Just like everything in life, credit cards have their pros and cons. Applying for one should be an informed and conscious decision and once obtained, credit cards should be used responsibly. Platinum credit cards are designed to provide benefits that compliment one’s lifestyle and come with above average credit limits. These are only available to the seasoned credit card users who have an established positive credit history, and a healthy disposable income (typically over Rs. 100,000).
Having a platinum credit card is also considered a status symbol – at least that is how most banks market it. The exclusive nature of the product means it offers exciting benefits, such as VIP Lounge Access at various airports, a more incentivized rewards scheme and personalized customer service. Let’s compare some of the best ones in the Pakistani market today along with the benefits they offer:
HBL Platinum VISA Credit Card:
As a cardholder, you are given complimentary access to VIP Lounges at airports across cities such as Dubai, New York, London Heathrow, Amsterdam and Bangkok internationally, as well as CIP Lounges at Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and Multan. This feature is common amongst all Platinum credit cards but with an HBL Platinum card, the access is completely free through an alliance with Veloce World. Whereas, Platinum cards from some other banks offer a complimentary “Priority Pass” or similar services which you still must pay to use (more on that anon).
HBL Platinum gives you one rewarded point for every PKR 25 of local spending and five points for every PKR 25 spent internationally. The rewards program also sets the HBL Platinum Card apart from its competitors as it offers a better points to money spent ratio and has an extensive catalogue of products ranging from smartphones, televisions, leather goods, retail vouchers, etc. An Apple 16 GB iPhone 6s would set you back 288,000 points. The item would cost around Rs. 50,000 in the market, which means you must spend Rs. 7,200,000 to earn enough points. It seems like a lot, but it is actually in line with what other cards/banks offer.
In addition to reward points, HBL Platinum Card users can avail discounts on over 50,000 hotels and retail outlets worldwide. Details of participating vendors can be found through their website.
As the cardholders you are also entitled to benefit from facilities such as Global Customer Assistance Services (GCAS) Emergency Services provided by VISA. They offer services such as emergency cash, credit card replacement worldwide and lost or stolen card reporting. They have contact numbers around the world so no matter where you are, you are assured quality customer service in every situation.
UBL Platinum VISA Credit Card:
The UBL Platinum card also provides free access to CIP Lounges at Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports. Cardholders receive a complimentary Standard Priority Pass which otherwise costs USD 99. This allows you access to over 600 lounges across the world but at a charge of USD 27 per visit. Additionally, there is a charge of USD 27 per guest if you are travelling with family. Priority Pass is a separate company which has agreements with lounges from across the world. Membership can be bought by any individual, but UBL Platinum have it complimentary.
The loyalty program by UBL offers an air mile for every PKR 50 spent locally, and three air miles for every PKR 50 spend abroad. These miles can be redeemed against a purchase of any air ticket on any airline. To redeem air miles, you must purchase the ticket via your UBL Platinum Card and call their contact center to request a refund depending on your accumulated air miles. For redemption purposes, air miles are worth Rs. 0.03 each. So if you have 10,000 air miles (Rs. 500,000 spent), you receive Rs. 300 off on your ticket purchase.
UBL Platinum card does offer some unique features, including 8 complimentary visits per month to Shapes Health Clubs in Karachi, Lahore or Multan. You are given an additional 8 complimentary visits if your monthly spending exceeds Rs. 50,000. You can still use the club once your complimentary visits are all utilized at a charge of Rs. 1,200 plus GST.
Another unique feature is complimentary valet parking at locations such as Dolmen Mall Karachi, Fortress Square Mall Lahore and Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad.
Lastly, like all other major credit cards, UBL Platinum cards also offer discounts and offers at various local and international establishments through VISA. These include restaurants, hotels, golf clubs, etc.
Al Falah Platinum VISA Credit Card:
The Al Falah Platinum VISA Card provides the exact same lounge access benefits as UBL. Complimentary CIP Lounge access at Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad is included, along with a complimentary Standard Priority Pass which represents a USD 99 saving. There is one small difference – Bank Al Falah charges an annual USD 10 fee for the Priority Pass.
Bank Al Falah recently revamped its reward scheme which is now called Orbits. The scheme seems rather complicated, but to simplify, they have combined all Al Falah products under one roof. Reward points aka “Orbits” can be earnt via a variety of channels such as current accounts, loans and credit cards. For points accumulation, the Platinum card is no different than their Gold or Titanium cards – you earn 0.25 Orbits on local spending of PKR 50 and 0.50 Orbits for international spending of PKR 50. Every time you obtain a new Al Falah product, you can earn Bonus Orbits. So if you are an existing Platinum cardholder and decide to take out a personal loan from Al Falah, you earn 250 Orbits. Details of how to earn Orbits can be found at http://www.bankalfalah.com/orbit/how-to-earn-orbits.
Orbits are redeemed via Bank Al Falah’s online banking portal or over the phone. They can be used to pay for utility bills or to buy products at the “Orbit Mall”. They have a wide variety of products available and have a flexible “Fast Track” option when redeeming points. Each product in their catalogue can either be bought entirely with Orbits, or split 50/50 with Orbits and cash. That way, if you like an item but only have half the points available, you have the option of settling the rest on your existing card. Scrolling through the catalogue, it seems Orbits are worth roughly PKR 1 at redemption, which is better value for money than others provide.
Since it is a VISA Platinum card, it comes with all the benefits of VISA GCAS (mentioned above) as well as VISA Platinum Concierge services which provide assistance in flight reservations, hotel bookings car rentals and other services around the world. Bank Al Falah’s card also provides discount options at leading retailers, restaurants and hotels around the world similar to the other Platinum cards in the market.
Faysal Bank Platinum Credit Card:
The main difference between Faysal Bank’s card and the rest is that it is a MasterCard and not VISA. So, as a cardholder you do not get to benefit from the VISA Concierge and emergency services. However, other benefits are extremely similar.
It does provide you access to the CIP Lounges in Pakistan, and also provides a three-year complimentary membership of the Priority Pass program. This means a saving of USD 297, but having to still spend USD 27 per visit to any of the participating lounges across the world.
The rewards scheme is also quite different. Double points are up for grabs on international spending and these points can be redeemed at participating outlets or by converting them to Air Blue miles. Each point has a monetary value of Rs. 0.40. There is also flexibility in how the points can be redeemed directly at retail select outlets. If you intend to buy a product at a participating retailer and want to use points towards the purchase, you must ask the retailer to insert your card into their ORIX terminal where you will be able to see how many points you have available.
You can then choose to redeem however many points you like to fund your purchase. Any balancing amount must be charged to your Faysal Bank Platinum card. Visit http://www.faysalbank.com/en/personal/daily-banking/credit-cards/ and go through Faysal Bank Platinum Flavours (dining discounts) and Lifestyle (retail and travel discounts) to see all the participating vendors which include Café Zouk, Xander’s, Nandos, Etihad Airways, Chen One and Amir Adnan to name a few. You can save up to 25% by using your Faysal Bank card at these locations which is better than most Platinum cards offered by other banks.
Standard Chartered Platinum VISA/WorldMiles Credit Cards:
Along with the emergency and concierge services provided by VISA, Standard Chartered offers its own personalized customer services which includes a Platinum Travel Desk which assists you in finding the best air ticket and hotel deals. They can even assist in planning a bespoke business or leisure trip for you; from (travel) visa assistance all the way to recommending tourist attractions and considering other variables such as the weather. It is a one stop shop for vacation or travel planning.
Standard Chartered also prides itself on its discounts and rewards programs. It claims to provide discounts at more retail outlets worldwide than its competitors. In Pakistan, it includes a 20% discount on Food Panda, and up to 25% at outlets such as Nike and Charles & Keith.
Five reward points are given for every PKR 200 spent which can be redeemed for gifts from their Treasures catalogue. A Rs. 1,000 voucher from HKB costs 2,857 points, which means each point is worth roughly Rs. 0.35. This means you have to spend approximately Rs. 114,000 to earn enough points to buy a Rs. 1,000 voucher, which is pretty much in line with the other Platinum cards out there.
The above rewards apply to the Standard Chartered VISA Platinum Card. They do provide another Platinum card which rewards customers with WorldMiles – the Platinum WorldMiles credit card. For every PKR 40 spent, you earn 1 WorldMile. These can be redeemed for air tickets with their partner airlines – for example, an Economy Class ticket from Karachi to Dubai with Emirates would cost 40,000 WorldMiles. The WorldMiles card comes with all the other travel benefits mentioned above, so this scheme is ideal for the frequent flyer.
Airport Lounge access is identical to that of HBL, which is through a third party “Veloce Lounges”. This is completely complimentary – simply present your Standard Chartered Platinum Card to gain access.
Your choice of Platinum card should ideally depend on your lifestyle. Thoroughly examine the range of benefits provided by each and determine which would add the most value to your life. Have you wanted to join a gym for a while but think it is too expensive or can’t be bothered to go through the process? Perhaps the UBL card is your best option because of complimentary access to Shapes. Would you like to travel more or save on your current travels? In that case, the SCB WorldMiles card is your best bet.
Along with similar benefits, Platinum cards also come with similar interest rates, ranging from 38 to 40% or 3.00 to 3.5% per month. The annual fees are generally higher in the range of Rs. 4,000 to Rs. 8,000 which includes subscription, chip maintenance etc. These fees can be waived if a certain amount is spent within the first 3 to 6 months of obtaining the card – typically between Rs. 200,000 to Rs. 300,000. At the end of the day, Platinum cards are designed for disciplined high spenders and are particularly useful when purchasing an expensive product. If your normal course of business requires you to spend on expensive items, a Platinum card is surely worth it because of its benefits and the reward points/miles you can rack up. If you are eligible for a Platinum card, you are likely an experienced professional or business person with a healthy income, but it is still important not to get carried away by the large credit limits being offered and manage your finances responsibly, starting with paying your credit card bill in full every month.