kotak Royale – BOGO on PVR and Lounge access
    SBI simply Save – Offline purchases and online offers
    Citi Rewards – Offline purchases
    Axis Flipkart – Flipkart, Uber, Swiggy
    Axis Ace – Utility bills through G Pay
    SC Digismart – Myntra, Grofers, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy, only for online shopping.

    • santosh kumar

      You can consider Axis My Zone if you use swiggy frequently. 20% off if i am not wrong

      • VG

        @Santosh Yes Axis My Zone is a good option, but I don’t use Swiggy much.
        Instead I use Zomato (pro) and Dineout (passport).
        For Swiggy I use other cards/ wallets to avail
        discount offers.

    • Is sbi simplysave worth holding on to? Where is its benefit?

      • VG

        @drkipt SBI cards are good for online offers on especially Flipkart and Amazon.

        Though I have flipkart axis card also, but I use this to avail 10% discount.

        It also give 10X rewards on grocery, if one is not having any other grocery card, it’s a good option to go for.

        Moreover it has nominal fees of 499, which is waived on spending ₹1 Lacs in a year.

      • santosh

        its better to convert simply save to simply clich, gives better returns on online spends.

        • VG

          Yes simply click is better for online spends.
          But I use it for specific offers only.

  7. Santosh Kumar

    Harsh not sure if you have come across the news, but latest income tax notification says paying tax is now allowed via credit card!

  8. Hello Harshvardhan,

    I have below 3 credit cards –

    1. HDFC Infinia Credit Card:
    This is my primary card, I use it for all high value purchases

    2. ICICI AmazonPay Credit Card:
    This is my secondary credit card, I use it for shopping on Amazon once 5K gift voucher via
    hdfc smart buy platform is over. Also I use it for low value transactions( value is less than 150 since I don’t get any point on my Infinia card )

    3. SBI IRCTC Premier Credit Card:
    I don’t use it, I’ll close it in a few months or downgrade it to SimplyCLICK

    Thanks

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