Black is the new platinum – credit cards compared
It wasn’t too long ago when Gold credit cards were seen as being the very definition of privilege. However, times changed and the Platinum card rose to the top, becoming the symbol of ultimate prestige, wealth and power. Since nothing stays the same, gold and platinum cards have lost some of their symbolism as they are readily available nowadays. The prestige connected to them has certainly dimmed a fair amount.
Now another type of card has risen through the ranks and is considered the ultimate card in terms of prestige and exclusivity. The black credit card has become the card for the rich and wealthy, offering a wide range of perks and benefits befitting someone who has a large capacity to spend money.
So, if you’re looking for a card that will make people stop in their tracks and look at you appreciatively, knowing that there’s nothing you can’t afford, then the black card is the perfect option for you.
Rates last updated May 24th, 2015
Product spotlight: Introducing the new Westpac Black Credit Cards:
Stephen Benton, Westpac’s Head of consumer finance summarises the rewards and benefits of the new Black Credit Cards offered by Westpac
Click here for video transcript:
The Earth and Altitude Black cards give us the highest earning potential for our customers. They have no capping, and they have no points expiry.
The main difference between the two cards is the choice of rewards program. The Altitude Black card has more versatility where people can earn rewards
on a wider range of goods and services and do travel as well, but to choose from a wider range of airlines. It’s got greater flexibility, but it really depends on what you’re aiming to do and how you like using your points.
The beauty of the ability to choose from buying points on five of the major airlines is that you have choice. You’ve got the freedom to choose who you travel with based upon the best deal available at that time. You’re not locked into a particular airline. That’s a great feature of the Altitude program.
Customers get access to two free V.I.P. airport lounge access a year. So they can go to over 600 airport lounges around the world. Even if they don’t travel anything but economy class, they can still access those lounges. They can access Qantas lounges with two free Qantas lounge passes a year. They can pass those vouchers on to their family members as well.
We’ve arranged a greater deal for our customers with Starwood in Asia Pacific, and they get quicker access to gold status. That means they get quicker access to upgrades, quicker priority to hotel rooms, and so on. It’s really a unique feature.
Our free overseas travel insurance is unique in that it’s got 0 months trip coverage, unlimited coverage for medical costs, and coverage for unexpected trip cancellations. I think these are fabulous features.
Another really unique feature of our Black card is that it has concierge service, which is unique in that it’s got an iPhone app you can use to contact your concierge to help make life easy for you. Things like booking a restaurant, last minute shopping, and arranging a babysitter all to make life easier for you.
Table of Contents
How do black credit cards work?
If you want to show off what you have and let people know who they’re dealing with, the black credit card is for you. After all, you’re putting in the work, so why shouldn’t you reap the rewards? And one of those rewards is being treated like royalty.
Black credit cards are for people that have a seriously high income and can spend according to their income. They offer features and rewards which are on par with this higher level of income.
With a black credit card in your wallet you have every right to expect to be treated like royalty. From a concierge that provides personal assistance with a variety of matters, including business, travel, picking out and sending gifts and any entertainment requirements you might have, to VIP access to airport lounges across the globe you get it all.
At the top of plastic podium sits black cards that cater to the biggest spenders.
No problem, because these cards have reported partnerships with luxury brands that will make your shopping experience amazing by organising invitation-only private events where you can shop in style. From Saks and Neiman Marcus to Tiffany’s, you can shop in peace and quiet while being treated like a star.
And then there are the amazing opportunities these types of cards offers, allowing to experience things many people only dream of, like the zero gravity flight American Express Centurion cardholders were offered.
With these types of cards, getting one is like joining an amazingly exclusive club, meaning that you can only receive one by invitation or if you are nominated by an existing cardholder. To qualify for one of these you’ll need to spend a lot of money. Most of these cards function like charge cards, meaning that you need to pay off the statement in full at the end of each cycle, but there are also financing options available, just in case you’d rather not tie up all your funds in a big purchase at once.
How do you compare black credit cards?
Black credit cards may be otherworldly in what the types of rewards they offer, but they function in the same basic way as a rewards card with a high credit limit. As mentioned, some black cards are offered by invitation only. If you happen to be invited to more than one black credit card there are some things you’ll want to consider.
What annual fee will you be paying?
Black card annual fees can vary wildly. Lower tier black cards such as the Westpac Altitude will charge a fee of $395 per year, mid tier cards like the Citibank Prestige charge a fee of $700, whereas the American Express Centurion has been reported to charge an annual fee of as much as $5000. The difference with a black card is that it can come with certain features in addition to rewards which may also outweigh the annual fee. For example, the American Express Centurion doesn’t have a pre-set spending limit. If this feature is valuable to you then you might have no problems paying a higher annual fee.
What kind of spending will I use this card for?
If you plan to make occasional purchases on your card, the annual fee may not be worth the rewards you receive. Try to work out the value of the rewards you’ll receive given your spending level, and see if this outweighs the annual fee.
What rewards do I want or expect?
Black cards come with beefier rewards programs than a platinum card. This usually includes uncapped points earning potential and other perks, such as the ability to redeem your points through a personal shopping assistant who will go the extra mile to suggest ideas or help secure larger items.
What benefits can I make use of with this card?
Think of the benefits that a platinum card comes with and supercharge them. A black card usually comes with the full gamut of complimentary insurance policies, and in the case of the Westpac Black range these are extended versions of their platinum policies, so come with greater cover limits and coverage for longer trips. Top tier black cards also have other benefits which may interest some spenders, such as invitations to VIP events.
Interest rates and interest free days?
Some black cards function as charge cards, and some as credit cards. In any case try to find one which suits your spending. If you carry a balance you’ll want to pay particular attention to what interest charges you’ll be paying. If you pay your balances in full each statement cycle, you’ll need to compare the interest free days offered on the cards you’re interested in.
Quality of their customer service/ concierge service?
Some black card programs deliberately don’t include information about their services to preserve the mystery and status of their products, making it difficult to find out what services you’re able to make use of, let alone what level of service you’ll receive. But, if you’re paying a high annual fee you owe it to yourself to find out what this service is like. Search on forums and discussion boards to find out how others have found the services offered on the card you’re interested in. You may be surprised at what you learn.
The pros and cons of a black credit card
- Typically feature higher rewards points earning rates and no points caps
- Preferential treatment by concierge and retail or service partners
- Upgraded complimentary insurance policies
- Other perks including discounts, complimentary airport lounge access and VIP events
- High annual fee
- Some black cards have a one-off joining fee in addition to an annual fee
- Some black cards are by invitation only
Black cards along with Gold and Platinum form a part of the prestige card range
The biggest mistakes you can make with a black card and things you can avoid
Signing up just for the status. As mentioned, black cards come with annual fees which range from being hefty to astronomical, so be sure you need this card, as opposed to using it as a status symbol.
Not comparing. This links in with the point above. If you jump at the first black card which you get invited to, and fail to compare the other black or platinum card options out there you might be doing your wallet a disservice. Ensure you take into account a full market comparison. If there are other black cards which might suit you better and you haven’t been invited, make an enquiry and find out what they offer and how you might be invited.
Getting conned into spending more money on complimentary services. The Westpac Black range of cards offers discounts on shipping services from the United States, two complimentary Airport Lounge Priority Passes and a membership to the Starwood Preferred Guest Gold program. Perks like these may be a great money saver if you use these or similar services already. If you don’t, recognise that they are also designed to benefit these services with your business. The lesson here is simple: don’t spend on programs or benefits you wouldn’t have used before.
Spending just to earn rewards points. A key feature of any black card is its rewards earning potential and the goodies you can cash your points in for. The first rule of any card with a rewards program on it is that you don’t spend simply to earn points. This also applies to black cards. Ensure you use your card for purchases you’d be making already, otherwise you could lose out by paying interest.
Westpac Altitude Black
Westpac doesn’t do things by half and they don’t offer just one black credit card but two. The Westpac Altitude Black card is touted as being the bank’s most rewarding card, offering the highest degree of first-rate travel and lifestyle services as well as amazing rewards.
You get two cards linked to a single account, namely a World MasterCard to ensure you can shop anywhere you want as well as Altitude Black American Express to allow you to earn the maximum level of points. You can choose between two reward programs to earn either Altitude Points or Qantas Points. With the American Express, you earn 3.00 points per dollar spent, whether shopping in Australia or overseas, while the MasterCard also nets you 3.00 points per dollar but only when you make purchases overseas. Otherwise, you’ll only earn 1.25 points per dollar spent when you use your MasterCard in Australia.
When you sign up for this card, you get an attractive balance transfer rate of 0% p.a.. Note that the introductory rate on balance transfers is only valid for 16 months, so if you are considering transferring any outstanding debt over to your new Altitude Black card, make sure you can pay it off within the allotted timeframe because the standard rate is 20.24% p.a..
Taking into account the purchase rate and the fact that you have to pay 21.24% p.a. for cash advances, this card is a good idea only for people who can stay on top of their repayments. Otherwise, you might find yourself digging yourself into a hole of debt so deep that nothing and no one can help you out of it.
This Westpac card does come with some nice benefits, though. For example, you not only have access to a dedicated concierge service, but you can also use the exclusive Black Card Concierge App. Additionally, you get two complimentary Priority Passes every year which can be used at more than 600 VIP airport lounges all over the world.
As an Altitude Black cardholder, you also get access to the Altitude Black Travel service, which helps you organise your entire trip. You also get the most comprehensive insurance cover this bank offers on any of their cards.
For all of these benefits, you will have to pay an annual fee of $395 p.a. and you need to earn a minimum of $75,000 per annum to be eligible. The minimum credit limit is $15,000.
ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card
The ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card is ANZ’s top tier rewards credit card offer. The annual fee is $375 p.a. and the minimum income requirement is $75,000 p.a. The ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card isn’t for everyone. This card offers the full suite of credit card benefits and perks — purchase protection insurance, travel insurance, a high earn rate and airport lounge access are some of the included benefits.
The ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card has an ongoing purchase rate of interest of 18.79% p.a. Pay your account off in full and don’t carry a balance from month to month and you can take advantage of up to 55 days interest free on purchases and ANZ’s highest rewards points earn rate.
Spend with your ANZ Black Frequent Flyer American Express and earn more points.
The ANZ Rewards Credit Card account gives you an American Express credit card and a Visa credit card linked to the one account. You can earn ANZ rewards points when you spend on either card, but the American Express card will earn more points than the Visa.
- Earn 3 ANZ Rewards Points per dollar spent on eligible purchases using the ANZ Rewards Black American Express Card.
- Earn 2 Points per dollar spent on eligible purchases using the ANZ Rewards Black Visa card.
As a special promotion, ANZ are offering Pay no annual fee for the first year and receive 50,000 Reward Points when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Offer ends 30 June 2015.
Redeem ANZ Rewards Points
ANZ Rewards Points can be redeemed for flight or non-flight rewards via the ANZ Rewards online portal. Book your next holiday, pay for a tour or a cruise, transfer your ANZ Rewards Points to your frequent flyer account, or use your points to pay off your credit card or convert your points into cash and deposit the funds into your ANZ everyday account or offset account.
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Credit Card
The ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Credit Card is the second ANZ Black credit card product. The annual fee is $425 p.a. and this card has a minimum income requirement of $75,000 p.a.
The ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Credit Card is linked directly to the Qantas Program. This means you will only earn Qantas Points when an eligible purchase is charged to the account.
Companion credit cards. earn more points
Much like the ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card, this is a companion credit card account. You get an American Express card and a Visa card. Both cards earn points. The American Express card earns more Qantas Points than the Visa card but it’s not accepted in as many places as the Visa.
- Earn 1.50 per dollar you spend on the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black American Express Card.
- Earn 0.75 for every dollar you spend on the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Visa Card.
Earn more Qantas Points by adding a cardholder
Earn Qantas Points quicker by adding an additional cardholder to the account. Up to 9 additional cards can be issued. Spending on these cards will earn Qantas Points for the main cardholder’s account.
Airport lounge access for frequent flyers
ANZ Frequent Flyer Black cardholders get two complimentary Qantas Club Lounge invitations every year to use when flying on Qantas or Jetstar.
Save on the Qantas Club Membership joining fee for the first year when you purchase the membership using either the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black American Express or Visa Card. Qantas Club membership gets you a quicker check-in, extra baggage allowance — to name a few benefits — and there are a number of locations at major airports in Australia and around the globe.
Other Credit Cards in the Black Category
American Express Centurion Credit Card
The Luxury Institute of New York has named the American Express Centurion credit card as being the most prestigious card on the market today, which is no small honour. To get an American Express Centurion card, you need to spend a minimum of $250,000 per annum and it comes with a significant annual fee. Thus, you have to pay an initial fee of $5,000, which is a one-off, and then you have to cover $2,500 every year, which represents the annual fee.
It doesn’t come with a pre-set credit limit and is akin to a charge card in that you have to pay off your bill in full every month. Despite the lack of financing, the American Express Centurion card is one of the most popular black credit cards on the market and the one that most people want.
The American Express Centurion card is obtainable by invitation only and is generally offered to American Express Platinum cardholders after they’ve met certain conditions. The card is available in two variations, one for personal use and one for your business.
American Express defines Centurion members as being people that own companies, travel frequently, have a high net worth and are incredibly affluent. Centurion members are people who are always looking for the best in terms of products and services and they enjoy everything that is exclusive.
A little history of the American Express Centurion Card
The American Express Centurion card was launched in 1999 and represented American Express’s endeavour to offer their more affluent customers the prestige and exclusivity they were looking for. At first, the card was only offered to certain Platinum cardholders but now, if you want an American Express Centurion card, you need to be invited and meet a variety of other conditions. The company doesn’t publicly state what these conditions are. However, to give you an idea, the average person who has an American Express Centurion card has a household income of around $1.3 million per annum and has assets valued at $16.3 million.
Besides offering a wide range of benefits and perks, the card itself is not plastic. Instead, it’s made from anodised titanium and the information is etched onto the card in carbon fibre.
A closer look at the features of the American Express Centurion card
As you would expect with a black credit card, the American Express Centurion card features a wide range of perks and benefits. From a dedicated concierge and travel agent to free airline tickets on certain airlines when you buy a full-price ticket, there’s nothing that says prestige quite like a black credit card.
Even shopping becomes a much more pleasant experience when you are a Centurion cardholder because you have access to personal shoppers at luxury retailers such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Escada and more. You also get membership to dozens of elite clubs, including Sony’s Cierge personal shopping program and airport clubs.
In terms of accommodation, if you stay at a Mandarin Oriental hotel anywhere in the world, you get one free night once a year if you’ve booked and paid for at least one night during the same trip. You also get a variety of benefits when staying at hotel chains like Ritz-Carlton, Amanresorts and more.
While it might not have the word ‘black’ in its name, the Citibank Prestige is an exclusive card. It has a minimum income of $120,000 per year, in addition to a bonus offer of 60,000 Citibank reward points or Qantas Frequent Flyer points when signing up.
You have two choices when it comes to the Select card and rewards.
You can choose to earn Citibank rewards points at the rate of 2.00 per dollar spent, but this increases to 5 points per dollar spent while overseas or shopping on overseas websites.
These rewards points can then be swapped for Velocity Frequent Flyer points, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
If you choose this option you’ll get:
- Unlimited airport lounge access for you and a guest with the Priority Pass program.
- A $500 Freestyle Collection gift card, which can be used if you book a holiday worth over $10,000 through the Citibank Travel Program.
You can also use the Citibank Travel Program, redeem your points for vouchers, gift certificates and merchandise rewards, or even get cash back rewards.
If you’re a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program you can choose to earn 1 Frequent Flyer point for each dollar spent.
This also comes with unlimited airport lounge access through the Priority Pass program.
Regardless of what rewards option you choose the Citibank Prestige nets you the following rewards:
- Unlimited complimentary airport transfers when you book an international business or first class flight through the Citibank Travel Program.
- Access to one complimentary hotel stay every year from a selection of hotels across the globe.
- A personal 24 hour concierge service.
- Visa Front Line Access, which gets you into first choice seats at some Australian events.
- Visa Signature Bespoke Program. This gets you into different lifestyle experiences created for Select customers.
Citibank estimates the rewards you get from the Select Card to be worth $3,160. Even after taking into account the $700 annual fee this still sees you able to take advantage of $2,460 worth of rewards.
To cap off the value offered by the Select card, there’s also the usual range of complimentary policies and emergency card replacement.
Black Cards from around the Globe
Merrill Accolades American Express Card
Initially, this card was known as the Bank of America Accolades, but during the recession Merrill Lynch was bought out by Bank of America, which led to the card being rebranded with Merrill Lynch a few years ago.
The Merrill Accolades American Express Card features a spending limit of a maximum of $500,000 and comes with a pretty competitive annual fee of $295. And this fee becomes even more competitive if you have a Merrill brokerage account and keep a minimum of $250,000 in it at all times because it is waived completely.
Despite the fact that the colour of the card is black, the advantages it offers are more in line with a Platinum American Express card. For this reason, even if it’s been around for a few years, it still has a way to go before even coming close to the popularity and prestige of other black credit cards.
Citigroup Chairman American Express Card
One of the newest black cards on the market, the Citigroup Chairman American Express card offers first-rate services and benefits to Citi’s most important clients. Despite the fact that this card was on the chopping block, Citigroup’s website shows that this card is still part of their product offering. In terms of benefits, the level is about the same as the Accolades card and it also compares in terms of its popularity or lack thereof, despite the fact that it’s been around for a few years.
Natwest Black Credit Card
The Natwest Black credit card is basically the UK’s version of the Accolades and the Chairman cards. Along with concierge service, airport lounge access and so on, this card also features some extra insurance perks. For example, you get access to a ‘home emergency’ insurance policy, which provides assistance 24/7 with various issues such as heating, air conditioning, plumbing, locksmith services and more. And don’t think it’s just a phone service where you call up and they find a service provider. No, the policy actually includes labour, call-out expenses, parts and materials up to £750, which is quite impressive, especially considering the annual fee is only £250 or around $400.
Dubai First Royale MasterCard
Clearly, the First Dubai Bank likes to go all out and help their cardholders show exactly how affluent they are. The Dubai First Royale MasterCard is one of the flashiest of all the black credit cards available on the market, seeing as it’s the only one that has a real diamond embedded in it. The bank’s website dubs this card as being a ‘super premium’ credit card, which can only be obtained via invitation.
Launched in 2008, there are only a few hundred of these cards around and it’s not surprising considering the timing. A few months after its launch the global financial meltdown hit, which certainly made things harder.
In terms of fees, there is no clear information but the rumours are that the fees are relatively modest, though accounts vary from a few hundred to a few thousand a year. However, a credible source claims that there is no fee for applicants that qualify. Some of the perks the Dubai First Royale MasterCard offers include the ‘Royale’ rewards program, a ‘personal relationship manager’ and an extensive range of other VIP benefits.
Visa Black Card
Issued by Barclays bank, the Visa Black Card has gained quite a negative reputation. It features an annual fee of $495 and offers cardholders free gifts, airport lounge access and the other perks you would expect. It also comes with a rewards program that gives you 1 point for every dollar you spend. Despite being a black card, what it offers doesn’t even come close to the benefits and perks offered by an American Express Platinum card.
However, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at this card to see exactly what you get.
A closer look at the Visa Black Card
This card first appeared on the market in 2008 and despite being referred to as the Visa Black Card, the Black Card program has nothing to do with Visa Inc. This card, as you would expect from a black card, offers clients access to a wide range of rewards and luxuries.
The card itself has a unique design, being made out of carbon graphite. It provides exclusive benefits to cardholders such as being able to earn points if you spend on the card. Seeing that you only need 25,000 points to obtain a $500 ticket via the rewards program, this is quite an attractive bonus. Note that balance transfers will not accrue bonus points nor do they count towards the $1,500 you need to spend and neither does the annual fee.
The Visa Black Card offers quite a few other advantages, including allowing you to choose between cash back or a rewards program based on points. Thus, you can either get 1% cash back on any purchases you make or you can opt to earn rewards points. These points can be converted into airline tickets with any airline whenever you choose.
You also gain access to a round the clock concierge service, priority access to travel lounges, luxury gifts and more. The concierge service can be reached by phone or email and can help you with a wide range of matters, including planning entertainment or leisure activities, travel arrangements, business activities and personal requirements while you are travelling. The travel lounge priority pass service means that you can get into over 500 airport lounges all over the world and, thanks to your status as a Visa Black cardholder, you will get luxury gifts every now and again from some of the biggest names in the world.
Since the Visa Black Card is only available to an exclusive portion of the population, the company promises to ensure you get the best level of personal service possible.
The benefits don’t stop there, however. When you get your Visa Black Card, you have access to a highly attractive introductory rate on balance transfers. For 15 months your balance transfers will incur a 0% interest rate. In other words, you can transfer outstanding debt from other cards to your Visa Black card and pay it off without paying a penny in interest. This is definitely an incredibly attractive offer and can save you a lot of money in interest costs.
Since it’s designed for people who travel quite a bit, this card also features a comprehensive travel insurance policy, covering you for practically everything, from damage to your rental car to trip cancellation and loss of luggage.
However, if you don’t really intend to take advantage of the concierge service, travel benefits and all the other benefits this card offers, then it might not be a good option for you, considering that the fee is $495 per annum.
If you feel, though, that the fee is more than worth it, considering the prestige and the ‘royal’ treatment you will receive from people once they see you have a black credit card, then the Visa Black Card really is an excellent option. And, let’s be honest, if you go for the 1% cash rebate, you could probably pay off the fee just from that.
Marriott Rewards Premier
There’s a good chance you won’t qualify for the majority of the previously named cards but even if you do, the steep annual fees simply aren’t worth the benefits these cards offer. However, there is an alternative. The Marriott Rewards Premier card is made from solid metal, like the American Express Centurion, but unlike the latter, which will cost you $7,500 for your first year, the first year is free and you only have to pay $85 per year after that.
With such a low fee, it obviously doesn’t feature quite as many benefits as the other cards in this list, but if you’re only looking for the prestige, then this card is perfect because most people have no idea when it comes to black credit cards. They just see a black card and hear the tell-tale sound of metal hitting the countertop and the natural assumption is that you are a VIP that has millions to spend and, so, they act accordingly.
And the qualification conditions aren’t quite as stringent. In fact, if you have a good credit history, you stand a pretty good chance of getting approval for the Marriott Rewards Premier credit card.
Black Credit Cards FAQ
What sort of rewards points will I earn with a black card?
This depends on the type of black card. The Westpac Altitude Black will earn Westpac Altitude points. The American Express Centurion will earn Amex Membership Rewards points, which can then be swapped for points in many of the airline loyalty programs out there. The Citibank Prestige will give you a choice of either Citibank’s own rewards program or the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
What income is needed for a black card?
Understandably a black card is marketed to those with high incomes. The Westpac black cards have a minimum income of $75,000 per year, while the American Express Centurion has a reported minimum yearly spend of $250,000 attached to it. As mentioned, the Citibank Prestige has a minimum annual income of .
Can you get a black card for business?
American Express does offer a business version of their Centurion card. This comes with benefits which are different from their personal card. Westpac currently do not offer a black card for business use, nor do Citibank.
Where can I find a list of what benefits Centurion cardholders receive in Australia?
Unfortunately because this is an invite-only program, details about exactly what discounts and offers these cardholders receive are hard to come by. We do know that on invitation you’ll receive a booklet outlining all of the benefits offered through this card, in addition to the fees.
There’s a small selection of Black credit cards available in the Australian market for those looking for the ultimate level of prestige and the features which come with it.
These cards may seem like the perfect balance of rewards and features, but remember most of them come with hefty fees. Since most people don’t know the difference when it comes to black credit cards, you can get the same level of awe by flashing any other black credit card. In terms of features, be sure you’ll be able to use what is offered, and if you have no intention of taking advantage of the concierge service and other benefits cards like the American Express Centurion Card offer, then there really isn’t any point in paying a few thousand a year just to show off the card.
Regardless of which black credit card you opt for, the fact is that people will treat you differently the moment you whip it out of your wallet, which might be one of the reasons why you want one. So, if you want to be treated like a star, it might be time to get a black credit card.