Guide to Credit Cards and Loyalty in India.

Update [11 October 2019]: Taj has revised the TIC rupee values (1 TIC = ₹1), and scrapped Epicure points. You'll now be earning TIC points for your dining transactions.


I've been a Taj Epicure and TIC Gold member (status match with my Shangri-La Jade tier) since the past two years. In this article, I'll try to break down the program and analyse the perks that you get with it. I hope this helps you decide if you should go for this membership.

Overview

Epicure is a dining membership offered by Taj Hotels and Resorts. It does, however, offer a lot of other benefits too. To enrol, you can either purchase it directly from Taj, or signup for a premium credit card like AmEx Platinum Charge.

Once you enrol in Epicure, you get accelerated reward earnings when you stay or dine at any of the Taj properties worldwide.

Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai
Dining area at Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai

Joining the Program

There are two approaches to join Epicure, either purchasing it directly from Taj Hotels or signing up for a Credit Card that offers complimentary Epicure membership.

Buying it From Taj (₹13,500 + Taxes)

With this method, you get a free night (Blackout dates apply: 23rd December to 15th January) at any of the Taj properties worldwide except the Palace hotels, but the complimentary night doesn't fully cover the upfront cost as most base category rooms don't cost that much.

Using a Credit Card

The following Credit Cards offer complimentary Taj Epicure memberships.

As you can see, these cards come with a very steep joining fee, plus you don't get a complimentary night with this method. So, signing up for them just for the Epicure membership would be stupid.

Earning Rewards

Five Coins Rating

Epicure is an absolute star in this category as there are very few loyalty programs that give you this level of earning rate. Once you're enrolled you get:

  • 25% as TIC points for Dining, and Spa.
  • 50% as TIC points for first three walk-in dining transactions. (Doesn't count if you're staying at the hotel where you dine)
  • 50% off, or Buy 1 Get 1 (depending on the property) at all bars at Taj properties.

1 TIC point is worth ₹1/- (After revised changes in the program)

New Taj Innercircle Tier
The new Taj InnerCircle earning rate revision.

There are no blackout dates for points redemption. You can even use TIC points to pay for your in-room dining and laundry bills.

A quick example to explain the earnings:

  • A 3-night stay at Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai will cost you about ₹50,000/- (You can get a 25% discount using your AmEx Platinum Card).
    A dinner for two would cost about ₹4,000/-
  • This gives you 2500 TIC points (5% of the room charge) on the room charges being a Silver member.
    For the dining charges you'd earn 1000 TIC point (25% of the bill amount).

Not to mention, you get additional perks like room upgrades based on your TIC Silver status.

Ongoing Benefits

Four Coins Rating

In addition to TIC points you get a range of other benefits too.

Happy Hours at Bars

You get flat 50% discount or buy one get one at all bars at Taj properties worldwide. You also get 25% points back on the bill amount too, which is cherry on the top. Overall these bars are cheaper for me as compared to any other places.

Taj Dubai Bar
Bar at Taj Dubai

Eg. A pint of Corona costs ₹500 without taxes at Rick's Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi. You get a 50% discount which brings the effective price down to ₹250. You also get 25% as TIC points (worth ₹62). The final amount of a bottle of Corona comes down to ₹188 that's cheaper than the MRP 😱.

Room Upgrade Vouchers

You get two room category upgrade vouchers with the membership which gives you one category upgrade for a stay up to 5 nights. The best way to use this is to book a room just below the Club Room category. This way you're guaranteed a Club Room upgrade (or even a suite if available).

Taj Dubai Club Lounge
Club Lounge at Taj Dubai

Eg. I used one of the vouchers at Taj Dubai. They offered me a Junior Suite upgrade, but I went ahead with the Club Room as the Junior Suite didn't have the Burj Khalifa view. Club Rooms are of tremendous value as you get access to the Taj Club lounge which includes, dedicated breakfast area, free drinks during the cocktail hours, and snacks throughout the day.

Taj InnerCircle Silver Membership

Honestly, I don't see much value with Silver membership except you get a late checkout (5 PM). I've been denied room upgrades multiple times even when there were higher category rooms available, it's kind of an hit or miss when it comes to upgrades.

Taj Holiday Village Goa
Beach at Taj Holiday Village, Goa

Final Words

Four Coins Rating

Taj Epicure is unquestionably one of the finest loyalty programs in India. Over the past two years I've redeemed about five free nights using my TIC points, never paid for any of the in-room dining orders, and managed to get room upgrades 70% of the times.

There are a few places where the hotel properties fall short, and the service they provide is not up to the mark, be it denying upgrade when higher category rooms are available, or when I had to wait for 40 minutes when checking-in at 5 in the evening.


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