#black credit card
Black, gold, titanium: Are elite credit cards worth it?
By Erica Sandberg
When shopping for a credit card, always look for one with no annual fee.
Sound familiar? It should. Paying the bare minimum for plastic is one of the standard directives among personal finance experts, and in general it’s sage advice. Elite credit cards, however, are the exception to the rule (see Elite credit card comparison chart ). Depending on your lifestyle and circumstances, paying extra for such accounts can make sense. Find out if these specialized products are worth the price of admission.
Elite cards, defined
Credit card issuers offer many types of accounts, each designed to match its diverse customer base. Some are for those just starting out, others are for people with poor credit and still others are for those with good, established credit histories. If you’re in the latter group, you’ll probably be eligible for a low fee card that also allows you to earn points for airline miles. cash back and other rewards. However, if your credit rating is outstanding and you are both a high earner and big spender, you could be eligible for an elite credit card, which provides far more extreme benefits. Not all financial institutions issue such cards, but many do, including American Express. Chase. Citi and Barclays Bank.
Whether the card is black, gold, platinum or sports an enigmatic name, all elite cards share some common traits:
- An annual membership fee, often costing hundreds of dollars or more.
- Programs and services not available to holders of regular credit cards.
- Available only to a select group of preferred customers.
Bear in mind that the annual fee is not punitive, as it would be if the bank deemed you a risky borrower. Rather, it covers the cost of a wide array of expensive perks. There is a card hierarchy, says Mona Hamouly, an American Express spokeswoman. These are top-tier products. The benefits define the card. Still, some accounts are particularly pricey, as illustrated by the ultra-exclusive American Express Centurion card, which is constructed from genuine titanium. Cardholders pay a one-time $7,500 joining fee and $2,500 annually. In contrast, the company’s platinum card (made of standard plastic) is a mere $450 per year.
The benefits of prestige
So what do you get for the privilege of holding such a rarified credit card? That depends on the issuer and card-type, but most programs include:
- Generous travel benefits, such as airport club access, hotel and resort upgrades, late checkouts and helpful travel experts.
- Access to private sales and personal shoppers at high-end retailers.
- Concierge services, including help with dinner and entertainment reservations, event planning, and personal shopping assistance.
- Exclusive tickets to sports and performing arts events.
- Heightened warrantee protection on purchases.
- Hard-to-get reservations in trendy restaurants.
- Upgraded rewards points redeemable for luxury products and upgraded airline seating.
In the case of the Centurion card, cardholders are privy to some serious VIP treatment. In addition to the standard package of elite card perks, cardholders enjoy sky-high charging power, a client service staff that caters to the extravagant whims of its affluent members, and entry to experiences unavailable to the general public, such as hobnobbing with the stars at private events. The exact perks that the card offers are kept secret by the American Express staff and aren’t publicly advertised. But American Express spokeswoman, Elizabeth Crosta, says that the experiences the card offers are uniquely tailored to each individual cardholder.
Does it make sense to pay more?
To determine if moving up to the next credit card level is a good idea, first determine whether an inexpensive rewards account will suffice. Many banks issue cards with no annual fee that also come with excellent customer service, heightened insurance and warrantee protection and a decent load of enticing travel and shopping rewards.