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Travel credit cards are tailored to the needs of frequent travelers. These credit cards offer benefits such as complimentary access to airport lounges, 24×7 concierge service, and insurance benefits. They not only make the cardholder’s travel experience smoother and more comfortable but also, in most cases, offer a higher reward rate on travel-related expenses like flight bookings and hotel/stay reservations. Many travel credit cards earn rewards in the form of AirMiles, which can be redeemed for air ticket bookings, award flights (free flights), or class upgrades with partner airlines.

Best Travel Credit Cards

Travel credit cards are typically offered in collaboration with an airline, an online travel portal, or a hotel/resort chain. These co-branded credit cards often provide higher rewards for spending with partner airlines or travel portals. Additionally, you can often enjoy exclusive benefits such as complimentary membership in the partner airline’s frequent flyer program or bonus AirMiles upon reaching specific spend-based milestones with these co-branded travel credit cards. Examples of co-branded travel cards include the Ka-Ching, Air Vistara, Emirates, and Etihad Co-Branded Credit Cards.

While most travel rewards credit cards are offered in collaboration with an airline or travel portal, some travel cards are more generic and are suitable for travelers in general without providing additional benefits for spending with a particular airline or travel portal. Two significant examples of such generic travel credit cards are the American Express Platinum Travel and the Axis Atlas Credit Card.

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List of Best Travel Credit Cards

If you fully understand the benefits of travel credit cards and need one, you can choose from our list. Depending on your requirements and expectations for a travel credit card, here are some of the best credit cards currently available in the Indian credit card market.

Generic Travel Credit Cards:

Axis Bank Atlas Credit Card

(4.5/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 5,000 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 5,000 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

2,500 Edge Miles on Completing 1 Transaction Within 37 Days of Card Issuance

Axis Bank Atlas Credit Card is a travel focused card best suited for people who travel often. With an annual fee of Rs. 5,000 it is offered in three tiers: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. It offers various exclusive privileges across different categories along with travel. Following are some of the premium benefits offered with this card:

  • Up to 5 EDGE Miles on every spend of Rs. 100.
  • Up to 18 complimentary domestic lounge visits every year.
  • Up to 12 complimentary international lounge visits every year.
American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card

(4.6/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Nil

Renewal Fee

Rs. 5,000 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

10,000 Membership Rewards Points

It is a premium travel credit card by American Express and comes loaded with a plethora of travel benefits. It is definitely one of the best travel credit cards in India in the premium segment. Some of the travel benefits that come bundled with the American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card are as under-

  • 4 complimentary domestic airport lounge visits every year (one per quarter) and complimentary membership of the Priority Pass lounge program.
  • Upon achieving the stipulated spending milestones, you will receive vouchers from leading hotel chains, such as the Taj SeleQtions and Vivanta hotels.
SBI Card Miles Elite

(4.6/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

5,000 Travel Credits

SBI Card has recently introduced three credit cards specifically tailored for the travel category. These credit cards, called “Miles” credit cards, offer generous rewards on travel-related purchases. Travel Credits earned with these cards can be redeemed for various travel-related expenses, such as air miles, hotel points, and travel bookings. Out of the three SBI Miles Cards, the Miles Elite Credit Card is the most premium option and is available for a joining fee of Rs. 4,999. With the Miles Elite Credit Card, you can enjoy up to 8 complimentary domestic lounge visits across airports in India. Furthermore, this card offers many benefits for international travelers, such as a low forex charge of 1.99%, Priority Pass membership, and worldwide international lounge access.

RBL World Safari Credit Card

(4.3/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 3,000 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 3,000 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

MakeMyTrip voucher worth Rs. 3,000 as a welcome gift

The World Safari credit card is a premium travel card offered by RBL Bank. It comes with a range of travel benefits, including a MakeMyTrip voucher worth Rs. 3,000 as a welcome benefit, a 0% mark-up fee on all foreign currency transactions, and the ability to earn Travel Points on all spending categories, which can be redeemed for flight and hotel bookings. Additionally, cardholders receive 2 complimentary domestic airport lounge visits per quarter and 2 complimentary international lounge passes annually as part of the Priority Pass membership.

Air India SBI Credit Cards:

Air India SBI Platinum Credit Card

(4.1/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 1,499 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 1,499 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

5,000 reward points after paying the joining fee (credited within 15 days from the date of payment)

The Air India SBI Platinum credit card is a co-branded travel credit card by SBI Card launched in collaboration with Air India. It can be considered a toned-down version of the Air India SBI Signature Credit Card. The travel benefits that you get with this credit card are summarised below-

  • Complimentary membership of the Air India Frequent Flyer program.
  • Accelerated Reward Points on spends on Air India tickets.
  • The Reward Points earned can be converted into Air India AirMiles.
  • 8 complimentary access to domestic airport lounges (max 2 per quarter) with the Visa Domestic Lounge program.
Air India SBI Signature credit card

(4.3/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

You will get 20,000 reward points in the form of a welcome benefit.

SBI Card offers two co-branded cards in partnership with Air India- the Air India SBI Signature Credit Card and the Air India SBI Platinum Credit Card. The Signature card is more premium than the latter. Air India SBI Signature Credit Card comes with an annual fee of Rs. 4,999 and comes packed with multiple travel benefits, particularly for Air India flyers. Some of the salient features of the Air India SBI Signature Credit Card are as under-

  • Complimentary membership to Air India’s frequent flyer program, Flying Returns.
  • Accelerated RPs on Air India flight bookings.
  • The Reward Points earned are convertible into Air India AirMiles.
  • 8 complimentary access to lounges across India every year (max 2 per quarter).

If you want a card that offers a high reward rate on Air India bookings, then this card is the best choice. Another option worth considering for Air India frequent flyers is the less premium Air India SBI Platinum Credit Card.

IRCTC Co-Branded Credit Cards:

HDFC-IRCTC-Credit-Card

(4.5/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 500 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 500 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

Amazon voucher worth Rs. 500 on making the first transaction within the first 30 days.

The IRCTC HDFC Bank RuPay Credit Card is a recently launched travel credit card that comes with a nominal annual fee of Rs. 499 plus applicable taxes. The card rewards you in the form of Cash Points and you can earn up to 5 Cash Points on every Rs. 100 you spend using it. The following are some of the key features of this card:

  • Amazon voucher worth Rs. 500 as an introductory benefit.
  • 1 Cash Point on every retail spend of Rs. 100.
  • 5x Cash Points on IRCTC spends.
  • Free railway lounge access four times every year.
  • Spend-based renewal fee waiver.
IRCTC Rupay SBI Credit Card

(3.8/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 500 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 300 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

You get 350 reward points on a minimum transaction of Rs. 500 within 45 days after receiving the card. You also get Rs 100 cashback on your first ATM withdrawal within 30 days of card issuance.

IRCTC Rupay SBI Credit Card is very similar to the IRCTC SBI Platinum Credit Card in terms of the benefits that it offers. The travel benefits that this credit card offers are as under-

  • You will receive a 10% value back on rail ticket bookings made on the IRCTC app or website, transferred to your IRCTC loyalty account.
  • 1% transaction charges are waived off on rail ticket bookings via the IRCTC app/website.
  • Reward Points gained on the card can be redeemed on the IRCTC app or website if the card is linked to the cardholder’s IRCTC account.

IndiGo Co-Branded Credit Cards:

6E Rewards XL Indigo HDFC Bank Credit Card

(4.6/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 1,500 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 1,500 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

One complimentary flight ticket worth Rs. 3000 and 6E Prime Add-On.

It is a co-branded travel credit card by HDFC Bank in collaboration with Indigo Airlines. The card is best suited for frequent domestic flyers. The 6E Rewards XL Credit Card is offered in two variants- the free variant (zero membership fee) and the paid variant (membership fee of Rs. 2,500). The card comes with a plethora of travel benefits, particularly for domestic frequent flyers-

  • The card earns reward points as IndiGo 6E Rewards, which are redeemable on the IndiGo 6E Rewards portal for 6E Rewards benefits, including booking Go IndiGo flights.
  • As welcome benefits, you get a complimentary IndiGo air ticket and IndiGo Prime Add-on when you make a minimum of 3 transactions within 3 months of card setup. These welcome benefits are applicable for the paid variant of the card only.
  • IndiGo 6E Rewards XL cardholders are also entitled to 8 complimentary lounge access every year (max 2 per quarter) at domestic airports across India

As IndiGo is the country’s largest domestic carrier, this credit card can be a really good choice for those who travel frequently within the country.

6E Rewards IndiGo HDFC Bank Credit Card

(4.2/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 500 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 500 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

1 complimentary 6E Prime add-on with priority check-in, complimentary meal, quicker baggage, choice of seat, etc.

It is another co-branded travel credit card issued by HDFC Bank and launched in collaboration with Go Indigo. It is the less premium variant of the 6E Rewards XL card. It also comes in two variants- a free variant and a paid variant (annual fee of Rs. 700). The 6E Rewards IndiGo card comes with the following travel benefits-

  • You earn Reward Points as 6E Rewards on all spending categories (the reward rate is lower than the XL variant, though) and accelerated 6E Rewards on IndiGo ticket bookings.
  • 1 complimentary IndiGo Add-on and on making a minimum of 3 transactions in the first three months of card issuance get a complimentary air ticket (worth Rs. 1,500) (at least 1 transaction per month). The welcome benefits are applicable only for the paid variant.

The aforementioned travel benefits make this credit card a decent choice in the travel category. However, before making the final decision, you must compare its benefits with those of the more premium XL variant.

Air Vistara Co-Branded Credit Cards:

Axis Bank Vistara Signature Credit Card

(4.5/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 3,000 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 3,000 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

1 complimentary Premium Economy Class air ticket and complimentary Club Vistara Silver Membership

The Axis Bank Vistara Signature Credit Card is a mid-range travel credit card designed for frequent domestic flyers, offering numerous travel perks. With a joining and renewal fee of Rs. 3,000, it provides benefits such as a complimentary premium economy ticket upon joining and renewal, Club Vistara Silver Membership, and up to 8 domestic lounge visits annually. Cardholders earn 4 CV points per Rs. 200 spent, which can be redeemed for flights and upgrades. Additionally, significant milestone spends can earn up to 3,000 bonus CV points and four premium economy tickets each year. Other perks include golf privileges, insurance covers, and dining discounts, making it a comprehensive travel card for frequent travelers.

Club Vistara SBI Card Prime

(4.4/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 2,999 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 2,999 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

1 complimentary Premium Economy class ticket as a gift voucher on payment of the joining/renewal fee.

The Club Vistara SBI Card Prime offers many travel-related benefits, especially those regarding flying and Club Vistara. In addition to free airport lounge access, this card offers many discounts and the generous welcome benefit of a free premium economy ticket. Cardholders can earn 4 CV Points on each eligible spend of Rs. 200. These CV Points can later be used to book flights or upgrade flying privileges.

Club Vistara IDFC First Credit Card

(4.6/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

Complimentary class upgrade voucher and 1 premium economy flight ticket voucher for Air Vistara

This is a co-branded card launched by IDFC First Bank in partnership with Air Vistara. The card has a joining fee of Rs. 4999 plus taxes and is a great choice for regular Air Vistara travelers. As a welcome benefit, the card offers a complimentary premium economy flight ticket, class upgrade voucher, and Club Vistara Silver tier membership.

  • Complimentary Premium Economy flight ticket, Class Upgrade voucher, and Club Vistara Silver Tier membership as welcome benefit
  • Up to 6 CV Points per Rs. 200 spent on the card
  • Up to 5 complimentary Premium Economy flight tickets as milestone benefits
  • 2 complimentary domestic and 1 international lounge access
  • 4 complimentary green fees golf rounds per year

Mariott Co-Branded Credit Card:

Marriott Bonvoy HDFC Bank Credit Card

(4.6/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 3,000 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 3,000 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

1 Free Night Award valid for 1 year at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program

The Marriott Bonvoy HDFC Credit Card is a first-of-its-kind co-branded credit card. For the first time, a card has been issued in partnership with a hotel chain. This card offers the Marriott Silver Elite status, which provides discounted stays, dining offers, and a lot more. You are also provided with international and domestic lounge access with this card. One of the most exciting benefits of this card is the welcome gift of 1 Free Night Award. Earn 8 Reward Points per Rs. 150 spent with the Marriott Bonvoy program.

Travel Platform Co-Branded Credit Cards

ixigo AU Credit Card

(4.4/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Nil

Renewal Fee

Nil

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

1000 RPs and Rs. 1000 ixigo Money Voucher on First Transaction Within 30 days of Card Issuance

The AU ixigo Credit Card is the first co-branded card by AU Bank. This card offers great traveling benefits including zero forex charges, airport lounge access, and discounts while booking with ixigo. One of the most attractive features of this card is that it can be availed as lifetime free. Earn accelerated reward points for travel-related and online spends. Reward points are valid for a period of two years and can be redeemed for travel vouchers and discounts.

Standard Chartered EaseMyTrip Credit Card

(4.5/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 350 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 350 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Cashback

Welcome Benefits

NA

Available at a low joining fee of Rs. 350, the SC EaseMyTrip Credit Card is beneficial for those who travel often and make bookings through the popular platform EaseMyTrip. With this card, you can avail of discounts on hotel, flight, and bus ticket bookings. You will also be offered a decent number of free airport lounge access to relax while you travel. This is a great card for first-time users and those who are looking for a simple entry-level card without any huge joining fees.

MakeMyTrip ICICI Bank Signature Credit Card

(4.2/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 2,500 + GST

Renewal Fee

Nil

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

Get 1,500 My Cash, MakeMyTrip holiday voucher worth Rs. 2,500, and MMTBLACK enrolment.

This is another co-branded credit card launched by the ICICI bank in collaboration with the travel portal MakeMyTrip. This credit card comes bundled with the following travel benefits-

  • You earn Reward Points as My Cash which is transferred to your MakeMyTrip MyWallet and can be used to make bookings on the MakeMyTrip portal (1 My Cash = Re. 1).
  • As a joining benefit, you will receive Rs. 1,500 My Cash, a complimentary MMT BLACK exclusive membership, and a MakeMyTrip holiday voucher worth Rs. 2,500.
  • Complimentary railway and domestic & international airport lounge visits.
  • Complimentary Airtel international roaming pack worth Rs. 3,999.
Yatra-SBI-Credit-Card

(3.9/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 499 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 499 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

Get e-gift vouchers from Yatra.com worth Rs 8250/- on paying the membership fee

As is obvious from the name, it is a co-branded credit card by SBI Card launched in collaboration with the travel portal Yatra. It is an entry-level travel credit card and comes with the following travel benefits-

  • Gift vouchers worth Rs. 8,250 from Yatra as a joining benefit.
  • Discounts on domestic and international flight bookings via Yatra- Rs. 1,000 off on domestic flight bookings (minimum transaction of Rs. 5,000 required) and Rs. 4,000 off on international flight bookings (minimum transaction of Rs. 40,000 required).
  • 20% off on domestic hotel bookings via Yatra- minimum transaction of Rs. 3,000 required and max discount capped at Rs. 2,000.
  • Complimentary air accident cover worth Rs. 50 lacs (applicable in case of loss of life).

Etihad Airways SBI Credit Cards:

Etihad Guest SBI Card

(3.9/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 1,499 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 1,499 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

2,500 Etihad Guest Miles, Etihad Guest Silver tier status, 1 complimentary wifi voucher on first booking for Etihad Airways

It is another co-branded travel card by SBI Cards in collaboration with Etihad Airways. Unlike the Etihad Guest SBI Premier Card, which is a premium card in the travel category, this one is a mid-level offering by SBI cards. The annual fee for this co-branded credit card is Rs. 1,499 per annum. The travel benefits that come bundled with this credit are as under-

  • Complimentary Etihad Silver Tier Status, 2,500 Etihad Guest Miles as a welcome gift.
  • The card rewards you with Etihad Guest Miles, including all categories, accelerated Etihad Guest Miles on Etihad.com, and international spends.
  • Discount on Etihad economy and business class ticket bookings and on Etihad Guest Miles redemption.
  • You will receive 8 complimentary domestic airport lounge access per year (a maximum of 2 per quarter) and a complimentary Priority Pass membership worth USD 99.
  • Travel-related insurance benefits include a personal air accident cover worth Rs. 25 lakhs and a baggage cover worth USD 1,000.
Etihad Guest SBI Premier Card

(4.2/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 4,999 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

5,000 Etihad Guest Miles, 2 Free Wifi vouchers on first Etihad Airways booking, complimentary Etihad Guest Gold tier status post first card transaction,

Etihad Guest SBI Premier Card is a premium travel credit card by SBI Card in collaboration with the UAE-based Etihad Airways airline. With a membership fee of Rs. 4,999, the card offers a plethora of travel benefits. Some of the salient features of the card are as under-

  • Etihad Gold Tier status and 5,000 Etihad Guest Miles as welcome benefits.
  • You earn Etihad Guest Miles on all categories of transactions with the card (accelerated Etihad Guest Miles on Etihad.com and international spends).
  • You get a 10% discount on direct Etihad Airways bookings and a 10% discount on rewards/miles redemption.
  • You get 8 complimentary domestic lounge passes every year (a maximum of 2 per quarter) and 4 complimentary access to international lounges every year (a maximum of 2 per quarter).
  • As a card member, you are also entitled to complimentary overseas air accidental insurance worth Rs. 50 lakh and a cover worth USD 1,000 against the loss of check-in baggage.
  • With the card, you also get 1 Etihad companion voucher per annum on an annual expenditure of a minimum of Rs. 8 lacs.

Considering all the aforementioned travel benefits, it’d be safe to conclude that if you are looking for a premium credit card and are a frequent flyer to Middle Eastern destinations, including Dubai, you can not go wrong with the Etihad Guest SBI Premier Card. It offers a fairly high reward rate, particularly on the Etihad Airways portal. On top of that, you also get a 10% discount on bookings made directly on Etihad.com.

Emirates Co-Branded Travel Credit Cards:

Emirates Skywards ICICI Sapphiro Credit Card

(4.5/5)

Fees

Joining Fee

Rs. 5,000 + GST

Renewal Fee

Rs. 5,000 + GST

Best Suited For

Travel

Reward Type

Reward Points

Welcome Benefits

5,000 bonus Skyward Miles and complimentary Emirates Skywards Silver Tier membership.

The Emirates Skywards ICICI Bank Sapphiro Card is another card that was launched along with the Emirates ICICI Bank Emeralde Card. It comes with an annual fee of Rs. 5,000 and welcomes its customers with 5,000 bonus miles. Following are some of the most premium benefits of this card:

  • 2 complimentary domestic lounge access and spa sessions every quarter.
  • 2 complimentary international lounge access every year.
  • Complimentary Emirates Skywards Silver Tier membership.

Features and Benefits of Travel Credit Cards

Travel credit cards can be either generic or co-branded (launched in partnership with an airline like Air India, or in some cases, IRCTC or even travel portals like MakeMyTrip, Yatra, etc.). Co-branded travel cards, as you can guess, offer special benefits on spends on the partner airline and/or earn rewards as the partner airline’s AirMiles which are credited to the airline’s frequent flyer program.

Generic travel credit cards, on the other hand, either earn Reward Points at an accelerated on travel-related spends or offer travel-related value-added privileges like complimentary hotel loyalty program membership or a complimentary night stay at partner hotels, etc.

Both co-branded, as well as generic travel credit cards, usually offer complimentary airport/IRCTC lounge access and a comprehensive insurance plan along with multiple travel insurance covers. Some of the features and benefits that one expects from a travel credit card are-

Complimentary Lounge Access: Almost all travel credit cards offer complimentary airport or IRCTC railway lounge access. Entry-level and mid-level travel credit cards offer only domestic airport lounge access and/or IRTC lounge access, while premium travel cards usually also offer complimentary international airport lounge access or at least a complimentary membership to the Priority Pass lounge program.

AirMiles: This applies only to co-branded travel credit cards. Co-branded travel credit cards launched in collaboration with an airline often earn Reward Points as the partner airline’s AirMiles. For example, Air Vistara co-branded credit cards by Axis Bank and IndusInd Bank earn Reward Points as Club Vistara (CV) Points, and GoIndiGo co-branded credit cards by HDFC earn Reward Points as IndiGo 6E Rewards.

Hotel Loyalty Program Membership/Stay Vouchers: Some premium travel credit cards also offer complimentary membership in certain hotel loyalty programs or complimentary stay vouchers at partner hotels. For example, the American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card and the RBL World Safari Credit Card offer complimentary Taj stay vouchers/gift cards.

Welcome/Milestone Benefits: Many travel credit cards offer travel vouchers (like hotel stay vouchers or gift cards) as a welcome benefit upon card membership or as a milestone benefit upon achieving the stipulated spend milestone. Some travel cards also offer complimentary flight ticket(s) as a welcome benefit or as a milestone benefit.

Accelerated Reward Rate on Travel Spends: Some travel credit cards earn Reward Points/Miles at an accelerated rate on travel-related spends. For example, Citibank PremierMiles Credit Card earns Citibank Miles at an accelerated rate (10 Miles/Rs. 100) on airline spends with the card, while the usual reward rate of the card is just 4 Miles per Rs. 100 spent.

How to Compare Travel Credit Cards?

Travel Credit Cards, as you know offer special travel benefits to the cardholder. These benefits may come in a number of different forms including complimentary airport/IRCTC railway lounge access, complimentary hotel stay vouchers/hotel loyalty program memberships, Reward Points such as AirMiles, bonus Reward Points/Miles on travel spends, etc. Now since different travel cards come with different types of travel benefits, it is many times difficult to objectively compare two credit cards. For example, how would you compare a travel credit card like the American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card that earns offers complimentary domestic airport lounge access and Taj Stay vouchers (on meeting the spending targets) with a card like Axis Bank Vistara Infinite Credit Card that earns RPs as Club Vistara (CV) Points?

If you have to choose a travel credit card for yourself, our suggestion would be that you must be very clear about your requirements- for example, you must decide whether the majority of your trips are going to be only within India or will you be frequently traveling to foreign destinations as well. Listed below are some of the pointers, rather some of the parameters, that one must keep in mind to compare travel credit cards and before making a call on which travel credit card will suit you the best-

Co-Branded vs Generic Travel Credit Cards

Many credit card issuers tie up with airlines, IRCTC, or holiday booking portals (like MMT or Yatra) to launch co-branded credit cards. These co-branded cards offer extra benefits on spending at partner merchants. A co-branded credit card may be a good pick for you if you prefer a particular airline over others or if you prefer railways over airways as a mode of transportation.

For example, an IndiGo or Vistara co-branded credit card may be a good pick for a frequent domestic flyer, while an Etihad or Emirates co-branded card might be the best fit for someone who frequently travels to Gulf destinations like Dubai.

On the other hand, a generic travel credit card may be the best-suited one for you if you have no specific preference for a particular airline or travel portal. A generic travel credit card like the AmEx Platinum Travel Credit Card or RBL World Safari Card will almost always offer complimentary access to domestic/international airport lounges and a higher reward rate on travel spends or international transactions made with the card.

Airport/Railway Lounge Access

Almost all travel credit cards offer complimentary airport or railway lounge access. While entry-level and mid-level travel cards usually offer lounge access only at domestic airports or at railway stations, premium travel credit cards also offer complimentary lounge access at international airports or at least complimentary membership of a lounge access program like Priority Pass.

If travel experience matters to you a lot, complimentary lounge access is definitely one of the important matrices that you must consider while choosing a travel credit card. If you travel to nearby places within India, an IRCTC co-branded travel credit card that offers complimentary railway lounge access can be a great pick for you. Also, if you frequently travel by air within the country, you may consider a travel credit card that offers complimentary domestic airport lounge access, while you might ignore the international lounge benefit. However, if you are a frequent international flyer, you must make sure that the travel credit card you choose offers a certain number of complimentary airport lounge access at international airports as well.

Another point worth keeping in mind is, that if you are looking for a credit card just for the lounge access benefit, sometimes generic credit cards (which are not particularly travel-centric cards) offer more (sometimes even unlimited) lounge access at airports/railway stations. For example, if you require a credit card just for railway lounge benefit, IDFC FIRST Credit Cards offer 4 complimentary IRCTC lounge access every quarter at select railway stations across the country which is more than what any of the IRCTC co-branded credit cards offer.

Similarly, HDFC Infinia and Diners Club Black Credit Cards offer unlimited international airport lounge access to both primary as well as add-on cardmembers, a benefit that you do not get with most premium travel credit cards. The following table summarises the railway/airport lounge access feature that you get with the aforementioned travel credit cards-

Credit Card Domestic Airport/IRCTC Lounge Access International Airport Lounge Access
6E Rewards XL – IndiGo HDFC Bank Credit Card 8 per annum (max 2 per quarter) N/A
6E Rewards – IndiGo HDFC Bank Credit Card N/A N/A
Club Vistara SBI Card PRIME 8 per annum (max 2 per quarter) 4 per annum (max 2 per quarter) with Priority Pass
Air India SBI Signature Credit Card 8 per annum (max 2 per quarter) N/A
Air India SBI Platinum Credit Card 8 per annum (max 2 per quarter) N/A
Etihad Guest SBI Premier Card 8 per annum (max 2 per quarter) 4 per annum (max 2 per quarter) with Priority Pass
Etihad Guest SBI Card 8 per annum (max 2 per quarter) Complimentary Priority Pass membership (no complimentary lounge access)
IRCTC Rupay SBI Credit Card 4 IRCTC lounge access per annum (max 1 each quarter) N/A
Emirates Skywards ICICI Bank Sapphiro Credit Card 2 per quarter 2 per annum
Axis Bank Atlas Credit Card  8 per annum with Silver Tier, 12 per annum with Gold Tier, and 18 per annum with Platinum Tier 4 per annum with Silver Tier, 6 per annum with Gold Tier, and 12 per annum with Platinum Tier
American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card 4 per annum (1 per quarter) N/A
RBL World Safari Credit Card 8 per annum (max 2 per quarter) 2 per annum with Priority Pass

Hotel Loyalty Program Membership/Hotel Stay Vouchers

Some premium travel credit cards offer complimentary vouchers from premium hotel chains. For example, the American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card, one of the great travel cards in India in the premium segment, offers complimentary Taj Stay vouchers upon meeting spending targets. This benefit may be important for you if you want to enjoy a premium travel experience without any compromises.

Foreign Currency Mark-up

The usual foreign currency mark-up fee as applicable for most credit cards is about 3.5% of the conversion amount. Some travel credit cards charge a lower or sometimes even zero mark-up fee on international currency purchases. For example, a zero forex mark-up fee is charged on international transactions done with Club Vistara IndusInd Bank Explorer Credit Card and RBL World Safari Credit Card, while a lower foreign currency mark-up fee of just 2.5% is applicable on 6E Rewards XL – IndiGo HDFC Bank Credit Card. If you are a frequent flyer to global destinations, you should definitely consider this benefit while choosing a travel credit card for yourself, unless you plan to use a prepaid forex card for all foreign currency transactions.

How to Find The Right Travel Credit Cards?

In order to find the right travel credit cards for yourself, you will have to understand your travel requirements first. If you travel very often, you should go with premium travel credit cards irrespective of their higher fees as you would be able to save even more using these cards if used wisely. On the other hand, if you travel only once or twice every year, you can go with the basic travel cards that come with lower fees and offer 2-4 complimentary lounge access yearly. Other factors that you need to understand are whether you should choose co-branded or non-co-branded cards. If you travel via a particular airline frequently, you can go with a co-branded credit card issued by that airline.

How Do Travel Credit Card Reward Points Work?

Credit Card Points are the rewards you earn when making purchases using your credit card. Some cards offer accelerated rewards in certain categories, and travel credit cards generally come with a higher reward rate in travel categories, such as flight and hotel bookings. These points work as your savings, as they can later be redeemed against many options and even against the card’s outstanding balance. Let us understand this using a simple example.

Suppose you have a credit card that offers air miles on all your spends and you have earned 10,000 Airmiles so far with every air mile equivalent to Re. 1. Now, if you want to book a flight worth Rs. 30,000, you can use these Airmiles and pay rest of the amount in cash. This is how you will be able to book a flight worth Rs. 30k with Rs. 20k only. Similarly, you can use Reward Points against other categories as well, such as shopping, dining, etc.

Do’s and Don’ts While Using a Travel Credit Card

It is never a good idea to go with a card without knowing how you can use it for maximum benefits and whether it will be worth it or not. Here are some important do’s and don’ts that you should keep in mind while using a travel card:

Do’s

  • Make sure to understand your travel requirements before you choose a travel credit card for yourself.
  • If you have complimentary lounge access with your credit card, you should register it as soon as you receive your card or at least understand the process so that you don’t face any difficulties at the last minute.
  • Redeem your reward points/Airmiles against a category that gives you the maximum conversion value.

Don’ts

  • Never let your rewards/air miles expire without redeeming them for your benefit. You should be aware of the validity of your card’s reward points and redeem them before the expiry date.
  • Don’t delay or miss your credit card bill payments, as the additional charges, such as interest and late payment fees, might be even more than the benefits that your card offers.
  • Before making any large purchases, check if you can use your rewards to get some vouchers that will reduce your overall spending.

Why Apply for a Travel Credit Card?

Travel credit cards are very advantageous for frequent travelers, but at the same time, you should also keep the fact in mind that these cards generally come with a higher annual fee. So, you should not just go with a travel credit card randomly, but get it only if you are someone who has all the following requirements:

  • You travel domestically as well as internationally very often. However, basic cards are always good even if you travel only once or twice every year, but don’t get a super-premium card with a high annual fee in that case.
  • You don’t want to compromise on your luxuries even when you are traveling. One of the biggest reasons travel cards have a high annual fee is that they offer complimentary lounge access and many more exclusive privileges, such as deals and discounts on flights and premium hotel bookings.
  • You are a responsible credit card user. If you are not responsible enough to use a credit card, you won’t be able to maximize the benefits of a travel credit card and you will just end up paying a high annual fee without any benefits.

How to Apply for Travel Credit Cards in India?

The application process for a travel credit card, just like any other credit card, is usually very simple. You can apply for travel credit cards through Card Insider-

  • Visit the review page of the credit card you want to apply for on Card Insider.
  • Click/tap on the “Apply Now” option.
  • You will be redirected to the official credit card page on the card issuer’s website.
  • You can now proceed with the application on the card issuer’s website by entering the requested details in the designated fields.
  • Once you have successfully submitted your credit card application, the card issuer will evaluate it to determine your eligibility for the card you applied for.
  • If you are eligible for the card, the card issuer will mail it to our address, usually within 15 days of your application submission.

Best Credit Cards with No or Less Foreign Currency Mark-up Fee

Almost all credit cards charge a mark-up fee on foreign currency transactions. The usual mark-up fee is 3.5% of the conversion amount. However, some premium and mid-range travel credit cards have a foreign currency mark-up fee that is either zero or very low. Some of such travel credit cards are RBL Bank World Safari Credit Card, Club Vistara IndusInd Bank Explorer Credit Card, and IndiGo 6E Reward XL HDFC Bank Credit Card.

It is worth noting that some other premium credit cards, in addition to these travel-specific credit cards, offer a lower foreign currency markup. For example, the foreign currency markup fee charged on HDFC Infinia and Diners Club Black Metal Credit Cards is also less than 2%.

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are various credit card sub-categories within the travel category, which are targeted towards specific customer niches. For example, if you’re a frequent domestic flyer, a co-branded credit card by IndiGo or Vistara would make more sense for you than an Emirates of Etihad credit card. Similarly, if you prefer trains over flights, IRCTC cards will best suit your needs. Therefore, it becomes important to choose the right travel credit card considering your travel needs.

FAQs:

Travel credit cards usually offer a higher reward rate (be it reward points or cashback) on travel-related spends (flight/hotel bookings). Most travel credit cards also offer additional benefits like concierge service, complimentary airport lounge access, etc. Some premium travel credit cards also offer vouchers and coupons from famous hotel and resort chains. Co-branded travel credit cards offer special benefits to partner airlines/portals.
If you’re a domestic frequent flyer, you may consider the following credit cards 6E Rewards XL - IndiGo HDFC Bank Credit Card and IRCTC Credit Cards by SBI.
Most premium travel credit cards offer great benefits on international travel-related spending and also provide other benefits like overseas accidental insurance coverage and 24x7 concierge service to cardmembers. Some such travel credit cards are Etihad Guest SBI Premier Card and American Express Platinum Travel Credit Card.
Currently, SBI Card is one of the few card issuers that offers travel credit in collaboration with IRCTC. Two IRCTC co-branded credit cards are currently being offered: IRCTC SBI Card Premier, and IRCTC Rupay SBI Credit Card.
Priority Pass is the largest independent airport lounge program. Many card issuers offer complimentary Priority Pass membership to their card members. In some cases, you also get complimentary lounge visits under the Priority Pass membership (usually with premium travel cards).
Many premium travel credit cards offer complimentary airport concierge service to cardholders. The concierge not only helps you plan your journey and provides travel-related assistance, but you also get some additional benefits like priority fastrack check-in, and priority handling of the check-in luggage, etc. with the airport concierge service.
There is no fixed credit score required for a travel credit card, but you should have a score above 750 for basic travel credit cards and an excellent score (above 800) for premium cards like Diners Club Black.
Yes, paying an annual fee for a travel credit card is totally worth it for those who know how to use a card wisely to maximize its benefits. These cards allow you to save a lot if you travel frequently.
Various travel credit cards offer travel insurance coverage, such as coverage against lost tickets, lost/delayed baggage, canceled/delayed flights, etc. Different card issuers can have different policies related to travel insurance, and you can learn about the same by contacting your credit card customer care. If you claim your insurance successfully, you will get a refund in any of the above-mentioned cases.

3 Comments

  1. Nikhil Reply

    You must use Club Vistara IDFC First Credit Card if your rent is above Rs. 23,000 per month. You can get 3 Premium Economy Tickets easily + 8,000 CV Points (equivalent to 2 Economy Tickets or 1 Premium Economy Ticket).
    That’s a total of 4 Premium Economy Tickets worth Rs. 30,000! (Assume 7500 per ticket)
    That’s an effective return of approx. 10%

  2. Jyoti Reply

    Hello I am using Axis Ace card and Samsung Infinite Credit card want Visara Infinite Credit Card I called customer care to upgrade to Vistara infinite card they said not eligible for Vistara Infinite Credit card, but I want this card so please let me know how can I own this card.

    • Kartik Kanwar Reply

      Rather than apply for the Infinite variant, you can try applying for the Vistara Signature or Platinum ones. Although with the Air India and Vistara merger, it’s best to wait.

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