The most exclusive high-end credit cards have sleek design, loaded with luxury perks, come with really high fees, and… they tend to be invite-only. You can’t simply apply for such a card and expect to get approved. You have to receive a private invitation to be able to apply for a top high-end credit card. For example, to receive an invitation for a high-end card like the American Express Centurion Card, also known as the Amex Black Card, you will need to be a big spender.
Instead of waiting for an invitation for one of the most exclusive and most desirable credit cards, you can get premium treatment with luxury tint right now. Our favorite high-end credit cards may not be the most exclusive cards, but they are not the most expensive either. “High-end” doesn’t need to mean “high fees” and exorbitant income requirements, you can still find premium credit cards you can afford. Here are our top picks for the best high-end credit cards you can apply now.
Best High-End Card for Luxury Benefits
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Why it’s great: A good choice for loyal American Airlines flyers as it allows earning elite status faster. It’s also a go-to card for Admirals Club access that also offers priority check-in, priority boarding, free first checked bags, and some other benefits.
– Earn 50,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
– Admirals Club® membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you.
– Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year.
– First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation
– Annual Fee: $450
This high-end credit card has all chances to become a favorite credit card of American Airlines frequent flyers who what to maintain their elite status and like to enjoy the comfort of lounges.
While the card has a $450 annual fee, loyal customers can easily offset it by actively using just one benefit – a complimentary Admirals Club membership (a value of up to $650). Even more, the card earns 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles for spending $40,000 in a calendar year, which makes it easier to maintain or obtain American Airlines elite status.
Other travel benefits include Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credit, free first bag checked on domestic American Airlines itineraries for the primary cardholder and up to 8 travel companions, priority boarding, priority check-in and priority airport screening, dedicated concierge, and no foreign transaction fees.
The only thing that could be better is the card’s points-earning: it earns 2 miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent everywhere else. Cardholders will also save 25% on inflight food and beverage purchases on American Airlines flights, which makes dining onboard a bit cheaper.
Best High-End Card for Travel Rewards
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Why it’s great: The card offers an extensive list of luxury travel perks, including access to The Centurion℠ Lounges and Marriott Bonvoy™ Gold Elite Status. Plus, cardmembers will get the most generous annual credits, elite status benefits at Hilton and Marriott, purchase protection and so much more.
– Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
– Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
– Annual $200 airline fee credit with a pre-qualifying airline of your choice.
– Unlimited complimentary access to over 1,300 American Express Lounge locations across 140 countries.
– Annual Fee: $550
The Platinum Card from American Express has a steep annual fee, but it can be fully offset by benefits, annual credits, and rewards. The main card’s value lies in its luxury benefits like premium services, automatic upgrades to elite status, exclusive access to lounges, and other “small” benefits.
Thanks to its travel perks and benefits, the Platinum Card from American Express is one of the most popular and recommended credit cards among travelers. The Platinum Card is one of the few cards that generously gives access to airport lounges like Delta, Centurion, and Priority Pass lounges around the world. In fact, the card offers more lounge options than any other credit card.
While the card’s travel benefits are worth hundreds of dollars and give you a luxury feel, rewards are far from premium. Even if you take into account minuscule rewards on everyday purchases, high 5x points on eligible flights and hotel stays won’t make much difference – you’ll have to spend a lot on travel before you can earn back the card’s annual fee.
Best High-End Card for Points
Citi Premier® Card
Why it’s great: Improved rewards program structure gives more options to earn triple points on card purchases, and points will accrue faster. The card’s points are flexible thanks to airline and hotel transfer partners and other redemption options presented at thankyou.com. Plus, the card has a low annual fee compared to other high-end credit cards.
– Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
– Earn 3 Points at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels, Supermarkets, and Restaurants.
– $100 Annual Hotel Savings Benefit: once per calendar year, enjoy $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, through thankyou.com.
– Annual Fee: $95
Aimed at travelers, the Citi Premier Card offers flexible bonus points in various categories and does not charge a hefty annual fee. It also offers competitive redemption options, however, don’t expect an overwhelming amount of perks from the card. Still, there are benefits that can offset the annual fee.
The current sign-up bonus of 60K points can be worth around $1,000 when transferred and redeemed with Citi’s transfer partners. The growing collection of airline partners includes Asia Miles, JetBlue, Air France/KLM, Qatar Privilege Club, Turkish Airlines, to name a few.
The renewed rewards structure offers more categories with triple point rewards. Now the Citi Premier earns 3x points on air travel and hotel purchases, at gas stations, on dining, and groceries with no caps or annual limits. That makes the card a high earner and a competitor to a more expensive Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.
Best High-End Card for Award Flexibility
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Why it’s great: The card has good added benefits that are tailored to travelers, like annual travel credits and complimentary airport lounge access, and it earns travel points on all travel-related expenses, not only on airline purchases. Also, in response to the pandemic, the card offers 3X points at grocery stores during the promotional period.
– Automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
– Get 50% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
– Transfer your points to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs at 1 to 1 value. That means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.
– Complimentary Airport Lounge Access to 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide after a one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select.
– Annual Fee: $550; $75 for each authorized user.
It’s a premium credit card for travelers who need both travel benefits and great points earning. New cardmembers can earn 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
Ongoing rewards will bring 3X points on dining and travel worldwide and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, while travel restrictions are still around, the card earns 3X total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases (including eligible pick-up and delivery services) per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021.
On the benefits side, many will like Priority Pass™ Select that gives access to more than 1,000 VIP lounges worldwide, a $300 annual travel credit (that can also be applied to gas and grocery purchases through June 30, 2021), Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credit (up to $100), up to $120 in Door Dash statement credits, and 1:1 point transfer to travel partners.
Best High-End Card for Exclusivity
Mastercard® Gold Card™
Why it’s great: Made of gold-plated stainless steel and carbon, this card offers exclusive discounts and services. Cardholders can enjoy Luxury Card concierge service, rewards, travel credits, and travel perks with added Mastercard benefits. When it comes to high-end credit cards, the Mastercard Gold Card certainly brings a luxury touch to them.
– Travel insurance: baggage delay insurance of up to $100 a day for qualifying baggage delays; travel accident insurance with up to $25,000 coverage for eligible accidents resulting in death or dismemberment; trip cancelation and interruption for certain accidental covered events that cause cardholder to cancel or interrupt their trip for a covered reason.
– Global Entry and TSA Precheck application credit of up to $100 in automatic statement credit.
– VIP airport lounge access with Priority Pass™ Select membership, cardholders can access more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide.
– Up to $200 in annual airline credits that can be used towards flight-related purchases, including airline tickets, baggage fees and upgrades.
– Annual Fee: $995; $295 for each authorized user.
The Mastercard Gold Card is brought through Luxury Card, a global leader in the premium credit card market. The card may not offer big rewards, but the value of earned points is higher than average: points for airfare are redeemed at 2% without any limitations and for cash back at a rate of up to 2%.
One of the valuable benefits of having the card is Luxury Card Concierge. This service is designed to cater to every cardmember’s need. A dedicated concierge agent can assist with travel itineraries, dining reservations, research and gift sourcing, and many more.
Other benefits include Luxury Card’s in-house travel program that provides an average total value of $500 per stay in benefits and services at over 3,000 properties worldwide, complimentary membership and unlimited access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide, and no foreign transaction fees.
Are High-End Credit Cards Worth the Annual Fee?
Premium credit cards can have exorbitant annual fees, which are usually offset by perks and benefits. However, if you do not travel frequently enough or scarcely use available benefits, you may be better off with a simpler credit card that carries no or low annual fee.
Frequent travelers, on the contrary, may find that luxury credit cards are worth the fee and that benefits even outweigh the cost. Lounge access, checked baggage fees, elite status, and other benefits could cost hundreds of dollars, but the right premium credit card will cover those costs. Of course, you will have to pay a fee for the credit card, but if you get much more in return, that is definitely worth the deal.
There still are some premium credit cards that charge moderate annual fees. These cards may lack some protections or may not give you a full airport lounge membership, but they may offer statement credits, concierge service, or elite qualifying miles.
To see if a premium card is worth the annual fee, just add up the value of perks and benefits you are going to use in a year and see if they outweigh the cost.