Why the HDFC-Swiggy card is about loyalty, not rewards

Credit cards (ramesh pathania)
Credit cards (ramesh pathania)

Summary

The card promises 10% rewards on spends but frustrated users say the app is giving just 1%

Are customers spoilt for choice? Yes, and the number of co-branded credit cards in the market is a good indicator of this. These cards are typically issued by a bank in association with a retailer, airline, or a hotel. So, Amazon has a tie-up with ICICI, Flipkart with Axis Bank, Swiggy with HDFC, Myntra with Kotak Mahindra Bank and Yatra and IRCTC with SBI, and so on.

Co-branded cards promote spending, but also offer great rewards and benefits aimed at ensuring brand loyalty among customers. To be sure, they also come with their own set of problems. Take for instance, the HDFC-Swiggy credit card, which can be used for ordering food, groceries and more. A letter, accompanying the card and signed by Swiggy’s co-founder and a senior official from HDFC Bank, lists the various features of the card but fails to mention all the exemptions — until one digs out the terms and conditions. Swiggy, however, insists that users can call HDFC Bank to find out the updated list of exclusions.

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Graphic: Mint

The entry-level credit card boasts of 10% cashback on Swiggy food orders and Instamart orders (groceries, household items, electronics), besides using it for Genie services (hyperlocal delivery of items from one point to another), and DineOut (which allows users to make bookings at restaurants), both via the app. This cashback reward programme, though, has been a bone of contention between dissatisfied users and the food delivery app. For one, it is deposited as Swiggy Money in the user’s Swiggy account and can only be redeemed on its app.

Spends on the card made on food orders or DineOut are randomly categorized under ‘Bundl Technologies’, Swiggy’s parent company. Shockingly, users receive only a nominal 1% cashback on these orders, instead of the promised 10%.

Features and caveats

An applicant has to be at least 21 years old with a monthly income of 25,000. The self-employed have to furnish a copy of their income tax return, with income of at least 6 lakh in the previous financial year. The joining fee is 500, which is waived off on annual spends of 2 lakh.

The total cashback for expenses originating on Swiggy is capped at 1,500 per month. This means that after spending 15,000 a month on Swiggy with the HDFC card, a user is not eligible for further cashback benefits.

The Swiggy card also offers 5% cashback on e-commerce spends and 1% for everything else. These, too, are capped at 1,500 and 500, respectively, per month. As a welcome bonus, the food delivery app also gives its users a 3-month membership of Swiggy One for 1,299. Users who opt for this get discounts on food orders or deliveries.

As for online spends, Swiggy’s app has a section that displays logos of e-commerce sites Amazon, Myntra, and Nykaa, ride hailing app Ola, besides online pharmacy 1mg, and movie ticketing app BookMyShow, nudging users to spend on these platforms. Yet, neither Swiggy nor HDFC mentions these names anywhere in its terms and conditions.

The redressal mechanism

As is the case with the most companies, grievance redressal is a major issue with the card. Swiggy’s app doesn’t allow a user to raise any dispute related to credit card billing, while HDFC’s helpline gets disconnected four out of the five times when contacted. Some users, who finally got through to an executive, were asked to send emails to resolve the issue.

Many users complain about the difficulties in getting a card, despite being eligible for one. Syed Abrar Ahamed, a 24 year-old entrepreneur dealing in hardware from Kolkata, said he applied for the card since he frequently transacts on Swiggy. “As opposed to other apps, I can order mostly everything on Swiggy. Food, groceries, and even medicines on Genie. And unlike Zomato, it’s all available on one app," Ahamed said.

Calling Swiggy a “one-stop shop" for all ordering needs, Ahamed said he would transact on Swiggy at least five times a week, and was encouraged to apply for this credit card. Despite the cap on rewards, he was confident he could manage his spends better .

Ahamed faced issues even while applying for the credit card. This was despite Swiggy mentioning that users could apply for this card even if they have another HDFC credit card. The lender, however, told him that he was ineligible to receive it because he already had one of its other cards. After watching some videos by finfluencers on YouTube, Ahamed found a way to reach out to the customer care executive at the bank. Soon after, he was issued with the card.

But that was not the end of it. Ahamed was unable to link his new card to the Swiggy app, disqualifying him for the 10% cashback. HDFC’s customer support directed him to Swiggy; despite repeated calls and mails, Ahamed still hasn’t been able to link his card.

Another user, Surya Mathur, said he, too, has also not been able to link his card to the app.“The entire process is quite confusing. First I was told it (the application for the credit card) was rejected, and then suddenly I received the card. But now I can’t link it (on the app), so it’s useless," said Mathur, a resident of Pune who has written to Swiggy’s customer support and is awaiting a response.

In response to Mint’s queries, the firms admitted to the complaints raised by users. In a joint statement issued on behalf of both firms, a spokesperson for Swiggy said: “Swiggy HDFC Bank Credit card continues to scale the program to both Swiggy & HDFC Bank consumers, since the launch of the co-branded credit card two months ago. We are excited by the positive feedback and the value which, the card enables for our customers. The issue with cashbacks was identified in the early weeks of the launch and has been resolved for transactions moving forward. The platforms across which the 5% cash back is available, include Myntra, Nykaa, Amazon, Flipkart , Ola, Netmeds and many more".

The rival experience

Currently, the HDFC-Swiggy card is the only plastic in the market that provides above-average rewards for ordering through a food delivery app. Swiggy’s main rival, Zomato, had a short-lived tie-up with RBL Bank that launched with a lot of similar features, which were slowly devalued over time.

RBL’s Zomato Edition card offered unlimited 5% cashback on the Zomato app and on any transaction at a restaurant. It also gave you 10% cashback on your birthday spends. Like Swiggy, Zomato’s cashback was credited only in the Zomato wallet— but it was credited instantly, as opposed to the once-a-month cycle that HDFC-Swiggy follows. To be sure, RBL changed this later, only crediting it once, only after the monthly bill was generated.

The cashback was capped at 500 a day, and the 10% slab for birthday spends was discontinued as well. Ultimately, the card was discontinued in April this year.

When it was first launched, users were quite enthusiastic about the Swiggy credit card. However, many users were disenchanted with the low cap on rewards and the lack of clarity on the nature of spends eligible for the cashback programme. The biggest issue for users was that the promised 10% cashback did not materialize. Customer care has been another sore point.

These issues are not restricted to the Swiggy card, but plague other co-branded cards as well. However, beyond these issues, the HDFC-Swiggy card is really beneficial, especially for those who use Swiggy for both food and grocery deliveries regularly. If the Bundl Technologies issue is resolved, the card becomes a more attractive proposition.

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