Most cards are marketed for a specific purpose. In real life, most people do not carry one specialised card for each type of purchase.
We set out to rank cards taking into account their primary use combined with use for other life expenses. The best cards irrespective of category, should be those you use frequently and for different types of spends.
We classified the cards into eight categories based on the primary benefit they offered. Cards that we believe are reasonably balanced in their rewards design, we called General-Purpose, our biggest category.
We reviewed over 160 cards offered by 10 issuers to arrive at our final recommendations of best credit cards by category.
Number of cards in our analysis
|Card Category||# of Cards|
Most banks also have a category called Co-branded. We did not include them as a separate category because you probably signed up for the card because of what it offers, not what logo was on it. We classified them based on their associated benefits.
We excluded ‘Business’, ‘Corporate’ and Specialty cards here given their limited application.
Spend Profiles: How we spend
You are right to pick a travel rewards card if you well, travel a lot. But that's not all you will use your card for. Most cards promise rewards for non-category spends as well. Some do it better than others.
Instead of only evaluating the stated category spend for each card, we developed “spend profiles” of how much the average person might spend across multiple categories.
We assumed higher consumption in the stated category.
For example, while the typical person probably takes 4 domestic flights a year, the travel-heavy customer might take 8 flights a year. The typical person might eat out four times a month, the dining-profile eats out double that.
Note that the objective was not to be pin-point accurate on how much people spend, but to create relative differences across profiles. If your dining rewards category card does not deliver superior benefits inspite of you eating out twice as often as the general-profile, then that card does not deserve it's space in your wallet.
The table below shows the differences between the various spend profiles:
|Annual Spend Habits||General||Travel||Cashback||Dining||Entertainment||Fuel||Shopping||Lifestyle|
|Domestic Flights #||4||8||2||4||4||4||4||20|
|Int'l Flights #||1||2||0||1||1||1||1||6|
|Hotel Nights #||10||20||5||10||10||10||10||20|
For a card to be considered the best in its category, it has to offer more value than other competing cards in its category. But it also has to stack up reasonably well in the overall comparison.
What is "Value delivered"?
Card A has a ₹ 499 joining and renewal fee, offers 5,000 points as joining bonus, and gives 2 points for every ₹ 100 spent.
Card B has a ₹ 999 joining fee, costs ₹ 499 to renew, offers vouchers worth ₹ 500 as joining bonus, gives 5 points for every ₹ 150 spend, except for purchases made in x,y,z stores, where you get a whopping 10 points for every ₹ 150 spent.
Which is the better card?
Most benefits are not directly comparable across cards. Miles and Points are after all, made up units of currency whose value varies depending on what you can actually buy for them.
So we first translated every cards points system into a rupee value per unit of spend by category. We then looked at how accessible the benefits are. Joining benefits, on-going spend rewards program, and Additional benefits.
For example, a voucher for a hotel stay at a luxurious property sounds great. However, if that is for one specific property, and is only usable on weekdays in September, then maybe it's not so great. Sure, the voucher has value, but is not easily accessible, and will probably go unused for most users.
On the other hand, a discount voucher for spend on a popular travel portal with no restrictions and applicable over and above any existing discounts has high accessibility.
We adjust the value of the benefits based on accessibility. In the above example, both hotel vouchers might be worth Rs 10,000 on paper but in our calculation of value, the first voucher gets discounted to a significantly lower value, while the online voucher retains all of its value.
Value Delivered over 3 years = Adjusted Benefits (Joining + On-going + Additional) - Costs (Joining + Renewal - Fee waivers on reaching spend threshold)
Why three years.
We considered three years as timeframe of usage over which the costs and benefits apply. Our rationale is most people do not change cards frequently, but since new and better products are constantly being launched, a card needs to demonstrate it’s value over a short period of time to stay relevant and earn its place in your wallet.
Did we get something wrong?
We've made every effort to make sure we get the details right. But mistakes will happen. Let us know if you think we've got any details wrong about the cards featured. Even better if you can show us with a screenshot or two or point us to the right link. What's in it for you? 100,000 kaunsa reward points. Ok that's a joke.