For long, I’ve been an active user of credit cards. I got my first credit card way back in 2006. However, my usage was sporadic and predominantly for international travel. Until a couple of years back, when I figured credit cards are a great tool to unlock a bundle of rewards. I’ve been using them for the last couple of years to pay for my annual vacations. A lot of my friends keep asking me – how does this work? Is scoring annual vacations for free using credit cards in India really possible? To put together how I scored my annual vacation this year in Leh for free, I thought I’d put together a post.
- Step 1: The first step is to really understand your monthly spending pattern.
- Step 2: Once you’ve figured that out, you need to go ahead and map it to the right credit cards available in the market.
- Step 3: Have a clear Credit Card Usage Strategy across the year
- Step 4: Score points by using the right card at the right merchants on a regular basis
- Step 5: Score that vacation! 🙂
Let me start out my disclosing my Annual Credit Card Strategy for last year: April 2017 to March 2018. My credit card strategy was to use only two credit cards for all my spends across the year. These cards included:
For this particular vacation though, I relied on only one credit card – which is the HDFC Diners Black Credit Card – and I’ll restrict my post to this card today. I’ll blog about the Axis Vistara Infinite Credit Card in a few days from now outlining why it made sense for me and the benefits I scored.
HDFC Bank Diners Black Credit Card
This is a great card for those who:
- Travel extensively
- Shop often online
- Have an array of international transactions month on month
Here’s how the benefits of the card stack up:
- Free Lounge Access Globally: The card comes with free unlimited domestic and international lounge access across the world.
- Gives you 33% Flat Cashback on specific online platforms on every transaction you make: I’m not kidding. For the below listed platforms, for any and every transaction you make, the card gives you a flat 33% cashback upto a maximum of 25,000 INR cash back per month. I’ve stacked them into primarily 4 categories:
- Flat 33% Cashback on HDFC Smart Buy Partners upto a maximum of 25,000 INR cash back per month which include:
- Flat 33% Cashback on All International Transactions: upto a maximum of 10,000 INR cash back per month.
- Other Benefits: A ton of other benefits including a fab golf program that are listed here.
Annual Fee: This card comes with an annual fee of INR 10,000 per year.
How to get the Annual Fee Waived Off on the HDFC Bank Diners Black Credit Card:
- If you’re an active customer with HDFC Bank for a few years, often the annual charges are automatically waived off.
- The gentleman who pitched the card to me requested me to put my Airtel Mobile Bill for automatic payment via the credit card every month and requested me to apply for an add on card on my wife’s name. He said if I opt in for the above two conditions, he’ll get the annual fee waived off. I totally opted in for it as it made sense to me.
Now that I’d got my credit card – which is the HDFC Diners Black, I began to put a structure to my spending habits month on month. I figured the below is what I spend on a regular basis month on month and basis that, the table below also outlines the amount of cash back I’ll score month on month.
Like you can see on the above table, I noticed that if I were spending 34,000 INR per month, and if I spent that money at the merchants that HDFC Bank was promoting – like shop often from Flipkart and not Amazon, travel by Uber instead of Ola, book flight tickets / bus tickets via RedBus and Cleartrip instead of Makemytrip, it would get me a fabulous cash back of flat 33% month on month – which meant that I would make at-least 1,20,000 INR in cash back in one year. On every other transaction, HDFC Bank Diners Black Credit Card gives you a flat cash back of 3.3% – which again keeps getting added to your cashback total.
I ended up spending a little more than the above mentioned amounts on my HDFC Bank Diners Black Credit Card last month and therefore had more than 1,20,000 INR in points. The best part of the HDFC Bank Diners Black Credit Card is that it 1 point = 1 rupee. When planning our annual vacation, my wife wanted to head to Leh as she’d never been there. I’d last been there on a trip back in 2010 and couldn’t wait to get back there too. So in December 2017 last year, I begun planning for my annual vacation this year – in April 2018.
The Annual Vacation – Bangalore to Leh to Delhi to Bangalore
I was able to book return flight tickets on Jet Airways for my wife and me from Bangalore to Leh and back – with a stop in Delhi for a couple of days for 24,000 INR all inclusive. I waned to ensure that we stayed at one of the best properties in Leh – so we ended up picking the best place in Leh per my knowledge – The Grand Dragon Ladakh.
After wrapping up Leh, we headed to Delhi to spend a couple of days there – stayed at the Luxurious The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel, indulged in some shopping and of-course, sampled the incredible food that Delhi has to offer.
As you can see, the staff at Leela Ambiance Convention Hotel, Delhi were quick to realise Saniya and me were celebrating our wedding anniversary and they surprised us with a celebration in our room upon arrival.
What made this entire trip special was the fact that the entire trip, our flight tickets from Bangalore to Delhi to Leh to Delhi to Bangalore and back, our accommodation at The Grand Dragon Ladakh and our accommodation at The Leela Ambiance Convention Hotel, Delhi was completely paid for by the points I earned on the HDFC Bank Diners Black Credit Card.
So there you have it – it is no myth that your credit card can pay for your annual vacation. So long as you have a planned credit card spend strategy for the year, so long as you’ve mapped it to the credit card you’ve chosen based on your strategy and the rewards it unlocks, so long as you’re disciplined in spending at the right merchant to get you the right deal, its incredibly simple how amazing things can happen. Question to you then, where are you planning to head to your your next annual vacation? And whats your credit card miles earning / point acquisition strategy? Whats your favorite Credit Card Program? Would love hear from you! 🙂