Top 5 Tips to Get Credit Card Annual Fee Waiver in India 2021

I got an annual fee reversal for my 3 credit cards this year out of 4 reversal requests. 

A success of 75%. 

The easiest way to get the annual fee waiver is to reach the spend base milestone like you need to spend 3 lakh in a year to get the annual fee waiver of HDFC Regalia credit card. 

But mostly people carry more than 1 credit card and fail to hit the milestone on any of their credit cards. 

Advice – You must have one primary card with the highest reward value that you should use for all your expenses unless there is any special offer on other cards. 

Chances are higher that you will cross the spend base milestone for your primary card. 

I would suggest checking the ROC of holding a credit card, for the remaining credit cards. 

ROC =  “Return on Cost” of holding a credit card. 

Calculate the annual benefit you get in form of welcome gifts, bonus rewards, regular reward points, and luxury benefits like airport lounge access & Spa sessions. 

Compare the monetary value of benefits with the annual fee. Let’s take an example of Standard Chartered Ultimate credit card that comes with an annual fee of Rs. 5,000 

Benefit Provided Monetary Value  
Renewal Gift 5000
6 domestic lounge visits (INR 1200 per Visit)7200
Cashback on Uber Rides (300 per month) 3600
12 Golf Session (INR 4500 per Session)18000 (assuming 4 used) 
Reward on Annual spend of Rs. 1.5 lac5000
Total 38800

I wouldn’t mind paying Rs. 5,000 as an annual fee for benefits worth more than Rs. 38,000. If I exclude the Golf session (mostly people do not use), even then the benefit is Rs. 20,000.  

You can give a try to waive the annual fee even if your credit card ROC is positive. But you wouldn’t feel bad in case your request gets declined. 

For a Negative ROC credit card, try the following mentioned tips to get the annual fee waiver. In case your request declines, then you can think of card closing. 

5 Tips to Get Credit Card Annual Fee Waiver

#1. Just Ask For Waiver

I got an annual fee waiver for my two credit cards, HDFC Regalia First credit card, and Standard Chartered Manhattan credit card by just requesting the customer care representative. 

Banks offer a spending base annual fee waiver on about 75% credit cards like I need to spend 1.2 lakh on Standard chartered bank to get the annual fee waiver. Because I couldn’t spend the mentioned amount, the banks charged me the annual fee. 

I called customer care and I explained to them that due to the COVID, I fall short to reach the annual spend milestone to automatically get an annual fee waiver. 

SC annual fee reversed

(Standard Chartered annual fee reversal)

Same technique I use to get reveral for HDFC regalia first credit card annual fee 

HDFC Annual fee reversal

(HDFC Regalia First credit card annual fee reversal)

Most of the time the customer care executive directly processes the annual fee waiver request but sometimes you need to justify why you deserve to have your annual fee waived.

You can showcase that you’re a loyal customer of the bank for 5 years and regularly using their credit card for the last 3 years. That would be enough for the support person to issue an annual fee waiver. 

Trick to use if above wouldn’t work

Make a call again to customer care, if your first request has been declined. You would be connected to a different representative who may be more agreeable.

You can try the famous “HUCA” method, which asks you to hang up and call again. 

Disclaimer – I couldn’t get the waiver of my SBI credit card annual fee. I tried but they declined my request every time. SBI is a public bank which could be the reason to decline the waiver request. 

#2. Inquire About Another Way Like Specific Card Use 

Amex representative declined my annual fee waiver request for the American Express membership rewards credit card.  

He said, “ currently there is no option in their system to issue an annual fee reversal”. 

Then I asked him if there is any other way to get the annual fee reverse back. Then he told me to spend Rs. 30,000 in the next 90 days. If I succeed, then I would get the annual fee of Rs. 1500 reversed. 

Some banks might have the policy to issue an annual fee waiver if you do something for it in return.

I am using the Amex card consistently, so I was able to spend over Rs. 30,000 and got the fee back. 

Amex annual fee reversal

Advice – Make sure before following through with the offer, you are not spending money on unwanted stuff just to meet the purchase requirements. You would end up spending more money than you’d receive from the waiver of the annual fee.

#3. Get A Banking Plan That Waives Your Annual Fee

Banks offer free credit cards (no annual fee) on choosing their premium banking plans. 

For example, Citibank offers a free Citi reward credit card (waiver of annual fee Rs. 1000) to Citi Priority clients.  Citi priority is a premium banking plan in which you need to maintain a monthly average relationship value of Rs. 15 lakh with the City Bank. 

You can ask your relationship manager or customer support about such a banking plan that provides a free credit card. 

#4. Switch to a Different Card

You can downgrade your existing premium credit card to a free credit card from the same bank, in case you don’t find the card’s benefit worth the annual fee.

For example, your travel credit card provides unlimited lounge access but you hardly travel once a year. You can downgrade your credit to a basic credit card that comes with zero annual fees. 

This would carry less hassle than canceling your card and applying for a new one with a different issuer.  You would also be able to grab bank-specific credit card deals like a 10% discount with an SBI credit card during Big Savings Days on Flipkart.  

flipkart offer

#5. Leverage the competition

Negotiate with your bank for an annual fee waiver based on other competitive banks that may have a better deal right now. 

For example, You’re looking for a fee waiver on a travel credit card because you haven’t been able to use the card during the pandemic. You should find out how other banks are handling the situation. If they have waived their fees, then mention it to your bank. 

Briefly describe the offer from the other bank and mention that you plan to open an account with another bank if the annual fee can’t be waived. There’s no guarantee that your bank will waive the fee, but it’s worth a shot. 

Your research about your card’s competitors ahead of time might help in your negotiations.

Other Options If Nothing Works 

A. Pay the fee using your rewards. 

Pay your annual fee with the reward points, if your credit card gives the annual fee payment as a reward redemption option. This wouldn’t pitch you the same as you pay the annual fee from your bank account. 

B. Apply for a Card That Doesn’t Charge Annual Fee

You can avoid paying an annual fee by applying for a free credit card in the first place. Most of the banks offer a minimum 1 credit card that doesn’t carry an annual fee. 

For example, ICICI Platinum credit card, HDFC Moneyback credit card. 

C. Compare Welcome Gift with Annual Fee

You can compare the worth of the welcome gift and renewal benefit with the annual fee. If the worth of gifts is the same or near about then you can use the card as a free credit card. 

For Example,  Standard Chartered Ultimate credit card offers the same joining and renewal benefit same as the annual fee.

renewal fee benefits

Closing Thoughts 

You can get your credit card fee waiver in one way or the other but you need to check whether the efforts are worth putting in as compared to the annual fee. 

I didn’t try for the second time when my SBI credit card waiver request got declined. The annual fee was Rs. 499 + GST which I feel is not worth the time that I would need to spend to convince the customer care to save that money

Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

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