Welcome to the high life of credit cards. Flaunting annual fees north of $350, ultra-premium rewards cards pack a lifetime of luxury into a small rectangle that fits inside a Prada wallet. Holding one makes you part of a special club of cardholders.
Exactly how exclusive?
It’s rumored that only 100,000 people carry the card of cards, the American Express Centurion Card, which is informally known as the “Black Card.”
Elite cardholders have a higher level of income, a higher credit rating and higher spending. Most of the time, the issuer acquires the customer through a traditional rewards card and based on the behavior on that card, the issuer may offer a premium card.
So what does it feel like to hold one of these cards?
Bankrate dives into the high-class world of elite credit cards and charge cards to find out.
You know those well-dressed individuals who bypass long security lines at the airport and breeze through the fast lanes? They might be carrying a premium credit card. You’ll also see them kicking back in the airport lounge.
Many of these rewards credit cards, such as the Mastercard Gold Card issued by Luxury Card, provide access to airport lounges worldwide. Others feature access to certain carriers’ lounges, such as the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard. A layover doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?
That’s not all. Many of these premium rewards credit cards grant cardholders priority boarding and waive certain airline fees.
The perks keep coming at the hotel. For example, American Express Platinum charge cardholders receive room upgrades (depending on room availability) and special amenity, such as free breakfast, a spa credit, or complimentary food and beverages at participating hotels and resorts worldwide, according to Kimberly Litt, a spokeswoman for American Express.
Those carrying a Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card from Chase can expect similar high-end benefits. Additionally, cardholders get 3 Ritz-Carlton Club upgrades each year.
A signature of the Ritz-Carlton experience, club services include living-room-type lounges that offer a hot breakfast buffet, lunchtime sandwiches and salads, afternoon tea with scones and small bites, pre-dinner cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and late-evening cordials and chocolates.
Premium rewards credit cards also come with personal assistants, or something very close to it. Most issuers offer a concierge service 24/7 to help cardholders with such mundane tasks as procuring hard-to-get tickets, booking a table at Gordon Ramsay’s newest restaurant or coordinating one-of-a-kind travel experiences, such as a cruise with the Food Network.
Other unique customer services include emergency translation services, weather forecasts, ATM locations, referrals for specialty services such as dog groomers and tailors, or locating rare books or other items for purchase.
American Express includes holiday shopping as part of its concierge services for Platinum cardholders. Those lucky enough to hold the silver card could submit their Christmas (or Hanukkah) lists to the concierge gift-buying service, which would research gift options, compare prices, buy the presents and ship them. The only caveat: The purchases have to go on the Platinum card at a retailer that takes American Express.
Top-tier credit cards make it easier to earn rewards. For example, Citi ThankYou Prestige cardholders are eligible for bonus rewards annually if they have a bank account with Citi. American Express Delta Reserve cardholders earn 10,000 Medallion miles that count toward Delta’s elite frequent flier status after their first purchase. Other premium rewards cards offer simple ways to earn points faster than the conventional 1-for-1 rate, such as travel or purchase bonuses.
Issuers also work overtime to create elite rewards events available only to their premium cardholders.
For example, American Express offers “by invitation only” events for its Centurion members. Past events included access to The Wimbledon Club at the 2016 Championship with a 3-day VIP package and a VIP trip to the 2016 ESPY Awards.
Some of the highest-end credit cards even differentiate themselves by card material. The JPMorgan Palladium Credit Card is named after the metal from which it’s created. Palladium is a natural white metal that is light and durable — similar to platinum, but less expensive. The Gold Card from Luxury Card is gold-plated. And the American Express Centurion Card is rumored to be made from titanium.
Both the Palladium and American Express Platinum cards also offer private jet rentals. The service price varies for American Express cardholders.
No roundup of elite credit card perks would be complete without the ghost orchid of rewards cards. The credit card issuer keeps the American Express Centurion card, informally known as the “Black Card,” tightly under wraps. No details are disclosed on the American Express website, and company contacts politely remain hush-hush about the card.
The card is so exclusive that you have to be invited to apply. Amex reportedly only extends an invitation if you’ve spent and paid off somewhere in the range of $250,000 to $500,000 on all of your Amex accounts in a calendar year.
Celebrities who have been spotted shopping with Black Cards include Jerry Seinfeld, Denzel Washington and John Mayer.
So how much does this kind of luxury cost? A $7,500 initiation fee plus a $2,500 annual fee, according to its online card agreement.