Your guide to private banking credit cards
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Just as airlines and hotels try and woo the biggest spenders by offering all the trappings of elite status, banks and credit card issuers also have an incentive to keep their wealthiest customers happy. Sometimes they do this by offering elevated banking services, such as Chase Sapphire Banking, but some also offer exclusive credit cards that are only available to top customers. Today we’re going to take a look at a few of these private banking credit cards and the perks they use to attract high-value customers.
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The Centurion Card from American Express
Perhaps the most popular private banking card is the Amex Centurion card, which comes in both a personal and business version. While this product is available by invitation only and there’s no clear guidelines for how much annual spending one needs to earn an invite, The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, has given us a great inside look at the benefits of this product by sharing details about his Amex Business Centurion card.
Between the $10,000 initiation fee and $5,000 annual fee, this card is not for the faint of heart. Still, the benefits of this card are pretty impressive, including automatic Hilton Diamond and Delta Platinum elite status, as well as a ton of luxury travel and lifestyle benefits.
Amex is also known for showering its Centurion cardholders with luxury gifts. In 2019, TPG received a bottle of Vintage 2008 Dom Pérignon and a Tiffany & Co crystal ice bucket, with a combined retail value of nearly $700.
The information for the Amex Centurion and the Amex Centurion business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
J.P. Morgan Reserve Card (Formerly the Chase Palladium Card)
Annual fee: $595
Top perks: United Club membership
The J.P. Morgan Reserve card is only available to the bank’s wealthiest customers. In order to receive an invitation, you must have $10 million in assets managed by J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank — which is not to be confused with Chase Private Client, which has a much lower eligibility threshold. While many banks offer metal credit cards these days, this card is unique in that it’s made out of palladium, a rare and valuable metal.
This card is well out of reach of the average customer and frankly that’s ok, as the benefits offered aren’t much better than the publicly-available Chase Sapphire Reserve. These include the 3x points on travel and dining and a $300 annual travel statement credit. However, the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card also offers United Club membership for the primary cardholder and two guests, which can easily provide several hundred dollars in value a year.
I spoke to a TPG reader who is currently an authorized user on his parents’ J.P. Morgan Reserve card (they had applied a while back when the card was available to all Chase Private Client members). He asked to remain anonymous, but said that his family puts about 75% of their total spending on the J.P. Morgan Reserve card, thanks to the strong bonus categories. While Chase is known for having one of the best customer service teams in the industry, J.P. Morgan Reserve cardholders have a dedicated team of agents taking care of them.
This reader told me that when he had to file a car rental insurance claim a few years back, he simply sent the receipt from the rental car company to a customer service agent who filed the entire claim on his behalf — and even got the car company to remove charges that wouldn’t have been covered by the benefit.
The information for the J.P. Morgan Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Merrill Lynch Octave Black Card
Annual fee: $950
Top perks: No credit limit, choice of $350 annual travel credit or Delta SkyClub Executive membership
If you’re an ultra high roller banking with Merrill Lynch (with an account balance of more than $10 million), you may be invited to apply for the Merrill Lynch Octave Black Card by American Express. The $950 annual fee is incredibly steep, even in the world of private banking cards, but there are a few great perks out there to help you recoup some value.
Octave cardholders earn a fixed 2.5 points per dollar on all purchases. Points can be redeemed for cash back directly into a linked Merrill Lynch account or for a statement credit, gift cards, travel or more.
With points worth one cent each this works out to a 2.5% return on everyday spending, although the lack of any bonus categories is disappointing from a card that costs this much. However, if you redeem your points for travel, they have the potential to be worth up to two cents each for flights on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines or British Airways and 1.7 cents each for other airlines, on tickets up to $500. This is an odd cap, as you’d assume that high-net-worth individuals would be likely to book more expensive tickets, but if your ticket is more than $500, you’ll have to pay for the difference at a rate of only one cent per point.
Each year, cardholders get to choose between a $350 travel credit or a Delta SkyClub Executive membership, which costs $845. You can also get SkyClub access easily by holding either The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Enrollment required for select benefits.
Citi Chairman® American Express® Card
Annual fee: $500
Top perks: $300,000 credit limit
While the cards on this list are some of the most exclusive cards on the planet, the Citigroup Chairman card is one about which we know the least. The card is rumored to offer a $300,000 credit limit and access to exclusive members-only events. The card apparently carries a $500 annual fee, which is on the low end for private banking cards and it’s unclear whether there are any statement credits to offset it.
We don’t know much about the eligibility for this product other than the fact that you’re required to use Citi’s private banking services to qualify.
The information for the Citi Chairman as been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
SunTrust Visa Infinite
Annual fee: $0 during the first year, $450 thereafter. Waived for private wealth management clients
Top perks: TSA PreCheck/Global Entry application fee credit
The SunTrust Visa Infinite card is marketed at private wealth management clients (who get a waiver on the card’s $450 annual fee), but no matter how much you’re paying for the card, it doesn’t offer much in the way of compelling benefits. Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access is almost comically ubiquitous these days, with nearly every premium credit card offering one. The SunTrust Visa Infinite only offers five free lounge visits a year, with subsequent ones costing $32 per visit per person.
This is one of the few private banking credit cards that has a dedicated web page, although you still need to go through an advisor to apply. Much of the appeal of this card comes from its Visa Infinite benefits — including purchase protection, travel insurance and concierge services — although you’ll also find all of these perks on other Visa Infinite cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, that offer a more complete package for award travelers.
The last handful of years has seen an explosion in the premium credit card market, allowing customers to enjoy luxury perks and travel experiences no matter the size of their bank account. Still, many banks continue to offer exclusive products for their wealthiest customers, though the benefits don’t always keep up with the price tag. Please note that we have shared all the details that we know on these cards, but your queries could yield more information.
Featured photo by The Points Guy
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