IRCTC HDFC Bank Credit Card: Should You Own One?

HDFC Bank LogoI was trying to book a train ticket on the IRCTC website and found the ad for IRCTC HDFC Bank Credit card. In this post, let’s find out more about the card. Benefits, rewards, and caveats.

In the past, I have written about IRCTC Bank of Baroda Rupay Credit card. Obviously, IRCTC is a monopoly and a high transaction volume merchant. Most banks would want to tie-up with the company for co-branded cards.

IRCTC HDFC Bank Credit Card: Benefit and Important Features

  • 5% reward points for every Rs 100 spent on IRCTC ticketing website and Rail Connect app. No rewards points for booking on partner apps such as Paytm and MakeMyTrip.
  • 5% cashback + 5% as reward points for train ticket bookings through HDFC Bank Smart Buy App.
  • 1 Reward point for every Rs 100 spent on any other transaction.
  • 1% transaction charge waiver for transactions done on IRCTC website and Rail Connect app. For regular cards, the transaction charge works in a slightly strange way. While making the payment, you do not see the transaction charge added to the payment amount. Even the OTP SMS and transaction SMS and email quote the amount before the transaction charge. However, in the card statement, the transaction amount will include the transaction charge. Note that the transaction amount is different from convenience fee which is a nominal charge and not a percentage-based charge.
  • 8 Complimentary access to select IRCTC Executive Lounges every year (2 per quarter).

1 Reward Point = Re. 1

Given this is a co-branded card, the offering does not look so bad. Even for more popular cards such as Amazon Pay ICICI credit card and Flipkart Axis Bank credit card, you get 5% cashback on the respective retailers and 1% cashback on everything else.

IRCTC HDFC Bank Credit Card: Eligibility and Fees

  • Age between 21 years and 60 years
  • Gross monthly income > 25,000 if you are salaried
  • Annual income > Rs 6 lacs if self-employed
  • Joining and Annual Renewal Fee: Rs 500. Renewal fee to be waived off if you spend more than Rs 1.5 lacs in the previous year

You Do Not Earn Any Reward Points On

  • Fuel Spends
  • Wallet loads/Gift card or prepaid card loading/Voucher purchase
  • Government related transactions
  • Education (this can be quite wide. Unclear what this refers to)
  • Smart EMI/Dial an EMI transaction (When you convert your purchases into EMI after purchase)
  • Rental transactions
  • Interest amount of merchant EMI (when the merchant allows to buy on EMI using your credit card)

Last point is interesting since you earn reward points on the principal amount. Many cards just don’t offer any cashback or rewards on EMI purchases. At least Amazon Pay ICICI Card and Flipkart Axis credit card don’t.

Where Can You Use These Reward Points?

While the reward point accrual scheme looks fine, you can use these reward points only for booking train tickets. That too only on HDFC Bank Smart Buy app. Not even on IRCTC website or IRCTC Rail Connect app.

If you are a frequent train traveller, you may not mind it.  If you don’t travel by train frequently, you won’t find this attractive. At the same time, why would you even consider this card if you were not a frequent train traveller?

IRCTC HDFC Bank Credit Card: What Are the Caveats?

  • 5% cashback applicable on train ticket bookings via HDFC Bank Smart Buy app is capped at Rs 1,000 per month or Rs 12,000 per annum. Hence, the cashback per month will be capped at Rs 20,000 of train ticket purchases. While this is not too limiting, you must be aware of this cap.
  • You need a minimum of 100 reward points to redeem.
  • Expiry date: These reward points come with an expiry date. Will expire 2 years from the date of earning.
  • Redemption charges: For each redemption transaction (of reward points), HDFC Bank charges Rs 99 + GST. That is a dampener. Honestly, when I see nonsense such as this, I can sense that the bank is trying to be clever. Why should there be a redemption charge?
  • You cannot use the reward points to pay for more than 70% of the fare ticket.
  • The terms and conditions explicitly state: “SmartBuy cashback offers are dynamic and may change in future on the discretion of HDFC Bank.”  Hence, 5% cashback can vanish any time.

Comparing ‘IRCTC BoB Card’ with ‘IRCTC HDFC Credit Card’

The benefits seem better with the BOB card but there are more restrictions in that card.

For instance, you get 40 rewards points for every Rs 100 spent on IRCTC. However, 4 reward points = 1 IRCTC Travel point = Re. 1. Hence, you get Rs 10 for every Rs 100 spent. With the HDFC card, you get 5% as reward points (essentially Rs 5 for every 100 spent since 1 Reward point = Re 1).

But the reward points on the BoB card are capped at 1000 per month (which is equivalent to Rs 250). And that the card holder must be travelling on the booked ticket.

While the HDFC IRCTC card also has a monthly cap (1000 reward points = Rs 1,000), the cap is higher, and it seems there is no requirement that the card holder must travel on the booked ticket.

At the same time, the charge for redeeming reward points under IRCTC HDFC Bank credit card does not sit well with me.

Should You Apply for IRCTC HDFC Bank Credit Card?

I do not believe in holding 10s of credit cards. Hence, you should not add credit cards just to maximize rewards and cashbacks.

With that premise, you must see if you travel by train enough to justify adding a new credit card to your wallet. Do you spend as much on rail ticket bookings as you do on Amazon and Flipkart? For most people, the answer will be in the negative. However, if you do travel a lot by train, IRCTC HDFC Bank Credit card seems to be a decent product.

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