How HDFC Bank Credit Cards Eating the Competition for Lunch

By | November 20, 2018

Disclaimer: All views mentioned below are from my personal experience and the numbers/ facts/experience many not be same for everyone.

HDFC Bank is the largest issuer of credit cards in India with market share >25% and has over 10 million credit cards out of ~40 million credit cards in the country, as of late 2018. They not only adding the numbers but also quality customers those who spend well on credit cards.

Looking into the numbers, its nearest competitor SBICard & ICICI Bank is almost half its size and nowhere near to HDFC. HDFC Bank has been unstoppable with aggressive offers and acquisition when it comes to credit card business and that cannot be overnight success.

So what HDFC is doing different that other banks fail to? Let’s see that one by one with a little bit of comparison.

Evergreen Products

While every other credit card issuer in the country is coming up with new cards now & then, HDFC has built a solid set of credit card products for everyone ranging from beginners, premium & super premium. They even have professional cards for doctors & teachers. This means, they’re targeting everyone!

Their cards are super popular that the cardholders remember the name of the card than just the colour. For example, when i was at VW service center in a tier 2 city, someone was speaking about the Chennai airport lounge access benefit that he accessed using his Regalia Credit card.

What others are doing?

  • SBI Card is yet to have a Super premium Credit Card
  • ICICI has Premium/Super Premium credit cards that are ~50% less rewarding compared to HDFC, even after their recent attempt to change it. (Please Wake Up ICICI!)
  • Axis is yet to get attractive on their Premium/Super Premium credit cards. They’re great with co-branded cards though.

Amazing Reward Points System

We all know that the business of credit card reward points & Airline miles exist because a lot of us don’t really use them. That being said, at-least HDFC bank credit cards are highly rewarding for those who actually redeem.

Their Premium & Super Premium credit cards are one of the best even after 5+ years since its launch. Its shocking to see that the competition is not even trying to copy what works for HDFC.

What others are doing?

  • Axis is busy spending their marketing budget “promoting” their rewards system that don’t really reward.
  • ICICI’s Payback rewards is probably one of the worst rewarding.
  • SBI is doing great in this part with cash credit option, yet their reward rate on premium cards could get better.

Jaw Dropping Offers

Just incase if you were aware of Flipkart Big Billion Day, you might have also noticed that HDFC credit cards gave 10% instant discount on top of other other BBD offers.

Not just that, they were also giving out 10X points with select partners. For Diwali, their Happy Hours promotion gave 10X points on all apparel & electronics purchase between 5Pm-9Pm.

If you were holding premium & super premium credit cards from HDFC bank, this is a huge saving & offers by other banks were nowhere near to HDFC.

What others are doing?

  • ICICI is good at spamming on emails with not so great offers but keep the good ones hidden(!)
  • Axis, well i never know if they ever exist when it comes to offers.
  • SBI has decent offers, but could get better.

Tech Infra & AI

Their Artificial Intelligence does the work fairly well in various scenarios. Recently, when i did a payment for a mobile bill, i noticed that they simultaneously sent me an email to use their auto bill pay facility.

Their promo emailers are one of the best and i “always” open them. They make sure to send relevant & good offers with less catch unlike most other credit card issuers.

Tech Infrastructure & AI are their big plus.

Art of Cross Selling

While most credit card issuers are attempting to make money with their joining/annual fees & transaction charges, HDFC is doing it by mastering the art of cross selling. I personally knew over 10 HDFC bank cardholders and more than 70% of them had availed their loan products atleast once, if not more.

Other banks too have these loan products, but the ease of availing them & transparency makes a big difference. That brings me to the next point.

Instant Everything

HDFC Bank is one of the first to implement instant loans on credit cards. If you need cash, all you need to do is few clicks and boom, you get the money in your savings account in ~10 seconds.

The competition is getting better at loans in recent times, yet they aren’t promoting them the way HDFC does. For ex, I’ve a instant loan available on my ICICI credit card with a grand # but they never even emailed me about it, even once.

Great Team

Despite the fact that significant # of HDFC employees moved to Yesbank to create Yesbank’s Credit card portfolio, its good to see that HDFC still remains focused and aggressive, infact even better lately.

That also means Yesbank is not far away to get into the top #5 positions in near future.

Well, that means HDFC still has great minds at work under great leadership.

The Downside

Even-though all the above sounds so good, two areas where i feel the bank could do better are in the fulfilment of bonus points on promos & customer support quality. Except the Super Premium card support, the typical HDFC support for credit cards is very poor in my past experience.

Fixing these would make them world class, which would fear the premium card issuers like American Express to a certain extent, though their way of handing the business is totally different.

Bottomline

Despite seeing HDFC’s huge growth in the segment, its surprising to see the competitors are not waking up with promising products to compete with HDFC. While SBI Card is trying to give a healthy competition to HDFC with its new SBI Prime Card, they still need to work out on Super Premium card segment.

What’s your take on HDFC Credit Cards? Will they remain the #1 issuer in the country or, will they see a healthy competition from any? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Author: Siddharth

A Credit Card freak minting reward points and cashback for years, started adding Airmiles in recent times. Obsessed with aviation, airport lounges and luxury travel at affordable cost.

52 thoughts on “How HDFC Bank Credit Cards Eating the Competition for Lunch

  1. Ashutosh

    I dont have a blog like yours, but whenever someone asks me for advise I usually tell them to have just 4 cards. 2 from HDFC and 2 from Citibank. Diners Black, Jet Signature from HDFC – this takes care of lounges, whooping rewards, air miles, low joining fees, online offers etc. Prestige and Premier Miles from Citibank which takes care of good online offers, luxury stays, great cash backs, lounges and international presence. Nothing else required. I have held Axis, SBI, Amex and StanChart and all are useless. Yes, including Amex (none of the cards worth the fees). Axis’s Vistara is nice and StanChart’s Ultimate is good but thats about it.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      Yes, am aware that each reader is an influencer themselves in their circle, like you 🙂

      2 from HDFC and 2 from Citibank is a good perspective indeed!

      Reply
      1. Nipun

        Sir,

        But HDFC dont give 2 cards to same person, they only allow 1 card per user.

        Reply
  2. Aayush Chawla

    Is it just me or do others also not find the HDFC rewards site that intuitive? I have always found it easier to check and redeem my points on SBI and AMEX easier. That’s one of the main reasons I prefer AMEX and SBI over HDFC here.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      There is a learning curve with HDFC points redemption, Yes!

      Reply
    2. Prithvi

      That website is pathetic, I hate it. That’s one thing they need to revamp.

      Reply
    3. Suresh

      I differ. While Amex reward points redemption need to wait 24-48 hours for redeeming against air tickets, HDFC is like across the counter. The Amex’s value of points too are equal to HDFC. However, the transparency of points gathered is far superior in Amex

      Reply
  3. Sourav

    Nice Post Siddharth. I feel Yes Bank cards are better than those of SBI, ICICI,Axis. I am using Hdfc Diners Black and Yes First Preferred. Yes comes up with good offers every now and then and tries to match with HDFC.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      YES cards are good. But i didn’t use it much for comparison here as they’re not in top spots for now.

      Reply
      1. Nipun

        I feel Yes is too bearish to allow limits to the card holders. They gave me a limit of 10% of there peers against the application…. All my approach and escalations are in vain, waiting for 6 months review hope they can realize my buying power.

        Reply
        1. Siddharth Post author

          Small bank. Huge applications. They can’t risk all of them by giving them high credit line, especially when their NPA is growing in other verticals. But i think you should be able to climb the ladder on good usage.

          Reply
        2. Rohit

          Same happen here
          Got only 5% credit limit on the basis of SBI prime card , If Yes Bank denied CC application it s ok , but they have issue Yes First Preferred with this much low limits , Many people complaining of not getting proper credit limit , many got as low as 30K only , this is not good time to apply for Yes cc, before 1 year at least they provided half of credit limit of exiting card now they are issuing high end card with such low low limits that to with priority pass
          My credit score was more than 840 when I applied yesfirst cc (yes thats why I am not canceling this card to mail good credit score)

          Reply
        3. Ramesh Kumar

          Based on my experience, they’re providing automatic CL after 1 year completion. They have offered automatic CL twice each by 25%(totally 50% within 2 weeks of completing 1 year) on YFE, but still it’s CL very low compared to other bank cards.

          Reply
  4. Samarjit

    Probably I’m the only one who doesn’t find the HDFC reward program less attractive compared to SBI & Yes. For lower cards like SBI SimplyClick or Yes First Preferred, the reward ration is 1-2/2.5% but don’t find any similar card in HDFC with same benefit (when redeemed for online vouchers).

    Reply
  5. Guna

    Thanks Siddharth. Made a whopping 50k points with black dinners within one month of card issue… Diwali time…

    Flight tickets reserved through smartbuy doesnot offer insurance…. From Cleartrip, Yatra no body knows to customer care .. any enlightenment

    While I used to pay my SBI credit card dues with SBI debit card, from BillDesk of SBI cards, I used to get loyalty points from SBI rewards as well, though small yet it offers value for money you pay to the credit cards..

    Is there any such provisions for paying HDFC credit card dues using any debit card… Pl share…

    Reply
    1. Amex Guy

      That is pretty cool about SBI debit cards. I pay my Amex dues using Citi debit card and they don’t give me rewards for that.

      Reply
  6. Upendran

    HDFC cards run monthly activation campaigns and I got a few Bigbasket vouchers for the last 3 months (2-3 vouchers of Rs 250 each). Also for redemption they provide Reliance Prepaid cards – these are valid across grocery, trends and jewellery and valid for a year. Downside the 5X and 10X promos have a higher limit of 1000 / 2000 points.

    Reply
  7. Prashant Gupta

    Excellently put….HDFC has been killer with offers. Good range of cards. No one can match the points earning rate of HDFC. Yes has lot to catch up. Stan C ultimate is already becoming popular with us due to strange policies of yes bank not upgrading to exclusive and pathetic customer care.

    The only thing HDFC needs to improve is customer care except for super premium card which is good and responsive.

    Reply
    1. Siddharth Post author

      Yesbank has mixed views. One side, they upgraded too many preferred to Exclusive overnight as well.

      Reply
  8. Kiran

    I hold HDFC Diners Black and have accumulated 50000 points in just 5 months.

    Also, made an international transaction with the lowest mark up fee of 1.99%. and under global programme, I got 1% cashback.
    HDFC is the best bank and have the best credit card in India.

    Customer service is top notch. Relationship managers are also good.

    No complaints so far.

    Proud to have the HDFC as my primary Bank.

    Reply
  9. Ebin Johnson

    SBI Elite is my primary card. For any one who can spend INR 10 Lakhs – including wallet loading and insurance(HDFC has cap here), this card is really good. It gives returns of 1.75% in cash. BMS vouchers worth INR 6000 is an additional perk. 1.75% is calculated with out considering 5X categories such as dining & grocery spend. Foreign currency mark up is 1.99% for intl transactions. Reward credit to account and redemption is damn easy unlike HDFC. Dedicated website and mobile app with super cool features like spend analyser, CL enhancement check etc. I am a big fan of this card.

    Reply
    1. Rajesh

      Hey Ebin,

      I have been using SBI Simply Click. How can i upgrade to Elite? Eligibility criteria?

      Reply
      1. Ebin Johnson

        Please call customer care. If you have good spends history, they may approve.

        Reply
  10. Shrey

    SBI Elite can be considered as a super premium card in true sense because the reward points they offer can be redeemed against cash transaction that is a lot better than HDFC wherein redemption is only against travel vouchers.
    Also, they offer bonus 10,000 points on milestones club them with free monthly bookmyshow voucher i think it has pretty good value to be considered as a super premium card.
    PS. i have DCB and YFE as well.

    Reply
  11. Captain Bishuddha Bharatiya

    I think SBI Prime is a premium card for the mass population and is also very easy get hands on. Anyone can get more than 7 % value back if spends are done with proper planning. I have HDFC Regalia First, ICICI Platinum, AXIS Privilege,SBI Prime, SBI FBB and Citibank First citizen credit card and out of it SBI is clearly the best card for me. I will be saving minimum of Rs. 1 lakhs through all credit cards and debit cards of mine and my family and friends. All because of Siddharth. Thanks a million times.

    Reply
      1. Captain Bishuddha Bharatiya

        AshishR yes we can get 2 SBI cards. One is regular card and other has to be a co-branded card like SBI FBB .

        Reply
  12. SM

    I have been trying to acquire premium cards and finally managed to get both INFINIA and DCB from HDFC (both LTF) with a split limit. I don’t think I will be using any other cards which I have now. HDFC is surely aggressive in selling their cards.

    Reply
  13. kabilan

    HDFC card 10 x points covered my entire dubai stay at Dubai for family.Its an amazing card and company.

    Reply
  14. vikram reddey

    new launch IndusInd Bank Nexxt Credit Card how good is this card ?
    My comment are not visible is there any problem ?

    Reply
    1. Amex Guy

      I think the Nexxt card is a disgrace to any wallet it belongs to, with a whopping 0.65% reward rate, the card comes with at least 5K joining fee.

      Also, guaranteed loneliness in life when you pay for a date with a card that has LEDs light up in it. When you desperately try to hide them, the LEDs continue to blink for 6 long minutes. Pair it with a beeping digital watch for maximum effect.

      Reply
  15. Bharanidharan

    I need help in restructuring the credit cards i have. My overall spend on credit cards is around 7 to 8 lacs a year.

    I have three credit cards and looking to reduce it to two.

    1. SCB Manhattan Credit card – Nothing innovative from SCB for a long time.
    2. SBI simply click credit card – Quite useful for my expectation. I collect close to around 10000 points every 4 months and redeem them to Rs.2500 worth Amazon vouchers (2K points for Rs. 500 coupon). So i pretty much do around Rs. 7500 worth of rewards. I also get Rs 2000 worth cleartrip vouchers twice a year (However this is really not a saving as I can get better deals on flights)
    3. Recently got myself an Amex membership rewards credit card. Have just started using it.

    HDFC regalia looks nice from a features perspective but does it make sense for me ?

    Reply
    1. Satish Kumar Agarwal

      @Bharanidharan

      Regalia is indeed a good card to have as its quite easy to get it LTF. If your ITR is more than 12 lacs you can get it directly. If less than 12 lacs you can get it via upgrading from lower variants.

      If your SCB Manhattan card limit is more than 3 lacs, you may upgrade to SCB Ultimate card which is much better rewarding.

      Reply
      1. Bharanidharan

        @Satish

        Can you help me understand the reasons for saying its good. I can see

        1. Airport lounge (Might be useful as I travel once a month either domestic or international). But I believe this is still charged at $27 for the pass each time or is it part of the Visa lounge access program.
        2. Cash back on smart buy.

        When I look at the catalogue, there are no e-vouchers from either Amazon or Flipkart. The other ones have way too high point requirements which I am not sure can be achieved.

        What is your thoughts ?

        Reply
        1. Satish Kumar Agarwal

          @ Bharanidharan

          1. Airport lounge access-i) 12 pa complementary as per Mastercard/ Visa lounge access programme for domestic lounges (please see list on website)
          ii) 6 pa complementary to international lounges via priority pass.

          2. Best use of points by booking flight or hotel.

          For detailed review please search this website.

          Reply
  16. Krupal Shah

    I feel that no other card matches with Amex Reward card , Got card free for lifetime during diwali offer period, Monthly 1000 reward points for 4 transactions of wallet recharges of 1000 Rs, return is 250 INR for 4000 INR spent… I think this is the best.

    Reply
    1. Ebin Johnson

      I agree with u. That is the best rewarding card with least spends provided u can grab it with LTF offer. AMEX also gifts u a minimum of 3000-70000 reward points every year through various promotions.

      Reply
  17. Surya

    Slightly off the topic, on November 3, I made a 3 month no-cost emi amazon purchase with HDFC (using smartbuy and during happy hours 5-9). I haven’t even received the normal 1X point. So, any idea when the points for emi transactions are added ?

    Reply
    1. Mahendra Kumar

      Hi Surya,

      EMI transactions are not eligible for 10X rewards points for Amazon website. It is applicable only for flipkart. You won’t get normal reward points too for emi transaction I guess but not sure about this

      Reply
      1. Surya

        In amazon 10X T&C, there were conflicting statements about EMI and in happy-hours T&C, it was mentioned that EMI transactions would also accrue points. But now I again looked at Regalia’s T&C and it says EasyEMI would not accrue any points. I don’t know which EMI they were talking about in happy-hour T&C then.
        I wish I would have seen that before making the emi purchase. 🙁

        Reply
  18. ravi

    Hdfc is good only for redeeming points for flight tickets through dedicated website. Here one will get more value per point. Earlier they used to offer mobile prepaid recharge, movie tickets. That’s not there anymore.

    Otherwise redeeming points for gifts from catalogue is useless even for their premium cards. Actual value of points will be less than 15paise ( considering market price of these products)

    Reply
    1. Samarjit

      That is exactly my point is, this post seems to be a promotional post rather than personal experience to me. Didn’t found a single hdfc card valuable against cash/gift voucher redemption.

      Reply
      1. Ebin Johnson

        We can’t say that. For someone who travels a lot, HDFC cards are the best, specifically the premium ones. They can get a lot of value back by redeeming miles.

        Reply
  19. balaji

    I have been a HDFC credit card holder for the past 8 years and I don’t see any worth in it. I held moneyback card only and I switched to Bharat RuPay. Even their customer care is pathetic. I had to spend a month in writing emails just to correct my mobile number for a prepaid card. May be hdfc is good for some premium cards only.

    Reply
  20. Joseph

    I hold Regalia and am loving it.
    Just as you said Sid, the recent Diwali and Flipkart offers were AWESOME!!!
    Bought a laptop from flipkart. Got Rs 5000 over and above the discounts flipkart were offering. Got 10X points on the transaction as well.
    Similarly bought a suit from Raymonds in the happy hour sale to get 10X points.
    Redeemed all the above points on flight tickets for my self, my wife and my son for Christmas vacation – for FREE.
    Am wondering how HDFC can afford to give away so many goodies.
    But me not complaining. 🙂

    Reply
  21. Amex Guy

    A point that people miss is that HDFC made a significant marketing push for the corporate salary account program. They onboard companies of any size, and the debit cards they offered on free salary accounts were much better than competition. Most banks still do not push them as hard as HDFC, especially for people new in workforce and not on management level.

    For a lot of people, HDFC becomes their first card for this very reason. It is just a very uncomfortable anomaly that HDFC is one of the last providers I got my card from. 😀

    Reply
  22. Ebin Johnson

    HDFC keeps on rejecting my applications. Not sure, why. I have 3 other cards (Elite, Amex Gold, Citi IOC). Still, if anyone asks me to suggest a card for them, I always pick the mighty Diners Club Black. Recently one of my friend got this. If I suggest AMEX MR, I will be getting 8000 MR points. Still I work for HDFC marketing Dept ( without getting paid ).

    Reply
  23. Rohit

    Agree wholeheartedly with Sid and also good to know about credit cards companies marketshare in India. Can we have another such article with more stats like companies which get most spends in total and most spends per cardholders etc?

    Also, Thanks for all your work Sid, I found about different credit cards from this website and got my life’s first credit card Diners Black, now busy collecting points with just my normal everyday transactions without much effort.

    Reply
  24. Binay

    Hi All,

    Where can i check the Rewards Points redeemed for individual transactions in HDFC Diners Black ?
    I think they have not posted RP in my account even after 3 months.
    Please help.

    Regards.

    Reply
  25. Arjun

    I love my DC Black card. I amassed around 1.5L points in just 1.5 yrs and recently redeemed 90k out of it to fund my overseas trip expenses.

    Reply
  26. Zakir

    I am holding HDFC Regalia First CC. In terms of offer HDFC Cards now-a-days offering good deals as cash back and discount.

    I hate its points redeeming process. Moreover, I came to know if someone redeems points in lieu of hotel booking and flight will get full benefit otherwise value for such redeeming comes down to 50%.

    Reply
  27. Viswanathan

    Additionally 10x rewards in HDFC cards if purchased anything through their SmartBuy website. This is apart from their 10% CB from Flipkart / Amazon sites.

    Reply

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