Best Credit Cards for Railway Ticket Bookings in India 2020

Few credit cards in India provide high enough rewards on rail transactions to outweigh the commonly imposed surcharge, which can range anywhere from 1% to 2.5%, depending on the card. We've picked out a few options that could either net you a profit (or at least negate the surcharge) on rail transactions while also providing other great value.

Best Credit Cards for Railway Ticket Bookings
Our Top PickIRCTC SBI Platinum10% value back + surcharge waiver on IRCTC
CashbackHDFC Bank BharatNet 4% on rail, 5% on groceries, online shopping, travel
Railway LoungeICICI Bank Rubyx Amex2 railway lounge visits/quarter
Air MilesJP HDFC Diners1.4% net back on rail, unlntd lounge access
Air India SBI SignatureNet zero rail charge, Rs. 11,250 in bonuses, 8 lounge visits/year
SecuredKotak Aqua GoldRail surcharge waiver, Rs. 750 annual bonus

Best Credit Card for Rail Bookings: IRCTC SBI Platinum Card

Consider this if you want IRCTC vouchers as your credit card reward

Age Requirement None listed by issuer
Annual Income Requirement None listed by issuer
Bonuses
  • Welcome Gift: 350 points on ₹ 500 single transaction (excluding fuel) in first 45 days

The IRCTC SBI Platinum Card is by far the best credit card in India for rail bookings. Each year, you'll receive 10% back on AC1, AC2, AC3, EC and CC (via IRCTC website). All other non-fuel retail purchases will net you a solid 0.80% back (1 point for every Rs. 125 spent, 1 point = Rs. 1 IRCTC voucher). Getting the IRCTC SBI Platinum Card is a no-brainer if you're focusing on maximising your return on rail spend.

  • Annual Fee: Rs. 500 1st year, Rs. 300 thereafter
  • Rail Reward Rate: 10% on IRCTC website bookings (applicable for AC1, AC2, AC3, EC, CC)
  • Other Reward Rate: 1 point per Rs. 125 spent on non-fuel retail purchases
  • Point Value: 1 point = Rs. 1 IRCTC voucher
  • Rail Surcharge: Waived on IRCTC website bookings; Rs. 30 + 2.5% of transactions booked at counter
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 500–3,000 (max Rs. 100 waived per cycle)
  • Annual Fee: Rs. 500 1st year, Rs. 300 thereafter
  • Rail Reward Rate: 10% on IRCTC website bookings (applicable for AC1, AC2, AC3, EC, CC)
  • Other Reward Rate: 1 point per Rs. 125 spent on non-fuel retail purchases
  • Point Value: 1 point = Rs. 1 IRCTC voucher
  • Rail Surcharge: Waived on IRCTC website bookings; Rs. 30 + 2.5% of transactions booked at counter
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 500–3,000 (max Rs. 100 waived per cycle)

Best Cashback Card for Railways: HDFC Bank Bharat Card

Consider this if you are looking for a cashback card with a great rail transactions reward rate

Age Requirement 21-60 (65 if self-employed)
Annual Income Requirement Rs. 144,000 (Rs. 200,000 if self-employed)

The HDFC Bharat Card earns great cashback on rail spend, as well as on many other categories (including groceries, online shopping, travel, fuel, mobile recharge and bill pay). You'll earn 5% on these categories (Rs. 150 monthly cashback cap on IRCTC bookings, groceries, and fuel). While HDFC Bharat is a great cashback card, it does not earn any rewards for dining spending and has a relatively high income requirement of Rs. 144,000 per year. However, if you are looking for an excellent cashback card for IRCTC bookings and many other categories, the HDFC Bharat is a great choice.

  • Annual Fee: Rs. 500 (after 1st year, waived on annual spend Rs. 20,000)
  • Earn Rate: 5% cashback IRCTC, groceries, fuel, mobile recharge, bill pay (max Rs. 150 cashback on sum of 4 categories), HDFC SmartBuy (travel/online shop), EasyEMI (pre-approved loan facility) & PayZapp (max Rs. 150 cashback on sum of 3 categories); no cashback on other
  • Rail Surcharge: 1.0%
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 400+, max Rs. 250 waived/month
  • Insurance: Accidental death insurance Rs. 50 lakhs; fire/burglary protection for goods Rs. 5,000+ for 180 days
  • Annual Fee: Rs. 500 (after 1st year, waived on annual spend Rs. 20,000)
  • Earn Rate: 5% cashback IRCTC, groceries, fuel, mobile recharge, bill pay (max Rs. 150 cashback on sum of 4 categories), HDFC SmartBuy (travel/online shop), EasyEMI (pre-approved loan facility) & PayZapp (max Rs. 150 cashback on sum of 3 categories); no cashback on other
  • Rail Surcharge: 1.0%
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 400+, max Rs. 250 waived/month
  • Insurance: Accidental death insurance Rs. 50 lakhs; fire/burglary protection for goods Rs. 5,000+ for 180 days

Best Railway Lounge Card - ICICI Bank Rubyx American Express Credit Card

Consider this if you are looking for a card that offers railway lounge access

Age Requirement None listed by issuer
Annual Income Requirement None listed by issuer
Bonuses & Promotions
  • Joining Bonus: Receive shopping and travel worth ₹ 5,000 within 30 days of joining
  • Anniversary Bonus: 3,000 PAYBACK Points on spending ₹ 300,000 on your card and 1,500 PAYBACK Points each time you cross ₹ 100,000 spend thereafter in an anniversary year; maximum of 15,000 PAYBACK points per year

The ICICI Bank Rubyx American Express Credit Card is a great card for individuals who are looking to enhance their traveling experience. The ICICI Rubyx Amex Card offers a competitive 0.75% rewards rate on all spending categories (3 points per Rs. 100, 1 point = Rs. 0.25). Additionally, for overseas spending, an elevated rewards rate of 1.5% is offered (6 points per Rs. 100, 1 point = Rs. 0.25) allowing cardholders to earn 50% more rewards than the card’s Rubyx MasterCard counterpart.

Furthermore, the card provides a wide variety of travel perks. For example, cardholders are entitled to 2 complimentary railway and domestic airport lounge visits per quarter. The ICICI Rubyx Amex Card also offers many types of travel insurance including, air accident insurance, credit shield, baggage insurance, and flight misses.

Read Our Review

  • Annual Fee: Rs. 2,000 (First Year) Rs. 3,000 (Anniversary - waived on annual spending of Rs. 300,000)
  • Earn Rate: 1 Reward Point = Rs. 0.25
  • Joining Perks: Receive shopping and travel worth Rs. 5,000 within 30 days of joining
  • Travel Lounges: 2 complimentary airport and railway lounge visits per quarter and complimentary access to domestic airport lounges in India
  • Travel Insurance: Air accident insurance of up to ₹ 1 crore, credit shield up to ₹ 50,000, baggage insurance up to ₹ 25,000, loss of travel documents up to $500, loss of checked baggage up to $1,200, delay in receipt of checked baggage up to $300 in excess of 12 hours, missing of flight due to trans-shipment$300, plane hijacking of $250 per hour up to max 12 hours, delay in flight $250 in excess of 12 hours, lost card liability ₹ 50,000 (2 days prior and 7 days post)
  • Dining: Minimum of 15% at over 2500 participating restaurants nationwide through The Culinary Treats Programme
  • Movies: Buy 1 get 1 free offers on BookMyShow and buy 1 get 1 free at INOX Cinemas, get up to 2 free tickets per month valued up to ₹ 300 per ticket on BookMyShow and INOX
  • Fuel surcharge: Save on 1% fuel surcharge up to ₹ 4,000
  • Annual Fee: Rs. 2,000 (First Year) Rs. 3,000 (Anniversary- waived on annual spending of Rs. 300,000)
  • Earn Rate: 1 Reward Point = Rs. 0.25
  • Travel Lounges: 2 complimentary airport and railway lounge visits per quarter and complimentary access to domestic airport lounges in India
  • Travel Insurance: Air accident insurance of up to ₹ 1 crore, credit shield up to ₹ 50,000, baggage insurance up to ₹ 25,000, loss of travel documents up to USD $500, loss of checked baggage up to USD $1,200, delay in receipt of checked baggage up to $300 in excess of 12 hours, missing of flight due to trans-shipment USD$300, plane hijacking of USD $250 per hour up to max 12 hours, delay in flight USD $250 in excess of 12 hours, lost card liability ₹ 50,000 (2 days prior and 7 days post)
  • Dining: Minimum of 15% at over 2500 participating restaurants nationwide through The Culinary Treats Programme
  • Movies: Buy 1 get 1 free offers on BookMyShow and buy 1 get 1 free at INOX Cinemas, get up to 2 free tickets per month valued up to ₹ 300 per ticket on BookMyShow and INOX
  • Fuel surcharge: Save on 1% fuel surcharge up to ₹ 4,000

Best Air Miles Credit Cards for Rail Bookings

Air miles credit cards are some of the most valuable in the market. We recommend our favourites. These cards with high reward rates could net cardholders a profit or cancel out the typical rail transaction surcharge.

Best Air Miles Card for Lounge Access - JetPrivilege HDFC Bank Diners Club

Consider this if 2x points on Intermiles, Unlimited lounge access

Age Requirement 21-60 (65 if self-employed)
Annual Income Requirement None listed by issuer
Bonuses
  • Sign-up Bonus: 15,000 Intermiles (worth ~ ₹ 7,650); ₹ 1,000 voucher for return ticket; an extra 15,000 Intermiles on ₹ 150,000 of spend within first 90 days
  • Renewal Benefit: 10,000 Intermiles (worth ~ ₹ 5,100); ₹ 750 voucher for return ticket

The JetPrivilege HDFC Bank Diners Club Credit Card is the best card for individuals that prefer to book their travels on InterMiles. All transactions (except fuel) earn a great 2.4% value back (8 InterMiles per Rs. 150, 1 point = 1 InterMile = Rs. 0.45), including on rail bookings. According to IRCTC, HDFC cards on the Visa/Mastercard network have a 1.0% booking surcharge, but it does not mention Diners Club specifically. Assuming HDFC Diners Club cards also are charged 1%, you'll net a 1.4% profit, one of the better rates in the market. As long as you book through InterMiles, the card's annual fees are easily offset by the welcome and renewal bonuses. If you're a high spender, you'll also get extra Intermiles on spending Rs. 150,000 in your first 90 days.

Additionally, you'll get an excellent 4.8% back (16 points per Rs. 150, 1 point = 1 InterMile = Rs. 0.45) on Jet Airways bookings. On the perks side, the card is one of the few in the market with unlimited lounge access, specifically to the Diners Club network (600+ lounges worldwide). Additionally, the cardholder will receive a rewards rate of 6.0% (20 InterMiles per Rs. 150, 1 point = 1 InterMile = Rs. 0.45) for Etihad Airways bookings, which also includes a 5% discount on economy tickets and 10% discount on business class tickets. Furthermore, its travel perks also include domestic airport premiere check-in and extra baggage allowance. Last, you'll get unlimited free golf games at 20 courses in India and 40 worldwide, as well as unlimited lessons at 14 courses across 9 cities in India. This is a fantastic card primarily for use on the Intermiles platform, and you'll also net a relatively good return on your rail bookings.

Read Our Review

  • Annual Fee: Rs. 10,000 (first year), Rs. 5,000 (beyond first year)
  • Earn Rate: 8 InterMiles per Rs. 150 spent except fuel; 2.5x InterMiles on Etihad bookings; 2x InterMiles on Intermiles bookings
  • Est. Point Value: 1 intermile = Rs. 0.45
  • Est. Rail Surcharge: 1.0%
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 400 – 5,000; max Rs. 1,000 waived per month
  • Perks: Unlimited Diners Club Lounge access (600+ lounges globally); unlimited free golf games (green fee waiver) at 20 courses in India & 40 worldwide; unlimited free golf lessons at 14 courses in India; domestic airport premiere check-in & extra baggage allowance; dining discounts
  • Annual Fee: Rs. 10,000 (first year), Rs. 5,000 (beyond first year)
  • Earn Rate: 8 InterMiles per Rs. 150 spent except fuel; 2.5x InterMiles on Etihad bookings; 2x InterMiles on Intermiles bookings
  • Est. Point Value: 1 intermile = Rs. 0.45
  • Est. Rail Surcharge: 1.0%
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 400 – 5,000; max Rs. 1,000 waived per month
  • Perks: Unlimited Diners Club Lounge access (600+ lounges globally); unlimited free golf games (green fee waiver) at 20 courses in India & 40 worldwide; unlimited free golf lessons at 14 courses in India; domestic airport premiere check-in & extra baggage allowance; dining discounts

Best Air Miles Card for Air Miles - Air India SBI Signature Credit Card

Consider this if you fly Air India

Age Requirement 21-60
Annual Income Requirement None listed by issuer
Bonuses
  • Signup bonus of 20,000 points (₹ 9,000)
  • Renewal benefit of 5,000 reward points (₹ 2,250)
  • By spending ₹ 2,000,000 cardholder receives 50,000 points, by spending ₹ 1,000,000 cardholder receives 30,000 and by spending ₹ 500,000 cardholder receives 20,000 points (Approximately ₹ 45,000 in total)

The Air India SBI Signature Card is the best-in-market for those that fly Air India. On all card charges other than Air India bookings (13.5%), which includes rail spend, you'll earn great reward rate of 1.8%, (4 points per Rs. 100; 1 point = 1 Air India mile = Rs. 0.45). Due to this high reward rate, the railway transaction surcharge of 1.8% will be decreased to zero, which is better than the average miles card.

Specifically, most of the card's monetary value comes from its bonuses, including its welcome gift worth ~Rs. 9,000 in Air India miles. If you happen to be a high spender, you'll benefit further from the anniversary bonuses of up to Rs. 45,000 in value. Then, on Air India bookings, you'll receive 13.5% value back for yourself (30 points per Rs. 100 spent), and excellent 4.5% rupee value back (10 points per Rs. 100) booking for others. Last, you'll also get tier upgrade benefits for Air India. If you fly Air India, this card should be on your radar as a way to accumulate the most travel rewards..

Read Our Review

  • Annual Fee: Rs. 4,999
  • Earn Rate: 30 points per Rs. 100 spent on Air India for yourself; 10 points per Rs. 100 spent on Air India for others; 4 points per Rs. 100 on all other spend
  • Estimated Point Value: 1 point = 1 Air India mile = Rs. 0.45
  • Rail Surcharge: 1.8%
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 500 – 4,000; max Rs. 250 per month
  • Perks: Visa Domestic Lounge Program (8 free visits/year, max 2/quarter; lounges across 6 major cities), free Priority Pass membership (USD 27 charged/visit), Air India tier upgrade benefits
  • Annual Fee: Rs. 4,999
  • Earn Rate: 30 points per Rs. 100 spent on Air India for yourself; 10 points per Rs. 100 spent on Air India for others; 4 points per Rs. 100 on all other spend
  • Estimated Point Value: 1 point = 1 Air India mile = Rs. 0.45
  • Rail Surcharge: 1.8%
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 500 – 4,000; max Rs. 250 per month
  • Perks: Visa Domestic Lounge Program (8 free visits/year, max 2/quarter; lounges across 6 major cities), free Priority Pass membership (USD 27 charged/visit), Air India tier upgrade benefits

Best Secured Credit Card for Rail Bookings: Kotak Aqua Gold Credit Card

Consider this if you have poor or limited credit history

Age Requirement 18-75
Annual Income Requirement None listed by issuer
Bonuses
  • Anniversary Bonus: Spend ₹ 150,000 in a year and get cashback of ₹ 750 or 4 free PVR tickets

The Kotak Aqua Gold is the one credit card against fixed deposit out there that offers a waiver on rail ticket surcharges (up to Rs. 500 waived per year). Also known as secured credit cards, they are great to start with, build credit and eventually move up to a more valuable card. Most of the monetary value comes from its anniversary bonus of Rs. 750 (or 4 free PVR tickets). However, you must clear Rs. 150,000 in spend each year to earn the bonus and make the card profitable. We would only recommend this card if you need a credit card against fixed deposit, spend a lot on rail tickets and value waiving the surcharge.

  • Minimum Fixed Deposit: Rs. 25,000
  • No rewards earned on everyday purchases
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 500 – 3,000 (max Rs. 3,500 waived per year)
  • Rail Surcharge Waiver: Max Rs. 500 waived per year
  • Minimum Fixed Deposit: Rs. 25,000
  • No rewards earned on everyday purchases
  • Fuel Surcharge Waiver: Transactions Rs. 500 – 3,000 (max Rs. 3,500 waived per year)
  • Rail Surcharge Waiver: Max Rs. 500 waived per year
Sahmi Chowdhury

Sahmi is a Junior Research Analyst specialising in credit cards and insurance in India. He previously worked in the financial services sector at Brown Brothers Harriman and True Capital Management.