Guide to Credit Cards and Loyalty in India.

Update [1 June 2021]: Get a Taj voucher worth ₹10k when you spend ₹5 lakhs in a year. Only applicable on payment of the annual fee.

I'm writing this review after using it for a good one year, my spending pattern on this card range from 50,000 to 70,000 a month. This review is not necessarily specific to people with similar spending behaviour.

Application Process:

One Point Rating

This topic is not covered by most reviewers, but I consider it an essential part of the service provided by the institute.

Compared to the service you get in the US, American Express in India lags miles behind (maybe because India being a high credit risk country). It took me more than one month and countless email exchanges to get the application processed.

Even after providing all the relevant documents and income proof American Express took ages to process the application and ship the card.

#TipThatWorks: Tweet about your negative experience and they will escalate your case. Helped me when I applied for a second card from American Express.

Welcome Gift:

Three Points Rating

As a welcome bonus, you get 11,000 reward points which is not much if you try to use it as a statement credit. Here I'm listing out a few ways that can help you maximise the point value for you.

First, I'd highly recommend applying for two supplementary cards which would give you an additional 5,000 reward points per approval. After two successful approvals, you'll get a total of 21,000 reward points.

Here's what 21,000 Membership Reward points can get you:

  1. Club it with an American Express Gold Charge Card (First-year fee ₹1,000 and 4,000 Bonus points) and get a statement credit worth ₹10,000.
  2. Transfer points to your Marriott Bonvoy account with a 1:1 ratio, and get up to 3 nights at Marriott properties in India or abroad, you may check the redemption list here.

The card offers a Taj voucher worth ₹10,000 on renewal to those who spends more than ₹500,000 over a year. This benefit is not applicable for those who get an annual fee waiver.

Rewards on Spend:

Two Points Rating

Earn 1 Membership Rewards Point for every ₹50 spent except for expenses made on fuel, insurance, utilities, and cash transactions.

Discontinued: Also, you earn 5X Membership Rewards points on booking domestic flights and 15X Membership Rewards points on prepaid domestic and international hotel bookings on American Express Domestic Travel website.

Now say you're planning a trip for your family with a budget of  ₹150,000:

  • Hotel Booking: ₹75,000 spend on American Express Travel website gives you 1,500 points.
  • Flight Booking: ₹50,000 spend on American Express Travel website gives you 1,000 points.

You may then convert these MR Points into miles for any of the partner airlines. One MR Point is equivalent to two air miles.

Amex partner airlines
Some of the partner airlines where you can transfer your Membership Reward points.

Or you may convert them into hotel points. Given that there are a limited number of Hilton Properties in India, I usually go with Marriott Bonvoy.

American Express partner hotel programs
Partner hotel chains where you can transfer your Membership Reward points.

Overall, I'm not a fan of the earning rate provided by any of the American Express cards. The HDFC Diner Black card is the real star in this category (will write a review shortly).

On-going Benefits:

Three Points Rating

The platinum reserve card comes with a decent selection of perks that can help you save time and money. I'll go through the list one at a time and will share some tips on how you can get the most out of those benefits.

Taj Epicure

This membership alone is worth ₹13,500 + taxes. Here are some of the perks you get with it:

Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai
Dining at Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai 

50% as Epicure Points on the first three transactions at any of the restaurants. I'd suggest you to use it for big gatherings or birthday parties to maximise the return. Because of these transactions, I've never paid for any in-room dining over the last year (~10 stays).

Two room upgrade vouchers that are applicable for a maximum of 5 nights. From my experience, I've noticed that the Taj properties here in India would make up excuses to avoid upgrades (sometimes I keep a booking tab open just to prove that there are rooms available in higher categories). Make sure you go for a room category that's either directly below Club Room (free cocktail hours, breakfast, and all day snacks) or Suite (better furnishings and more space).

Happy hours (1+1) on drinks between 6pm-8pm every day at all bars, plus an additional 25% as Epicure points.

Look out for special discounts at My Account > Epicure > Epicure Vouchers. Usually there are restaurants that give out a minimum of 25% discount.

Taj Epicure Membership Review.
Being a Taj Epicure member from the past two years here’s my attempt to analyze its benefits and tips to help you maximize the value.

Lounge Access

The Platinum Reserve falls short in this category, they do provide you with a complimentary priority pass membership, but you'll have to pay for each visit ($27 per person). Even my SBI Elite card offers me 6 complimentary Lounge visits per year.

You do however get free access to the domestic lounge, but that's something which is offered by every debit or credit card I can think of.

Healthcare Benefits

Though I've never used this service, the Terms and Conditions state you get up to 30% discount on checkups and OPD at Max Hospital and Fortis Hospital. Ideally, I'd suggest you go for good health insurance instead of relying on something like this.

It does, however, provide you a 30% discount on preventive healthcare packages which gives you a head to toe screening.

Golf Benefits

Not sure how many people actually make use of this benefit, but there's a decent selection of course across different cities in India. You get green-fee (ranging from ₹1000 to ₹5000) waiver 4 times a month, this makes up for a lot if you're a serious player. For those who are interested in learning the sport, you can avail the discounted golf lessons.

All the bookings have to be made through their concierge service about 4 to 10 days in advance. The service is provided by a third party called GolfTripz, it also lets you rent the equipment if required.

Concierge Service

From my personal experience, I find it the most timesaving and useful feature of this card. I'm not sure how it holds up against the Platinum Charge 'do anything concierge' or if it's different at all. Over the year, I've called them countless times to do random things. So, far they've not failed me.

I used it the first time when I was in a different city, and I wanted to deliver a bottle of wine for my friend's birthday when all the liquor stores were closed. The concierge assistant not only sourced a nice bottle of wine from god knows where but also delivered it to my friend's place on time with a personal birthday message (he even helped me write it, GUILTY!)

Here are some of the not so usual things that you can make them do:

  • Plan a get-together with your friends or family, let them take care of all the booking and invitations.
  • Stop spending time on all those multi-city work trips, let them handle it for you.
    Sourcing rare items (remember those limited edition sneakers you missed out on) from stores across the world.

I'd love to hear concierge stories, please do post them in comments below.

Final Words:

Two Points Rating

Deciding if you should go for American Express Platinum Reserve card depends on your lifestyle and your spend pattern. Though you should be able to get a renewal fee waiver on the Platinum Reserve card without any trouble, but other than the Epicure Plus membership and the Concierge service this card doesn't offer much.

Given that this card has a very weak reward earning rate if you're somebody who doesn't prefer to stay at Taj properties, visit their restaurants, or play Golf, this is not the card for you.

Disclaimer: Rights to the assets used in this article are owned by the respective companies. BrownPoints doesn't claim ownership of any of those assets and only uses them for demonstration purposes.

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