The 5 Best Premium Credit Cards
Updated February 2013
Your credit card doesn't just have to be a card; it can also be the key to unlocking a hidden world of priority access and premium service. At one time, these services were reserved for the truly wealthy people that some now refer to as “the 1%”. Today, banks are eager to offer their most exclusive products to customers with good credit, if not extraordinary spending power.
While these cards do provide some pretty excellent perks, you should never get them just for the sake of prestige. But if you use credit cards responsibly and are already paying out of pocket for the free services they provide, they can be financially worthwhile. (See also: Best Credit Cards for People With Excellent Credit)
1. The Platinum Card® from American Express
American Express has made a name for itself by offering premium products in conjunction with unsurpassed customer service. While their secretive, top-of-the line Centurion Card is only offered by invitation to select high-net-worth individuals, the rest of us can apply for their Platinum Card, which costs a fraction of the price and may be almost as good. Platinum Card holders will enjoy an impressive array of benefits too long to list here, but the highlights are:
- $200 per year in airline fee credits that reimburse cardholders for any incidentals charged by the carrier of their choice
- A Global Entry membership that allows you to speed through U.S. Customs and Immigration
- A free companion ticket on a full fare international flight in Business or First Class
- Access to airport lounges operated by US Airways, Delta, American Airlines, and over 600 other lounges worldwide
- Numerous travel insurance and purchase protection programs
Finally, American Express continually tries to surpass itself with its personal concierge service that will do almost anything you ask, including the arrangement of travel, dining, and other purchases. Like other American Express products, cardholders will earn Membership Rewards points that can be used for cash back, gift cards, or exchanged for airline miles. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, which can largely be justified by the $300 worth Global Entry and airline fee credits. If you get to add a free companion to a Business Class international flight, the annual fee will pay for itself many times over. On the downside, American Express is less commonly accepted than Visa or Master card. Also, American Express recently went through a sort of a breakup with United Airlines, which is now going steady with Chase. As a result, Membership Rewards points cannot be exchanged for United miles, and their card no longer grants access to any United lounge.
2. United MilegePlus Presidential Plus Visa From Chase
Customers of United (and the former Continental) are being forced to pick sides after their airline fell out of favor with American Express. If you want to earn United miles and enjoy their lounges, you could do a lot worse than to receive the United Airlines MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card. When traveling on United, cardholders enjoy priority check-in, express security screening, priority boarding privileges, priority baggage handling, and two free checked bags. In addition, card members receive access to all United Clubs and over 200 other affiliated lounges such as the ones operated by US Airways. As with other premium credit cards, members receive several different purchase protection and travel insurance policies, as well as a dedicated concierge service. There is a $395 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees for this card. Finally, you know this is a great card because its name contains the word “Plus” twice.
3. J.P. Morgan Select
Like American Express, Chase offers a super-exclusive card called the Palladium that is only available to select clients of their personal banking service. Fortunately, they offer a slightly less glorified version called the J.P. Morgan Select, which leads these luxury cards in value. Like its competitors, it offers personalized service 24 hours a day, and cardholders will receive Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to frequent flier miles or used for booking travel directly through Chase. Members also receive complimentary primary auto rental coverage, trip delay or cancelation insurance, and baggage delay or lost luggage coverage when they travel. Finally, international travelers will love the fact that this card has an EMV Smart Chip and no foreign transaction fees. Even better, Chase offers this product for a mere $95 a year, and even that is waived the first year.
4. Citi Executive AAdvantage
Citi offers its ThankYou Prestige card with a $500 annual fee that is meant to compete with the other products on this list, but I don’t think that it is the best card they offer. Instead, cardholders would be wise to select their premium card co-branded with American Airlines. Like their ThankYou Prestige card, the Executive AAdvantage card offers an expert concierge service and all of the same purchase protection and travel insurance policies. In addition, travelers will receive full Admiral’s Club membership for them and their immediate family along priority check-in, airport screening, and boarding privileges plus with waived checked bag fees. The annual fee is $450, $50 less than the Prestige card and about the same as the Admiral’s Club pass, and there are no foreign transaction fees.
5. Visa Black Card (Offer Expired)
Don’t tell anyone, but Barclay’s Bank offers the Visa Black card in order to compete with other premium products on the market. Barclay’s apparently wants to keep this a secret because it is extremely difficult to find their name attached to the card. They do prominently boast that this product offers holders a limited membership, a 24-hour concierge service, and even a card made out of carbon (patent pending).
Cardholders earn points that can be worth 1% cash back or airfare on any airline with no blackout dates or restrictions. Other perks include unlimited VIP airport lounge visits in over 200 cities and the occasional luxury gift delivered to your door. This card does have $495 annual fee and, sadly, a 3% foreign transaction fee on all charges processed outside of the United States.
So despite their upscale marketing, it might be worthwhile to take a look at some of the premium credit cards and their long lists of perks. While these cards come with a heavy price tag, their benefits can actually be worth more than their costs.