There was a time when the only truly exclusive credit card was the American Express Centurion card – known almost ominously as “the Black Card.” So exclusive was it that American Express never really commented on its actual existence.
The card was almost mythological and all that was generally known was that one needed to make a lot of money – and spend a lot of money of an Amex card – to even, maybe, be invited to apply.
Today … not so much.
Everyone now knows the Black Card is real, and now the world of credit cards is full to bursting with a rash of “exclusive” cards aiming for the same allure as AmEx Black.
Some come close to accomplishing that. Other …not so much.
Let’s start with the absolute most-exclusive cards for which you’re not likely to ever receive an invite.
The 3 Most Prestigious Credit Card You Probably Can’t Get
First and foremost has to be the American Express Centurion – the Black Card. I emphasize “the” because lots of black-card pretenders now exist. But AmEx Black – it’s the OG of luxury black credit cards.
American Express Black: What Makes it So Exclusive?
Truly an invite-only card. You cannot apply for this luxury card.
American Express has never made clear the secret sauce required for obtaining a Black Card. The unofficial guesstimate is that you need to spend – and pay off – in the neighborhood of $350,000 in annual purchases on an existing AmEx before American Express will deign to send you an invite to apply for a Black Card.
If you’re invited, then you get to pay a $7,500 initiation fee, plus an annual fee of $2,500 a year.
What Benefits Do AmEx Black Cardholders Receive?
For that sizeable wad of money, the world is pretty much yours. The range of perks and benefits would, honestly, consume the rest of this story.
Suffice it to say that the Black Card gives you instant elite status with Delta Air Lines and certain hotels, all manner of upgrades and benefits, event access unlike most other credit cards and all sorts of travel and lifestyle concierge services.
The urban-myth-busting website Snopes.com confirmed, for instance, that AmEx dispatched an employee – by motorcycle – to collects sand from the Dead Sea for a cardholder whose child wanted it for a school project.
Dubai First Royale Mastercard: What Makes it So Exclusive?
This is another invite-card shrouded in mystery. Rumor has it you might need to live in Dubai to receive an invite. One thing is certain: You can get the card if you’re a member of the Emirati royal family or if you’re exorbitantly wealthy.
In fashion keeping with the playground of the Middle East’s uber-wealthy, this elite credit card is trimmed in gold and emblazoned with an actual diamond in the center.
Initiation fee is reportedly in the $2,000 range, though no one knows for certain except those who hold the card and Dubai First, a consumer-finance company in the United Arab Emirates.
What Benefits Do Dubai First Royale Mastercard Cardholders Receive?
Dubai First publishes little about the card, other than the type of platitude one might expect of such a luxury card: “Desired by many but attainable by only a select few.”
What is known is that card comes with no benefits typical of other luxury credit cards – meaning no discounts and upgrade and whatnot. And honestly, if you’re as wealthy as one needs to be to obtain such an elite credit card, honestly who cares about upgrades and airline/hotel status?
Indeed, a Dubai First spokesman once noted that is a cardholder “likes a yacht on holiday, he or she should be able to buy it.” That’s not really a buyer concerned with collecting miles and points or getting into a premium airport lounge.
The only service attached to the Dubai Royale First Mastercard: A lifestyle manager on call 24 hours a day to obtain anything a cardholder might desire. As the spokesman said: “You ask for the moon and we try to get it.”
Stratus Rewards Visa: What Makes it So Exclusive?
At the opposite end of black is … white. That’s the color of the invitation-only, premium credit card from Stratus Media Group, known for producing high-end entertainment and sporting events.
As is de rigueur with an exclusive credit card, very few concrete details exist about Stratus Rewards Visa. What is known is that an existing cardholder must nominate you as a potential cardholder, or you must obtain a special, four-digit nomination code from one of Stratus’ luxury partners.
If you get in, you’ll need to spend, reportedly, either $100,000 or $200,000 a year to keep the card, and pay an annual fee of, again reportedly, $1,500.
What Benefits Do Stratus Rewards Visa Cardholders Receive?
Perks aren’t clear, though the one primary benefit is that the card includes a mileage program that allows cardholders to book travel on private jets instead of commercial airlines.
And, apparently, multiple cardholders who might be going to the same destination can pool their points to all hitch a ride on a private jet.
The 2 Best Exclusive Credit Cards You Can Get.
Several cards exist in this category of “premium credit card for the masses.” And to be frank, most of them are simply not worth the annual fee.
For instance, the Mastercard Gold Card with an annual fee of $995. What does that get you? Basically, a metal credit card plated in 24-carat gold laden with benefits no different than – and, in many cases weaker than – what you’d get with other luxury credit cards.
Or take the JP Morgan Reserve Card, supposedly the card of choice for President Barack Obama. The annual fee is comparatively cheap at $450 … but you reportedly need an account at Chase Private Bank worth at least $10 million. And what wonderous bells and whistles does that get you? The exact same benefits as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which doesn’t require $10 million in assets.
For my money, then, there are only two luxury credit cards worth talking about: American Express Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve. For the right consumer, both are worth the annual fee they charge.
American Express Platinum: How to Obtain It?
AmEx Platinum is one rung below AmEx Black – but it’s a very big gap between those rungs.
If you have excellent credit, you can apply for an AmEx Platinum card – no invite need – so long as you’re OK paying the annual $550 fee.
What Benefits Do AmEx Platinum Cardholders Receive?
AmEx offers a smorgasbord of travel and lifestyle benefits, arguably some of the best benefits (particularly for travelers and digital nomads) among elite credit cards available to the masses.
- $200 in annual credits for airline expenses such as inflight WiFi, inflight meals, luggage fees, ticket change fees, etc.
- $200 in annual Uber credits in the U.S.
- Access to more than 1,000 airport lounges globally, including AmEx’s own Centurion Lounges (some of the best airport lounges in the world), as well as Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club and others.
- 5x Membership Rewards Points on airline changes when flights are booked directly with the airline, and 5x on hotels if booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel. 1x points on everything else.
- Exclusive benefits worth $550 (room upgrades, daily breakfast, etc.) when booking a room through Fine Hotels & Resorts.
- Elite-member status with Hilton Hotels and Marriott Bonvoy.
- Access to invite-only events and as round-the-clock concierge services.
- Statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry applications.
- $100 in annual statement credit when shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Read More: Amex Platinum Benefits and Perks
AmEx Platinum is currently offering 60,000 welcome bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: How to Obtain It?
Have excellent credit and pay the annual fee of $450. It’s that simple.
What Benefits Do Chase Sapphire Reserve Cardholders Receive?
Honestly, this card is as good as – maybe even slightly better than – AmEx Platinum, and I say that as a Platinum cardholder for the last 15 years.
- $300 in annual airline travel credits.
- Access to Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide.
- 3x points on travel and dining worldwide and 1x on everything else
- Complimentary room upgrades, meals, etc. through the Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, as well as elite benefits at Relais & Chateaux hotels around the world.
- Statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry applications.
- Emergency medical and dental benefits, and emergency medical evacuation.
The card gives you up to 50% more purchasing power with your points when you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards, so that if you redeem, say, 50,000 points it’s actually worth 75,000.
With Chase Sapphire Reserve you’re eligible for a 50,000-point signup bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
Note: The Sapphire Reserve is a Visa Infinite card but it doesn’t come with one particular Visa Infinite perk – namely the $100 discount when you buy two to five domestic coach tickets. Other than that, you’re eligible for the various Visa Infinite rewards detailed here.
The Wrap Up
When it comes to the world of exclusive credit cards – the high-fee, luxury credit cards – there are those cards that are simply out of the realm of mortal man … and those that are attainable.
Fun as it might be dream aspirationally about exclusive black credit cards (or a white one) that can get you whatever you might desire, most of us will only ever be able to chase luxury cards aimed at the masses. And there, only two cards stand out: AmEx Platinum and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Picking between them is a toss-up. Both cards offer quality benefits, especially if you’re a traveler who spends lots of time in airports. Ultimately, it comes down to this: AmEx has the prestige … Chase is probably slightly better value for money.