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Co-branded cards, the latest craze

Sangeeta Singh | June 04, 2005

The next time you get an unsolicited call on your cell to buy a credit card, try to be patient and listen to the salesperson. For all you know, the co-branded cards that he or she is pitching may be of interest to you.

For instance, if you are a frequent flyer, American Express Indian Airlines Gold and Green cards may attract you, and if you are a party-goer, the Citibank MTV card may come in handy. While the credit card has an annual fee of Rs 750, the debit card has a fee of Rs 500.

If you're wondering why banks are joining hands with companies to sell co-branded cards, it's because it makes your credit cards more attractive, so that you consider having several cards to enjoy different discounts and facilities.

All this by paying an annual fee, which typically ranges between Rs 750 and Rs 3,500 per card. Co-branding is the latest fad going in the credit card industry. But is it only a gimmick to lure customers?

"Nobody wants plain vanilla products these days and therefore co-branded cards are becoming very popular," says Rajiv Ahuja, director, public affairs and communications, India and area countries, American Express.

Citibank is leading the co-branded cards market, teaming up with companies like MTV, Jet Airways and The Times of India. While most of these cards by different players have been around for the last four years, they are catching customers' attention now thanks to a load of benefits that all of them are offering.

Recently, Citibank and MTV partnered to launch their co-branded debit card (the two already have a co-branded credit card). According to Citibank, the newly launched MTV Citibank debit card promises its customers a high lifestyle with its exclusive offers.

The partners also claim that this card will exclusively address lifestyle needs of the youth and the young at heart. All MTV Citibank debit and credit card holders automatically become members of the MTV Citibank Club and can avail of benefits on both products and services at most hip and happening places all over the country.

Similarly, with the Indian Airlines American Express Gold Card you pay 25 per cent less on the full business class fare and 10 per cent less on economy class tickets.

You can also get two complimentary upgrade vouchers to business class. What else? "You can get a free business class return ticket on any Indian Airlines domestic or international sector every time you bill Rs 1,00,000 worth of Indian Airlines tickets to the card or two economy class return tickets on spending Rs 1,50,000," says Ahuja.

Besides, one can get a complimentary room for a night every time he spends Rs 50,000, and discounts on food and beverages at any of the participating ITC Welcom-group hotels. But mind you, this card comes at an annual fee of Rs 5,900 and supplementary cards at Rs 2,000.

Similarly, the Indian Airlines American Express Green Card offers a return economy class ticket on domestic or international sectors on a Rs 75,000 spend.

It also offers 15 per cent discount on economy and 10 per cent on business besides 5 per cent discount on Apex fares. With this card you can also upgrade to business class.

The biggest advantage is that these cards have no set spending limit and one gets an insurance cover between Rs 50-75 lakh.

Again, Citibank Jet Airways cards gets you automatic membership to Jet Privilege and the Jet Airways frequent flyer programme. Air Sahara Standard Chartered Gold Card, with a fee of Rs 3,000 per annum, offers free air tickets for companion and/or children.

"The secondary/voucher tickets shall be one-way or return depending on whether the paid ticket is one-way/return," says the customer relation officer at Standard Chartered bank. Besides, you can get complimentary upgrades to business class on Air Sahara flights.

This also entitles you to lounge services at both domestic or international airports whether you are travelling economy or business.

ICICI has silver co-branded cards with Big Bazaar, HPCL, Amway and Airtel. The benefits, of course, include discounts and incentives at the respective company's outlets and on their products. For the first year, this card has no fee but from the second year onwards, it has an annual fee of Rs 750.

So, does this mean the more the merrier? Well, for all you know, your regular gold or silver cards may also be offering half the things that these co-branded cards do. And god forbid, if you lose your wallet, you may have to call several banks at the same time.


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