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Best IRCTC Indian Railway credit card

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

IRCTC Indian Railway credit cards have been around for quite some time. Multiple Banks issue these cards. This article focusses on the three credit cards being issued by SBI and one card being issued by Bank of Baroda. These cards come with multiple TNC’s. This article attempts to bring clarity about these TNCs in layman terms.


Co-branded by IRCTC

  • SBI IRCTC Platinum credit card (visa)

  • SBI IRCTC Platinum Rupay credit card

  • IRCTC SBI Premier Visa Signature credit card

  • BOB IRCTC credit card

  • HDFC IRCTC credit card (not considered in this article, as it works differently to the above 4 cards. This card deserves a separate article)

IRCTC Benefits

  • The USP of these cards is 4 or 10% savings on AC train tickets. The 4 or 10% depends on the chosen travel journey day.

Journey Date

Savings

1st April to14th July & 16th Sep to 14th Jan

4%

15th Jan to 31st Mar & 15th July to 15th Sep

10%


  • They will also save you the additional 1% which is charged as transaction charges. You generally pay 1.8% for payment by credit cards, of which 1% will be reversed back.

  • IRCTC Railway lounge Access. Depending on the card variant you get different number of complimentary access to these lounges. You get clean, comfortable sitting, tea & food. These lounges have the best food, you can get at a railway station. The list of cities with lounges is small presently but am sure it will continue to increase in number. Check out the review for the Ahmedabad railway lounge.


What is the value of one Reward Point?

1 Reward Point = Rs.1 (SBI)

4 Reward Point = Rs.1 (BOB)


Reward Points will lapse after the expiry of three years from the date of registration of membership.


Terms and conditions on the IRCTC benefits

There are multiple Terms and Conditions to these offers. I have tried to include the most important ones which you should consider before taking these credit cards.

1) The Cardholder will have to book railway tickets at www.irctc.co.in while using IRCTC SBI Card. Tickets purchases at the Passenger Reservation System counters shall not entitle the cardholder to these benefits.


2) Reward Points can be earned on 1st Class AC, ACII Tier, ACIII Tier, Executive Chair Car and AC Chair Car travel only. That is Sleeper class and S2 (second class sitting) will not earn 10%/4% reward points.


3) Reward Points will be awarded only on cardholder's individual fare. Tickets for friends and Family members will not get you reward points.


4) Reward Points shall accrue only on Base Fare of the passenger's ticket. Reward Points shall not accrue on Reservation Charges, Superfast Charges and Other Charges or taxes, if any, included in the total Amount Charged for the Railway Ticket. This is explained separately in the next section.


5) The Cardholder necessarily must be one of the passengers on the ticket, to get the (1% for train, 1.8% for flight) transaction charges waiver benefit. However, this will be applicable for the entire ticket including other passengers. (Could any reader confirms this)


6) The cardholder can get up to 10% Value back on AC ticket fare as Reward points only if :

i. The cardholder activates his/her IRCTC Card and has linked loyalty number with his/her IRCTC login ID.

ii. The railway tickets are booked online at www.irctc.co.in through HDFC or CITI PG with 11 digit loyalty number as shown on the IRCTC SBI Card.


IRCTC Fare Breakup

These cards give 4/10% reward points only on the base fare.

IRCTC itself has done a good job of explaining the breakup of the charges here. The same details are mirrored below.

Components of Indian Railways fare

1. Base fare

2. Reservation Charge :-

  • 1A (AC 1 Tier) = 60.00/- Rs. Only

  • 2A (AC 2 Tier) = 50.00/- Rs. Only

  • 3A (AC 3 Tier) = 40.00/- Rs. Only

  • SL (Sleeper) = 20.00/- Rs. Only

  • 2S (2nd Seating) = 15.00/- Rs. Only

3. Super fast charge :-

  • 1A (AC 1 Tier) = 75.00/- Rs. Only

  • 2A (AC 2 Tier) = 45.00/- Rs. Only

  • 3A (AC 3 Tier) = 45.00/- Rs. Only

  • SL (Sleeper) = 30.00/- Rs. Only

  • 2S (2nd Seating) = 15.00/- Rs. Only

  • General Ticket = 15.00/- Rs. Only

4. Tatkal Charge :-

Tatkal Fare – Minimum 30% Fare of Base Fare.

6. GST :

  • 5% GST charged on AC Classes.

  • Base Fare + Reservation Charge + Superfast Charge + Dynamic fare (if available) * 5% = GST

7. Dynamic Charge :

  • The base fares will increase by 10% of berths sold subject to a prescribed ceiling limit. There will be no change in the existing fare for 1AC and EC class of travel.

Simplifying the jargon:

For a 3AC ticket costing Rs 1500, the base fare will be more than 92% of the total price after excluding the GST and Reservation charges.

Only when you book tatkal or buy tickets under dynamic prices, will the base fare be a smaller ratio. The base fare as a ratio to the total cost will never go below 60%. In this worst case, you will save 10% (or 4%) of 60% which is 6% (or 2.4%) with these IRCTC credit cards.


Comparing between the 4 IRCTC credit cards


The three credit cards listed below are very similar credit cards.

  • SBI IRCTC Platinum credit card (visa)

  • SBI IRCTC Platinum Rupay credit card

  • BOB IRCTC credit card

There are only minor differences between these credit cards. They are listed below.

1) Joining Fees, welcome bonus and annual Fees: The BOB card has mildly higher annual fees with a smaller welcome bonus.

2) Card Design: Personally, I think the BOB card has the best design with a high speed train picture which presently does not exist with the Indian Railway! I hope the Mumbai Ahmedabad Bullet train will be this cool.

3) Reward Rate: BOB gives savings of 0.5% on normal purchases, while the SBI cards give 0.8% savings. Both these numbers are too low since, there are multiple cards which give 1% savings like ICICI Amazon Pay credit card.

4) The payment gateway: SBI IRCTC Platinum credit card is on the visa platform while the other two are on the Rupay platform. Rupay allows you to pay via UPI. Rupay allows you to purchase IPL tickets one day sooner.


IRCTC SBI Premier Visa Signature credit card


This card is an IRCTC credit card on steroids. The following points differentiate it from the above three credit cards.

1) Joining/Annual Fees: High Annual Fees. However, the welcome bonus is equal to the fees. You will only lose out on the taxes.


2) Fee Waiver option: This is the only card with an option to get fee waiver. However, the spends required are a bit high of Rs 2 Lacs.


3) Lounge Access: This card provides 2 complimentary access per quarter (higher than the 1 per quarter cap on the other cards). This number should have been even higher. Infact, giving a larger number of accesses here would have made this card highly attractive and easily justified the high annual fees.


4) 5% on Air tickets: you get 5% back on air tickets booked via www.air.irctc.co.in. This becomes a very attractive option when buying high value tickets coupled with the 1.8% waiver on the transaction charges.


5) 5% on ecatering: 5% savings on purchases for food via www.ecatering.irctc.co.in.


6) 2.4% savings on Dining and Standing Instructions bills: This is just meh.


7) Milestone Benefit: This card has two milestones for travel spend categories only.

Annual Milestone

Bonus

Cumulative Savings

Rs 50,000

Rs 2500

5%

Rs 1 Lac

Rs 5000

7.5%

Supposing, you spend in the IRCTC accelerated category and get the 10% bonus also, you will save a 17.5% on your train travels. This will be criminal (😊), considering Indian Railway only recovers on average 57% of the cost of travel from the passengers!

We will try to estimate how much travel is required to hit these milestones.

Rs 1 lac (or Rs 50,000) over 12 months = Rs 8,333 (or Rs 4166) worth train travel per month.

Supposing, the price of a ticket at Rs 1500, you will require 5.5 trips (or 2.7 trips) in a month.

6 train trips is a month is not a fantastic requirement and can be met by people who travel for a living. But 3 trips a month is a relatively mundane number and I myself hit it at least a few times in a year.

Also, do note it says travel spends. That means tickets for friends and family will also count towards the milestones.

This an outstanding card for anyone who can hit even the first annual milestone of Rs 50,000.


Comparison Table

The below table gives a direct comparison between the four cards.


Compared Against HDFC Smartbuy

HDFC Smart buy gives either 3X reward points or 5% cashback on train tickets booked through it. The advantage here is that, the TNC here are lesser and simpler. Especially, in regards to the date of journey, IRCTC credit cards provide either 4 or 10% savings. This is not the case with HDFC credit cards.

Using HDFCs top tier cards: DCB and Infinia you always get 9.9%. Even using Regalia you do get a better deal compared to IRCTC credit cards at least on 50% of the journey dates.

If you travel by train infrequntly, 5% via HDFC smartbuy should be sufficient if you hold and an HDFC credit card.


Conclusion

The below cards are recommended for travellers who travel by AC train coaches once every month. You will also get access to Railway lounges which is a huge plus and even two visits to the railway lounge in a year is sufficient to recoup the entire annual fees.

Rating

· SBI IRCTC Platinum credit card (visa) : 2.5

· SBI IRCTC Platinum Rupay credit card : 3

· BOB IRCTC credit card: 2.5


SBI Premier IRCTC Credit card is recommended for anyone who spends more than Rs 50,000 per year on train tickets.

Rating

SBI Premier IRCTC Credit card: 4

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