Black Card Rebranded As Luxury Card with 3 New Versions: Are They Worth It?

Jan 18, 2016

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The Visa Black Card just underwent a refresh, and Luxury Card introduced some similar options as well. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Jason Steele walks you through these new offerings.

A handful of premium travel rewards credit cards come with annual fees around $450, but those with fees of more than $500 — like the Centurion (Black) Card — usually require a special invitation. Luxury Card now has a few competing cards of its own as part of the new Luxury Card portfolio, including the $495 Black Card and two other Luxury Card versions, including the $195 Titanium Card and the $995 Gold Card.

In today’s post, I’ll look at these new cards and find out if they offer any valuable benefits beyond the status-symbol aspect.

The Titanium Card

The Titanium Card is the entry-level product among the three Luxury Card offers. Features include:

  • 10,000 points after new cardholders spend $1,000 within 90 days of account opening
  • One point per dollar spent, with points worth 2 cents each toward airfare or 1 cent toward cash back, gift cards, hotels, car rentals and merchandise
  • Access to the VIP Travel program, which includes more than 3,000 hotels, resorts and villas
  • 24-hour concierge service
  • Stainless-steel card construction
  • 15 months of 0% APR financing on new purchases, as well as balance transfers when the transfer is completed within 45 days of account opening. There’s a 3% balance transfer fee.
  • Annual fee of $195 for the primary cardholder and $95 for each additional card

The Black Card 

The new Black Card falls between the new entry-level Titanium Card and the top-of-the line Gold Card. Previously, when TPG looked at the old Visa Black Card, he found it to be an interesting, if not especially compelling, product. And when TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen compared it to the American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige cards, it didn’t quite stack up.

The new Black Card in the Luxury Card collection offers most of the same benefits and features of its predecessor, including Lounge Club membership, with a few key improvements:

  • Promotional financing — The new Black Card offers 15 months of 0% APR financing on new purchases, as well as balance transfers when the transfer is completed within 45 days of account opening. There is a 3% balance transfer fee.
  • Cash back — While the old Black Card only let you cash out points at one cent each, the new Black Card allows you to redeem points for 1.5 cents.
  • $100 Global Entry application fee credit — The primary cardholder receives a single $100 fee credit every five years.
  • $100 annual airline fee credit — This fee credit can be used for any airline charge including airfare, baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases.

The Gold Card

Here, Luxury Card is breaking some new ground in offering a card to the general public with an unprecedented $995 annual fee. (The American Express Centurion Card has a $2,500 annual fee on top of a $5,000 initiation fee, but applications are by invitation only.)

The Gold Card improves on the Black Card in the following ways:

  • Sign-up bonus — 50,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first 90 days.
  • 24K gold plated card — The card is literally made of gold — at least in part.
  • Cash back — 2% value for cash back statement credits.
  • $200 annual airline credit — $100 more than you’ll get with the Black Card.

How Do These Cards Stack Up?

Enjoy Lounge Club membership with the Black Card and the Gold Card.
Enjoy Lounge Club membership with the Black Card and the Gold Card.

The case for these three Luxury Cards rests on the following:

Sign-up bonuses — Each of these cards offers a sign-up bonus in points that are worth as much as the annual fee when redeemed for airfare (slightly more, actually).

Airline fee credits — When you also consider the $100 Global Entry fee credit and $100 airline fee credit for the Black Card (and the $200 airline fee credit for the Gold Card), new applicants are clearly coming out ahead in their first year of card membership.

Lounge access — $450 is about the going rate for a credit card with an airport lounge membership. However, cards such as the Citi Prestige and the Platinum Card from American Express offer membership in the similar Priority Pass Select program, plus additional lounge memberships. The Citi Prestige includes access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs when you’re flying AA, while the Amex Platinum offers a Delta SkyClub membership as well as access to the growing number of American Express Centurion lounges.

VIP Travel program — This program is similar to the ones offered by American Express Platinum and Citi Prestige (not considering its 4th Night Free benefit). Cardmembers booking rooms through this program can receive spa treatments, room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, early check-in, late check-out and more. But while its competitors offer just a few hundred hotels in their programs, the three Luxury Cards offer more than 3,000 different properties, including ones from Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, Villas of Distinction and Small Luxury Hotels of the World chains.

Luxury gifts — The unique aspect of this program is that it occasionally sends luxury gifts to cardholders, such as the $63 Cross pen set that TPG Director of Marketing Kate O’Brien received. So while it’s impossible to quantify the value of the merchandise that you’ll receive, the fact that you can expect random gifts is always a welcome surprise.

Bling —Some people enjoy having a card made out of stainless steel and carbon or, better yet, 24K gold. That said, you don’t have to pay $995 a year for this; will replace any of your cards with a metal or gold version that you design, and a 24K gold-plated card costs just $250.

Where These Cards Fall Short

You'll usually get much better value for airfare when redeem with transferrable points.
You’ll usually get much better value for airfare when redeeming with transferrable points.

Despite some advantages, the Luxury Cards compare unfavorably to their competitors in several key ways:

Airfare rewards program — While Luxury Card touts its “industry-leading rewards program,” it’s barely competitive with many cards that cost a fraction in annual fees. The three Luxury Cards will offer 2% back in value toward airfare, yet the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers 2x miles, which equates the same 2% in value. Plus, with the latter card, miles can be redeemed for any travel-related purchase including hotels, rental cars and cruises — and the annual fee is just $95 (and waived the first year).

Cash-back rewards — The Gold Card offers 2% in cash-back rewards, but it still carries an annual fee of $995. On the other hand, the Citi Double Cash Card offers 1% cash back on all purchases and an additional 1% back as you pay off the credit card and the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card offers 2% cash back on all purchases with no annual fees. The Black Card’s 1.5% and the Titanium Card’s 1% cash back is quite substandard by comparison.

No transferrable partners — By far, the biggest distinction between these three options and the other leading travel rewards cards is that the Luxury Cards don’t offer points that can be transferred to hotel or airline programs. While the rewards offered by the Luxury Cards are worth 2 cents each toward airfare, frequent flyer miles are frequently worth far more than 2 cents apiece when redeemed for expensive flights with little advance notice or for international award flights in business or first class.

For example, $120,000 spent on most airline credit cards will be enough to get a round-trip business class award ticket to Europe, while the same amount spent with the Luxury Cards will only result in $2,400 toward a ticket, which almost always won’t be enough for an international business-class flight. And when you factor in the flexible transfer options and bonus points available for certain categories of purchases, cards like the Citi Premier® Card, Citi Prestige, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Plus Business Card and Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express come out way ahead in your quest for award travel in front of the plane.

Bottom Line

It’s nice to see that Luxury Card has upgraded its Black Card, and additional choices among credit card issuers are always welcome (we should be so lucky to have as many options when we fly). There’s no doubt that the new Black Card offers more value than the old one did, and of the three Luxury Cards it offers the best value for its annual fee. With a sign-up bonus worth as much as the first year’s annual fee, and additional statement credits available, new applicants have little to lose by trying any of these cards. But when it comes to the opportunity to earn premium-class international airline awards, the Luxury Cards are not there yet.

Would you consider any of these three new Luxury Cards?

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.

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