If you are an early adopter, own a credit card, have reminders to pay your credit cards, and like to maximize returns on credit card use, live in Bangalore or Mumbai or other metropoles – It may be worth routing your credit card payments through Cred – the members-only rewards app. With a glossy interface and a catalog of deals that get refreshed ever so often, you have nothing to lose. Yet.
How We tested
We tried it out for ourselves over a few months, looked at social media conversations for #Cred, and spoke to other users of Cred. We used Cred for American Express, HDFC, and Yes Bank cards. We had testers located in major Indian cities – other than Bangalore or Mumbai. We experimented with redeeming some of the rewards and also read up on the press articles, and general coverage of the Cred app in the media.
Who Is This For
- Cred will for work for you at this stage if you are an early adopter. What do I mean by early adopter? I mean those of us who are curious to try out new products, services and are accepting of the quirks that come with them. In this case, it could mean only one way to pay your credit card (debit card, when they launched – there are more ways now) or limited rewards.
- Cred will also work for you – again, at this stage, if you live in Bangalore or Mumbai or Online only. The app is what I think many of us – especially on Twitter – refer to as ‘Peak Bangalore’ or ‘Peak Mumbai’ in this case. Most of the offline experiences center around those two cities and Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune get lucky at times. Honestly, though, the online rewards offered also feel like a selection of Startup Pin Codes located in Bangalore. I talk more about this below in what I do not like about Cred.
- Cred will also only work for you if you set up our own bill payment reminders 3-5 days ahead of schedule and are okay with manually going into the app and paying your card. If you are dependent on auto-deduct to pay off your credit cards, this will require some logistical shuffling because Cred does not have this feature yet.
Cred will also work for you – at this stage, if you live in Bangalore or Mumbai or Online only. The app is what I think many of us – especially on Twitter – refer to as ‘Peak Bangalore’ or ‘Peak Mumbai’ in this case.
What You Need To Know
Experian and Crif High Mark scores
Both Experian and Crif High Mark are versions of global credit bureaus expanding their presence here in India as credit scores and risk-based services become prevalent. As you set up your account on Cred, the app asks you a few details that help assess your credit profile or score from such credit reporting agencies. They use a combination of weighted data on your past loans, credit card ownership, usage, and payment to provide you a number on a range between 300-900. You then get the corresponding number of Cred coins in your account to get started.
Cred Coins and Gems
Cred coins and gems are the Cred equivalent of points or miles. Cred began with just coins and introduced gems a short while ago. How do they work? Well, you earn coins proportionate to the amount of the credit card bills you pay through the Cred app. So just paid off a ₹50,000 bill? Congratulations you have 50,000 Cred Coins to burn on the Cred app. Gems were a bit of an afterthought. You only receive them through referrals to the Cred app. Each referral gets you 10 Cred gems.
What We Like About Cred
- Cred has a well-designed user interface that makes it pleasant to use. Much has been written about this. With an emphasis on visual design, beauty, and joy – the result is that you enjoy being on the app. Few consumer apps in the Indian app ecosystem feel as well thought out or elegant. There is also a behaviorally addictive element that layers well upon the slick interface.
You often find yourself coming back to look at what new rewards Cred has to offer, and seeing your Cred coins shoot up significantly with a single bill payment feels …satisfying, and slimy only in your bank account.
- Cred makes the rewards game simple and also maximizes the returns from your credit card spending. Most credit cards offer rewards in exchange for spending on various utilities or purchases. However, it can be a maze of what feels like arbitrary ratios (₹100 at X = 2 points but ₹100 at Y = 5 points. What?). Cred’s ₹1 = 1 coin ratio just makes things simple. So here you rack up your typical credit card rewards, as well as Cred coins. All in all, more incentive.
- So you remember what I said about Cred being an app for early adopters? It works in two ways – Sure, Cred in itself is in its early days, but the rewards catalog is essentially a list of new startups in India. If you are the sort who likes to know what’s new – Cred definitely helps keep you in the know. Well them, and funding announcements. I know very often that companies funded by the marquee VC names tend to look not very far, but at other portfolio companies for first or test customers. Rewards include a lot of new D2C brands and services. A 30-minute call with a mutual fund advisor courtesy Growww in exchange for 50,000 coins, anyone?
- Cred now supports Debit cards, Net Banking and UPI to make credit card payments and here’s what I like the most, and have heard echoed by other users – you have nothing to lose by routing your credit card payments via Cred. You just stand to earn more Rewards.
Or do you? You may be under the influence of the glossy veneer that is the Cred interface. Let me get into what we do not like.
What We Do Not Like About Cred
- Cred has a cred protect feature – that alerts you to bill due dates, and analyzes credit card statements for hidden fees and charges, and shows you a breakdown of how much you spend. Here’s the clincher: You need to provide permission to Cred to link your Gmail and Read email.
- Here’s why this bothers us in all sorts of ways – First, Gmail authentication essentially asks for read-only permission for all emails and their metadata. You have to take Cred at their word to believe they will not read any other emails; also you can link only Gmail for now.
- Second, if you have a card with a bank that does not send bank statements via email (Like American Express) – you are on your own. I believe there is only a handful of banks that are supported for the smart statement feature right now.
- Cred should be looking to the Intuit ecosystem of products for precedence and work directly with Bank APIs to access this information for users.
Allowing my bank to share my statement with Cred is very VERY different from Cred asking me permission to read all my emails – no matter the disclaimers stating that they will not. This feels like an unfair practice and given the climate of Facebook’s errors, and GDPR – they should find another solution to this ASAP.
- Gems vs. Coins – As I said earlier, Gems were an afterthought as a reward currency. The earlier adopters of the app, who went ahead and made the most verbal referrals I imagine – did not get anything for their effort and now just have to watch al the Gem rewards go by quite sadly. I recall reading that Kunal Shah, the Founder of Cred, spoke to comedians for inspiration because they are designed to think about how things can go viral. Sure, but referrals should have been a Day 0 – post- Beta feature. Everyone remembers Uber.
- Cred induces FOMO in you and not in a good way. As I said above, it is a Peak Bangalore or Mumbai app. The Doolallys, Toasts & Tonics, Biere Clubs and Fatty Baos are covered. The rest of you will just live in silent envy wondering if you need the newest men’s skincare product while eyeing the 15% off Myntra’s limited catalog because that’s all is on your plate.
- Which brings me to another pet peeve, Cred has many minutiae when you purchase a reward – and I am not kidding when I say minutiae – It is small text which is essential to read because almost all Cred rewards at marketplaces direct you to a separate Cred-only limited catalog.
- Finally to nitpick, in our testing, we found that the iOS version had a particular interaction where you have to long press and drag down a modal to access some currency reward – which we found terribly annoying. Always took a few tries to succeed. Also, just like airline miles – Cred coins expire (180 days after they are earned). So if you are that person who has 5 lakh cred coins in your account, and do not live in Mumbai or Bangalore – well, you have our commiserations.
What is the word on the street
In our research, we also read about what other’s are saying about Cred on Social Media and spoke to other users. Here are the common themes:
- The rewards feel disproportionate to the coins burned, especially on the cashback front. Burn 10,000 coins for up to ₹10,000 cashback? You may get ₹14.
- Double check what you are getting for your coins when you burn them for experiences. The pictures from the Cred zone at the recent Shreya Ghoshal concert left a lot to be desired in addition to a telescope.
- Few users on Twitter have complained about lackadaisical Cred customer support. Given that it is Twitter, I understand there is a selection bias but hey, no harm in putting it out there. That said, raising a customer support ticket on the Cred app is easy enough – I tried though I am still waiting for a response – and apparently, there’s a team on Twitter. I have also noticed a few Cred employees actively reaching out to those who have voiced their issues on Twitter.
In summary, in the days of Zomato gold, Eazy Diner, Paytm First and the Coup card – Cred does provide something different in terms of a good deal. However, to really take off, I think their focus should be on the product and customer support, and maybe have a few formulaic hits as rewards – Swiggy vouchers, Spicemax upgrades or Hotstar premium memberships – for the outsiders. Outside Banglore, and Mumbai that is.