Credit cards that will make you feel like a VIP
By Benjamin Salisbury
Many of us like to feel special, as if we have access to something others don't -- we want to feel like a VIP. Some credit cards can provide that feeling. They come with unique perks, pampering and special treatment, such as exclusive ticket offers or personalised concierge services. Some are so exclusive, you can't apply for them because they are invitation-only.
Not only do VIP credit cards come with big rewards and prestige, they also come at a cost, and not everyone will qualify. There may be a high household income requirement to meet, or a pricy annual fee.
"These cards are often hard to obtain -- one has to be a customer of private banks such as Coutts or have significant annual salary or invested wealth," Brian Brown, credit card expert at financial analysts Defaqto, said in an emailed response to questions.
If you're chasing a bigwig feeling, see if you qualify for some of the most impressive cards on the market:
Express Centurion card
Otherwise known as American Express' Black card, this is an invitation-only credit card, and American Express doesn't disclose the requirements to receive an invitation. Even if you get a golden, er, Black ticket, you'll still have to pay an initiation fee of $7,500 and an annual fee of $2,500 to get the card. And since it's a charge card, the full balance has to be paid off each month.
On top of the basic benefits that come with an American Express credit card, perks of the Centurion card include deals for ultra-exclusive travel, food and entertainment; personalised concierge services; upgraded airline and hotel loyalty programmes and a luxury car rental service at reduced prices.
Coutts is the private bank to HM the Queen and is synonymous with luxury and privilege. Its Silk card comes with no annual fee, and credit limits are subject to status but are typically very high.
Travel benefits include worldwide travel insurance, family travel and winter sports insurance, and cover for emergency medical expenses, cancellations and baggage loss. Travellers also get complimentary access to executive airport lounges worldwide.
Cardholders get cover from Sentinel Gold for lost and stolen cards, Continental Car Breakdown insurance and lock and key insurance, which covers all expenses that come with lost or stolen keys.
"The rewards programme for Coutts Silk card is called Thank you from Coutts," said a Coutts spokeswoman in an emailed response to questions. "This provides a ‘tiered' selection of gifts depending on the amount of money a client has spent with their Silk card (at £25k, at £75k and at £150k)."
However, Brown questions the value of these rewards.
"For instance, one has to spend over £25,000 to be offered perks like a free bottle of whiskey or a box of chocolates," Brown said. Given that a decent bottle of single malt costs around £30-£35, he says, is this a fair trade?
He does think Coutts offers genuinely rare exclusives, such as "airport lounge access at airports like Heathrow or JFK, which many of the lower value cards don't offer; however, the small print shows that access to these lounges could be restricted at busy times."
American Express Platinum charge card
For a fee of £450, this card offers comprehensive worldwide travel insurance for you, your family and supplementary cardholders.
It has no pre-set spending limit (though that does not mean it has an unlimited spending facility), offers complimentary treats at selected restaurants and has a dedicated concierge service.
New members receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points when they spend £2,000 on the card in the first three months, enough for two return flights from London to Barcelona.
American Express card
New cardholders receive 1,000 Harrods reward points and then up to five points for every £1 spent in-store, plus one point for almost every £1 you spend elsewhere.
This card comes with a £150 annual fee, but also some unique rewards. For instance, after any year in which you spend over £40,000 on your card, you can redeem 40,000 Harrods Rewards points for a special night's stay in one of Le Royal Monceau - Raffles' double rooms. You also have access to Harrods personal shopping team, invitations to exclusive events and discount days at the store. An annual complimentary blow-dry (for women) or wet-shave (men) from the Harrod's Urban Retreat salon is included as well.
Infinite charge card
This invitation-only card from Brown Shipley is one of the most exclusive Visa cards available.
It offers fully comprehensive travel and medical insurance, purchase protection and online security. You also get access to 24/7 personal assistance and concierge services, plus bespoke travel services, reservations at exclusive restaurants and tickets for events and shows.
The only potential downside: chances are, many who are eligible to hold this card already have personal assistants who can arrange the things the card's concierge services promise, Brown said.
rewards cards now more exclusive
Some cards don't hold quite the inaccessibility of the invitation-only cards, or a Coutts account. However, thanks to a decrease in rewards programmes following the EU regulation on interchange fees, it may now cost you more to get rewards that are worth it.
A couple of examples include:
British Airways American Express Premium
This card has an annual fee of £195, but offers an introductory bonus of 18,000 Avios points if you spend £3,000 in the first three months. You can get a free companion voucher annually when you spend £10,000, valid for 24 months. You also get automatic enrolment to the British Airways Executive Club and invites to purchase tickets for some of the most exclusive events around.
The rewards points system offers 1.5 points for virtually every £1 you spend, and three points for almost every £1 spent with BA.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
This card has a fee of £140 but offers a host of benefits in return. You can earn 20,000 bonus reward points when you spend £2,000 in your first three months, enough for a return flight from London to over 100 destinations and points can be transferred to 15 major frequent flyer programmes. You earn one point for almost every £1 spent on the card and two points for every extra £1 spent with American Express Travel.
You get membership to the American Express Lounge Club, which entitles you to two complimentary lounge visits a year at over 350 airport lounges globally. Other benefits include money off Hertz rental car rates, travel and shopping purchase protection, hotel room upgrades and access to exclusive event tickets.
Brown said in most cases, the benefits of these cards don't outweigh the costs. "In our opinion, many of the benefits on offer could either be purchased more cheaply elsewhere (e.g., travel insurance), or the customer may already have that benefit through other means (e.g., airport lounge access through travelling business class)."
However, you may be less concerned about the usefulness of the card, and more interested in the VIP feeling. If you're looking for the prestige factor, these cards will certainly deliver.
Updated: 1 March 2017
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