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Update: Some of the offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MastercardCiti / AAdvantage Gold World Elite MastercardCiti AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard  

Today TPG Contributor Jason Steele looks at the differences between two common but infrequently discussed types of MasterCard, and explains the benefits of each.

If you’re a MasterCard account holder, you may have noticed the label WORLD or WORLD ELITE just above the two globes of the MasterCard logo. If so, you might have wondered what these terms mean, what differences there are between the two, and whether it’s worth paying extra for a rewards card that is part of either program. In this post, I’ll answer those questions and give an overview of which cards I think are the best for those interested in these MasterCard benefits.

World Elite MasterCards offer the most benefits of any card in that network.
World Elite MasterCards offer the most benefits of any card in that network.

The standard MasterCard program

The standard benefits of a plain old MasterCard that is not part of the WORLD or WORLD ELITE program include:

  • Zero Liability. Waives the $50 maximum liability to cardholders under the Fair Credit Billing Act for fraudulent charges.
  • MasterCard Global Service. Provides emergency assistance including card replacement, cash advance, and ATM location.
  • Identity Theft Resolution Services. Includes an ID theft resolution kit and access to specialists.
  • Fuel Rewards Network. This is a discount program that works at gas stations, grocery stores, and even restaurants. This benefit allows you to link your MasterCard to your Fuel Rewards Network account and earn additional rewards, rather than carry a separate discount card.
  • Price Protection. You can be reimbursed if an eligible purchase experiences a price drop within 60 days of purchase.
  • Extended Warranty. Doubles the manufacturer’s warranty for periods of up to 12 months on eligible purchases.

World MasterCard

The WORLD MasterCard program 

This program includes popular travel reward cards such as:

  • Barclaycard Arrival – No annual fee.
  • Frontier Airlines World MasterCard from Barclaycard – Comes in a version with a $49 annual fee and a version without the annual fee.
  • Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard from Barclaycard – $79 Annual Fee (waived for Senator and HON Circle Members)
  • US Airways Premier World MasterCard from Barclaycard$89 annual fee.
  • Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard – $99 annual fee, waived the first year.
  • Citi / AAdvantage Gold World Elite Mastercard – $50 annual fee, waived the first year.
  • CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard – $99 annual fee, waived the first year.
  • Spirit Airlines card from Bank of America – $59 annual fee, waived the first year

WORLD MasterCards come with the following additional package of benefits on top of the standard ones:

  • Concierge Services. Phone representatives can assist you with gift buying and delivery, event tickets, and other personal services.
  • Enhanced Price Protection. WORLD MasterCard holders receive this protection for up to 120 days, as opposed to 60 for standard MasterCard customers.
  • MasterCard Airport Concierge. This is a paid meet and greet service that assists passengers with arrivals, departures, or changing planes at over 450 airports around the world. Cardholders receive a 15% discount.
  • MasterCard Travel Services. This service, operated by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, makes travel arrangements for cardholders.
  • World Luxury Hotels & Resorts. Offers room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in and late-checkout, and special welcome amenities to cardholders who book their stay through this hotel benefits program.
  • MasterCard Priceless Cities. Offers discounts and exclusive offers for luxury goods and services in select cities around the world.
The World and World Elite MasterCard programs offer benefits at hotels.
The World and World Elite MasterCard programs offer benefits at hotels.

The WORLD ELITE MASTERCARD program

Popular travel rewards card that are part of the MasterCard WORLD ELITE program include:

  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard – $89 annual fee, waived the first year.
  • Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard from Barclaycard – $89 annual fee.
  • Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard – $450 annual fee.
  • Citi Prestige – $450 annual fee.
  • Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard from Bank of America – $90 annual fee.
  • Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard from Bank of America, White Card –  $49 annual fee.

WORLD ELITE cardholders enjoy all of the standard and WORLD MasterCard benefits listed above, plus the following:

  • World Elite Air Program. Cardholders receive benefits with several different travel providers. For example, Aer Lingus, Air China, Aeromexico, Austrian, Avianca, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, JAL, LAN/TAM, Lufthansa, Swiss, and Virgin Atlantic. In most cases, these benefits upgrade travelers to business class when they purchase a full fare economy ticket, or offer discounts of 20% – 30% off of the purchase of business or economy class tickets.
Upgrades to business class from full fare economy can be a very valuable World Elite MasterCard benefit.
Upgrades to business class from full fare economy can be a very valuable World Elite MasterCard benefit.
  • World Elite Cruise Program. Cardholders can receive shipboard credits when they book a cruise through this program. Credits tend to be $150 – $500 per room, and the cruise lines offered tend to be higher end luxury and boutique lines around the world.
  • World Elite Tours & Vacations Program. Cardholders can receive significant savings and credits when booking tours and vacations around the world (generally $100 – $250 or 5% off of the standard price).
  • World Elite Car Rental Program. This program offers discounts of 15% – 25% when renting a car with Avis, National, or Sixt. Upon request, cardholders can also receive elite status with these programs, such as Avis First, National Emerald Executive, or Sixt Platinum.
  • World Elite Chauffeured Car Service. This program features savings on limousine services around the world, generally around 15% – 25% off of the standard price.
  • World Elite Private Jet Program. When first class just doesn’t cut it, this program offers discounts from select private jet charter operators.
I can honestly say that I have never booked a private jet without using a World Elite MasterCard.
I can honestly say that I have never booked a private jet without using a World Elite MasterCard.
  • Personal Travel Advisor and MasterCard Global Service Premium. These appear to be the same as the benefits offered by WORLD MasterCards, but purportedly come with more personal service.

Are WORLD ELITE benefits worth the annual fee?

The easiest WORLD ELITE benefits to utilize (among those not included with WORLD MasterCards) are the rental car program benefits, at least with National and Avis. I’m a big fan of National’s Executive status, as I love choosing my own car from their Emerald Aisle, and families can often find a mini-van there for the price of a mid-size car.

WORLD ELITE MasterCard holders can use this link to receive National Emerald Club Executive status, and this link to enroll in Avis First. The link for Sixt failed when I entered the first six digits of my Citi AAdvantage Executive card. (Those digits are 546616, and are the same for every Citi AAdvantage Executive card issued.) Calls to Citi and MasterCard customer service proved futile, as no one seemed to know anything about this offer.

Where the WORLD ELITE benefits really shine is for those who travel on paid tickets. One of the most valuable WORLD ELITE benefits (for most people) is the airline discounts that are part of the World Elite Air Program. Although no domestic carriers are represented, the opportunity for a free upgrade from a full fare economy ticket to business class might prove irresistible to those who travel on paid tickets for work. Likewise, those who find themselves paying for cruises, tours, and limousines might find this program to be easier than trying to negotiate savings directly with travel providers. And if you rent private jets, there are some savings to be had there, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that this benefit is of the ‘if you have to ask, then you probably can’t afford it’ variety.

Which is the best card to get for WORLD ELITE benefits?

The best deal for a WORLD ELITE MasterCard is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which has an annual fee of just $89 that is waived the first year. The White version of the Virgin Atlantic credit card from Bank of America is the least expensive WORLD ELITE MasterCard that I could find, with an annual fee of just $50, but Arrival Plus cardholders will come out ahead for the first two years of card membership (until the annual fee for the third year is due.

Conclusions

With no annual fee for the first year, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus is a no-cost way to sample the most accessible WORLD ELITE MasterCard benefits, such as rental car elite status, and airline ticket upgrades and discounts. Anyone who purchases full fare international tickets in economy class should absolutely have a WORLD ELITE MasterCard to be upgraded to business class. Otherwise, travelers who can realize just one of the other tour, cruise, or limo discounts will find the Arrival Plus, Hawaiian Airlines card, or either of the Virgin Atlantic cards to be well worth the annual fee.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.