The Beginners Guide to Indian Travel Hacking: Don’t Delay, Start Today

More luxury for less money with this beginner guide to Indian travel hacking

As I’ve got quite a number of readers from India, and recently co-hosted a Twitter Chat on the subject of Indian travel hacking with Stuti from India, I thought I would do a dedicated post on Indian Travel hacking. If there is enough interest, others may follow, so if you like this post, please pop your suggestions for future posts in the comments at the bottom of the post.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Indian travel hacking?

If you are new to the site, and have no idea what travel hacking is, rest assured that it isn’t illegal. It is simply the art of using hotel and airline loyalty programmes to bag yourself free hotels, flights or upgrades.

BEWARE, you will hear lots of talk of  free flights but in my experience, you have to pay taxes and fees, so the flights aren’t free. You can however bag some ridiculous bargains or fly business class, sometimes for less than economy.

For instance, I’ve just returning home from Stockholm. We flew out in business, and returned in economy for a total of £85 and AVIOS. I’ve also got two flights booked to Monaco for New Year which cost me £70.

Yoga retreat in india
Yoga retreat in india

Does travel hacking work in India?

Yes it does. British Airways (the focus of most of my posts because I’m UK based) offer Executive Club membership to people around the globe, so you can sign up here.

The Beginners Guide to Collecting AVIOS, offers a detailed overview of the basics (although it is UK focussed, many of the suggestions apply equally to India). If you just want to dive straight in, and rapidly start accumulating points, head straight to Fast-track to business, for a simple strategy.

Beware, not all the options are available to you in India. For instance, you cannot apply for an AVIOS account unless you are a UK resident with a UK address. You can however earn AVIOS in the BA Shop once you have signed up for the Executive Club.

So what are your best options for travel hacking?

Today I am going to focus purely on airline loyalty clubs and credit cards, which are the most lucrative element of travel hacking.

If you want some insight into hotel travel hacking, you can check out some recent posts relating to Marriott and Hilton, both of which offer loyalty club memberships that allow Indian nationals to earn free hotel nights.

Best Airline Options

Indian Travel hacking with British AirwaysIn addition to the British Airways Executive Club, Indian citizens can apply for membership of any of the major international airlines’ loyalty clubs. I find, however, that it is more beneficial to pledge allegiance to one of your national carriers, as you will benefit from more route options, and thus more chances to earn. Alternatively, you may wish to check out the airline alliances to determine if this might help you build points quicker.

There are two major programmes in India – Jet Airways and Air India.

The Jet Airways Privilege Scheme offers a wide range of benefits, with different tiers of membership, and partners include many major international airlines. Flights booked on any partner airlines will also earn you points.

Indian travel hacking using Air India
Source: Pixabay

Air India Flying Returns also has different tiers of membership, and a range of partners with whom you will earn points.

It is free to join either scheme, so even if you only take infrequent flights, it is worth signing up, as this is just one way to earn. In fact, in the UK, I earn the bulk of my points without ever leaving the ground. You can too.

Airline Credit Cards in India

Credit cards are the best option for building up rapid reward balances. ‘Which airmiles credit card is best for you?‘ explores the various UK options, and highlights the myriad of different options on offer.

Indian options are plentiful, but be sure to do your research before applying, as travel credit cards vary significantly in their generosity.

Using credit cards to travel hack
Source: Pixabay

Factors to consider are the sign up bonuses companies use to entice you, any minimum spend or eligibility criteria, the earnings rate, and any costs associated with the card, such as an annual fee. The APR should not be an issue as I am not advocating racking up huge debts. Only spend what you can afford to pay off each month!

Here’s a few options which are worth considering:

The Air India SBI Credit Card offers a whopping sign up bonus currently of 20,000. You will also earn 4 reward points for every Rs.100 spent on the card.

The ICICI British Airways Premium Credit Card offers a joining bonus of 8,000 Avios on first use of the card, and a further 25,000 Avios when you book and fly on a return British Airways flight from India to London within the first 12 months of membership. It earns you up to 6 AVIOS per Rs.100, which rises to 9 AVIOS per Rs.100 of spend on BA flights and in-flight merchandise.

The Jet Airways Platinum AMEX Card offers 10,000 points on sign up, a single complimentary Jet Airways Domestic Ticket on first use, and a raft of other benefits. You earn 8 Membership points for every Rs.150 spend but the fee associated with this card is higher. See how confusing this gets?!

The American Express Gold card earns you 1,000 points per month providing you use it a minimum of four times. In addition it earns you 1 Membership point for every Rs.50 spend.Membership points can then be converted into reward points with a wide range of airlines which is attractive as you do not need to commit to one airline. This option looks poor value in India, as it currently offers no sign up bonus.

Tips for getting started

To get started, I recommend following these three key steps:

  1. Select your preferred airline, based on route availability that matches your needs, then join their membership programme.
  2. Investigate the best airline credit card that allows points to be converted into that loyalty programme.
  3. Then put all your spending on the card each month, being sure to pay it off in full, and soon you will be building a healthy balance of miles. You could be flying business for less than the cost of economy in no time.
Indian travel hacking
Source: Pixabay

So, do you want some more?

Now lovely readers, thanks for popping by to check out this post, but I now really need your feedback.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this post is designed to gauge whether there is sufficient interest in India on this topic. So, if you would like to see more posts like this, please share with friends and colleagues who may also be interested.

More importantly, drop a comment in the box below letting me know what things you would like to learn about. The future is in your hands here. If no one comments, I will assume there isn’t sufficient interest to warrant the time and effort required to properly research the subject.

If, on the other hand, I get lots of interest, after doing a celebration dance, I will start putting some of your ideas into print! How about that for a promise?!

Thanks for reading and happy travels.

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Indian travel hacking Pinterest
By the beach in Goa

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About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips


  1. Hello,

    I appreciate your post here. I’m definitely interested about travel hacking in India (both domestic and internationally), would like more of the following:
    1. Which are the ideal cards for ‘travel hacking’ at various levels i.e. which are the best no-fee cards, then which are the best fee cards (but are worth it)
    2. How to use the points after earning them
    3. More ‘real-life’ tips and tricks


  2. Thanks for this nice article.

  3. very good pictures!|

  4. Hi Anne,

    Very nice Initiation to Indian Travel Hacking. I have also seen Standard Chartered Emirates Platinum which promises some Skywards miles and gives you 4 Skywards Miles for every Rs.150 you spend. There is an Annual Fee though, but first year is free. I wanted to know more about this.

    Also, can you cover more on the Indian 5 Star Loyalty Programs especially those of Taj, Oberoi, Leela which have some excellent properties in India (and appear in the most desired properties around the world).



    • HI Venky thanks for commenting. I will definitely look into the Taj, Oberoi etc as I would love to know more about how they work as they have some fabulous properties. I love the look of the Leela in Goa!

  5. Pranay Pallav

    Nice Article, though it should have been more detailed. I was hoping to learn about the ways in which STAR ALLIANCE points could be earned and used for flying with AIR INDIA.

    • Thanks for the feedback Pranay. This article was always intended to be an overview to see if there was interest in the subject. I will bear your suggestion in mind for future articles though.

  6. Good one.. specially as an idea for a beginner. Thanks for writing 🙂

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