Lifetime free credit cards are the most popular credit cards in India. And why not? They give free credit periods, reward points, discounts, and lounge access against hardly any commitment from our side. Thus, every credit card issuer has a big range of lifetime credit cards on offer. Below are a few LTF credit cards that I think are really worth the space in your wallet.
Criteria and Methodology
The criteria for selecting lifetime free credit cards is simple. The annual fee has to be ZERO. In case, there is an annual fee then the spending requirement to get the waiver has to be low, say around 150,000-200,000 or even lower. The reason is, an average credit card user in India spends around 180,000 per annum. The reward points should be in form of cash or near cash equivalent. By cash equivalent, I mean you should be able to convert it into cash or gift vouchers easily.
FYI, the cards mentioned below are in no particular order. You can check the reward rate on these credit cards by using the dynamic benefits calculator in the post.
Best Lifetime Free Credit Cards for 2023
Amazon Pay ICICI – Lifetime free Credit Card
Amazon Pay ICICI Credit Card is a lifetime free credit card best suited if a majority of spending is either on Amazon or using Amazon Pay wallet. If you are a Prime member, you get 5% off on all Amazon spends. Non-prime members get unlimited 3% cashback. Further, loading the Amazon Pay wallet gives you 2% cashback. The wallet can be used to pay most of the utility bills & insurance premiums, and order food & travel bookings. All other (non-fuel) expenses fetch 1% cashback. Detailed review here.
Axis Flipkart Credit Card
The Axis Flipkart credit card is a no-nonsense credit card that gives a decent 1.5% cash back on nearly all spending, including bill payments. However, the highlight of this card is 5% unlimited cash back on Flipkart and Myntra. In addition, this card gives 4% cashback on preferred merchants. Major ones are Cleartrip, Swiggy, PVR, Uber and Tata Play. Axis Flipkart is not lifetime free per se. The annual fee is 500+GST but waived off on annual spending of 200,000.
The USP of this card is unlimited cashback on most of your spending. However, there are obviously a few exceptions such as rental payments, fuel spends, purchase of gift cards from Flipkart and Myntra, wallet load, jewellery purchase etc. (link). Depending on your spending pattern, you can easily earn ~2-3% on your annual spending. A detailed review of Axis Flipkart is available here.
SBI Cashback Credit Card
The USP of this card is the no-nonsense reward structure and the 5% cashback on all online spending. All online spending of up to 200,000 per month is eligible for 5% cashback. That’s a whopping max cashback of 10,000 every month. The 5% cash back excludes utility bill payments, rent payments, wallet loads and merchant EMIs from online spends. So what’s included in online spending? Spends done on Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato, Swiggy, Ola, Uber, Train & Flight bookings etc will be counted as online spending.
SBI’s team has been very smart and is excluding this card from various offers it runs on Amazon/Flipkart. Basically, it is done to avoid double-dipping of reward points by the users. So, be mindful that the SBI Cashback card may not give additional discounts/cashback during such sales.
Currently, the card is available as a first-year free until March 2023. After that annual fee will be 999+GST, waived off on annual spending of 200,000. A detailed review of the card is available here.
While Amex MRCC is not a lifetime free credit card, the annual fee is waived on spends of just 150,000. Further, if you apply using the referral link here, you can get this card for 0 fees for the first year.
The USP of the Amex MRCC is the monthly milestone benefits. You get 1000 reward points (valued at ~INR400) on spending 20k per month. Further, you also get another 1000 reward points on doing 4 transactions of a minimum of 1500 each. Thus, effectively you get 2000 reward points on a monthly spend of 20k. Not to forget that Amex MRCC is one of the few credit cards that still gives reward points for loading money into the wallet.
A smart use case for this card is using it on HP petrol pumps. Though you don’t get any reward points for fuel spending; these spends are counted towards monthly milestones discussed earlier. Thus, in effect, you ~4% reward rate on fuel spending too. You may read a detailed review of Amex MRCC here.
HDFC Regalia as such doesn’t meet the criteria for lifetime free credit cards as laid out earlier. However, HDFC Bank has started offering this credit card as lifetime free to most of its users, thus included here. This credit card offers 5% cashback on Amazon vouchers purchased through the SmartBuy portal. This in a way makes it equivalent to Amazon Pay ICICI Credit Card. Further, on specific spend milestones, i.e. 5lakhs and 8lakhs, one gets 10k or 15k reward points as a bonus. Thus for someone who has high spending on credit cards and doesn’t really want to pay an annual fee but still wants a decent reward rate, this card works well.
Moreover, HDFC Regalia offers generous 12-lounge access free within India. In addition, it offers 6-lounge access outside India thru a Priority Pass membership. Not many cards offer these many free lounge access.
Axis Ace Credit Card
Axis Ace launched by Axis Bank in partnership with Google is an excellent credit card that offers a minimum of 2% cash back on every spend (except fuel and wallet load). Further, it offers 5% unlimited cashback on utility bill payments made thru GPay. This makes it one of the best credit cards to hold. Moreover, since it is on the Visa platform there are no acceptance issues anywhere at all. The redemption option is very simple; the cashback earned is credited automatically in the next statement cycle. The icing on the cake is 4 free domestic lounge visits every year.
The challenge with the card is it’s not easily available. If you happen to see the invite in your GPay app, you are lucky. Just go ahead and apply for one. Read detailed review here
Lifetime Free Credit Cards Benefits Calculator
Below is the dynamic calculator that gives indicative reward rates on the above-mentioned credit cards. All you need to do is enter your indicative monthly spending across categories. Based on your inputs, the benefits calculator will calculate the reward rates post annual fees (if any).
You will find this calculator beneficial in identifying which cards to apply. For e.g., if your major spending is on Amazon and fuel, you would be better off owning an ICICI Amazon Pay credit card for Amazon spending along with Amex MRCC for fuel spending.
I believe that if used smartly, you can easily get a 4-5% reward on nearly all spending on lifetime free credit cards. A case in point is the SBI Cashback and the Amex MRCC credit cards. These 2 cards combined will give you 4-5% reward rate on nearly all your spends.
In the interest of full disclosure, Credit Cardz may earn a referral bonus for anyone that’s approved through some of the links in this post. However, opinions and views expressed here are of the author's alone and not those of the bank, credit card issuer, or anyone else and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.