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When the term metal credit card enters a conversation, the mind begins to wander. One’s imagination floods with images of transatlantic flights, town cars and Grey Poupon. Popular opinion would suggest the heftiest credits cards are reserved for the heftiest bank accounts.
Reality, however, isn’t so cut-and-dried.
As little as a decade ago, metal credit cards were seen as a statement piece reserved for the beau monde. Invite-only luxury credit cards most often arrived in shiny, heavyweight packages, flanked by 24/7 concierge services, exclusive incentives and perks beyond the average customer’s wildest dreams.
Today, the stereotype persists, though there is an emergence of a new class of top-grade cards that cater to those with great credit and a dependable history as opposed to an astronomical net worth.
How did the metal credit card come to be?
First introduced by American Express in the late ‘90s, the Centurion Card (otherwise known as the Black Card) found its way to the top of the pop culture scrum as the preferred method of payment for Hollywood high rollers and titans of industry. Available only to customers who received an invite, the Centurion Card paired an anodized titanium body and near-indestructible feel with annual fees that ascended to the thousands. For the first time in credit card history, the weight of a card became linked to social cachet.
It wasn’t long before the competitors joined the movement. Major issuers such as Chase and Citigroup soon followed suit, alongside regional institutions like Dubai First. Each offered cards that weighed between 10 to 20 grams — at least double that of the average credit card weight of 5 grams.
Metal credit cards of today
As the credit market expanded into the 2010s and credit became the world’s favored method of payment, metal card manufacturing increased. For some issuers, metal could be seen as a psychological nudge. A customer fishing around his or her wallet may be biased toward grasping at a heavier, glossy object in comparison to its plastic neighbors.
Ultimately, as the number of credit card applicants rapidly increased, the barrier to entry for metal card ownership began to lower. Today, many of the industry’s trendiest cards are both metal and readily accessible to responsible spenders. Here’s a quick look at what’s out there:
Weight: 13 grams
Aesthetic: Stainless steel
One of the most popular cards around (metal or not), the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with all the travel perks you could ask for, plus the look and feel of a top-end card. The $450 annual fee looks dramatic at first glance, but underneath you’ll find any number of perks that exceed its value, including a $300 travel credit, an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, airport lounge access and a signup bonus that nets out somewhere in the vicinity of $750 toward travel.
Weight: 16 grams
The Capital One Venture Rewards card is a big name for good reason. Starting with 2 miles earned for every dollar spent, travel costs are much easier to stomach by with this metal in your pocket. Redeeming points is easy, fast and flexible with plenty of participating hotels, airlines and rental car agencies.
Weight: 12 grams
Like its travel-focused competitors, the Citi Prestige is an easy choice for globetrotters. A Global Entry application credit and airport lounge access come standard. And for long term travelers, Citi offers a unique fourth-night-free perk that allows customers who spend more than four nights in one place to redeem a credit for the average price of one night (minus taxes and fees).
Weight: 13 grams
If oohs and aahs are what you’re after with a metal card, online shopping can’t compete with the attention you’ll get from dining out. But for the more modest among us, the Chase Amazon Prime Rewards card is well worth its weight, offering 5% cash back on all purchases made through Amazon. You’ll struggle to find a more generous redemption rate from any card in the industry.
Weight: 28 grams
As one of many metal co-branded credit cards, the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card stands out for its superlative signup bonus and point maxing opportunities. Carrying a steep $450 annual fee, customers can quickly recompense the value by spending $4,000 within the first three months of ownership, granting two free nights at select Ritz-Carlton properties (a price tag that could quickly exceed $450).
How to pick a metal card
While the cards we’ve covered are some of the most lucrative on the scene, we wouldn’t suggest choosing a credit card on the basis of its material composition. Plastic or metal, a card is only as cost-effective as you make it. Your utilization depends entirely on your lifestyle and preferences. Before you go running into a metal credit card application, make sure you’re prioritizing financial status above social status.