Why these well-known premium cards are better than the Mastercard Black Card
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When it comes to luxurious credit cards, there’s nothing more eye-catching than the infamous “black card.” More often than not when we say black card, we’re referring to the invitation-only Amex Centurion card, an exclusive product reserved for Amex’s top-spending customers.
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In addition to the Centurion card, there’s also the Mastercard® Black Card™, which relies on fancy marketing and the promise of luxury travel to woo customers. Unfortunately, when you peel back the marketing campaign the actual card is mediocre at best, and certainly not competitive, given the $495 annual fee it charges. Today we’re going to take a look at the Mastercard Black Card, along with a few popular premium credit cards that would be much better choices for your wallet.
Related reading: The best Mastercard credit cards of 2020
Black Card overview
The Mastercard Black Card is one of three products offered by Luxury Card, but because of its alluring name, the Black Card gets the most attention. Let’s start with the first thing most people look at when applying for a new card: the welcome bonus. The Black Card doesn’t offer any sort of sign-up bonus, which should be an immediate red flag about the lackluster rewards and benefits to follow. The Black Card charges a $495 annual fee, which puts it squarely in the premium rewards card category based on price alone, as well as a $195 fee for each authorized user.
The Black Card earns a flat 1 point per dollar on all purchases, with no bonus categories to boost your return. You have two redemption options, either cash back or travel. And here’s where the Black Card’s sneaky marketing comes in to play. For example, the Black Card proudly advertises that you can redeem your points at rate of 2 cents each towards airfare, putting it well ahead of the competition. Of course what this chart doesn’t say is that it’s possible to get significantly higher returns by transferring points from Chase, Citi or Amex to airline partners as opposed to redeeming them directly through the portal.
Same thing with cash back. The Black Card proudly advertises that its 1.5% redemption rate for cash back beats the competition, but what its chart doesn’t tell you is that plenty of cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® or the Citi® Double Cash Card offer the same rate (or better) without charging an annual fee.
The information for the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Citi Double Cash 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.
Of course earning and burning are only a part of the premium credit card equation, with many people choosing to pay hefty annual fees in order to unlock luxury travel perks. So what does the Black Card have to offer in this category? A $100 annual airline credit (which can be used on airfare), a Priority Pass Select membership, a $100 Global Entry / TSA PreCheck application fee credit every five years and access to a VIP concierge 24/7. While these are certainly nice perks, all of these are standard on just about every premium credit card on the market. This is the starting point that other issuers add to to diversify their products, but the Black Card just stops here.
Which cards to get instead
Odds are if you are intrigued by the Black Card, you’re looking to add a premium card to your wallet to enhance your travel lifestyle. Thankfully there are plenty of good options to pick from. For an in-depth comparison, be sure to check out TPG’s battle of the premium rewards credit cards.
If you’re looking for a card to boost your earning rate and help you rack up points faster, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, with its triple points on travel and dining, is a great choice. It charges a higher annual fee of $550, but it also offers a $300 annual travel credit that knocks your out-of-pocket cost well below that of the Black Card. Chase Ultimate Rewards also wins on the redemption side, allowing you to book travel through the Chase portal with a 50% bonus or transfer points to any of Chase’s airline and hotel transfer partners to unlock some incredibly high value rewards.
If you’re primarily looking for luxury benefits, The Platinum Card® from American Express may be a better choice. With its annual fee of $550 (see rates and fees), the Platinum card comes with the most comprehensive airport lounge access around, including a Priority Pass membership, access to Amex Centurion lounges and access to Delta Sky Clubs when flying Delta. It also offers complimentary Gold elite status with both Marriott and Hilton and a host of other perks. The annual fee is partially offset by an up to $200 annual airline incidental fee credit and an up to $100 annual Saks Fifth Avenue credit, broken up into $50 from January to June and another $50 from July to December.
The Mastercard Black Card is a classic case of dangerously good advertising selling a subpar product. The card itself is simply not competitive in today’s landscape, given its high annual fee, very limited benefits and no bonus categories to speak of. If you’ve seen advertising for the Black Card before and something caught your eye, you should figure out what it is you’re looking to add to your wallet (a new welcome bonus, specific perks, etc.) and find a different card with a better value proposition.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.
Featured image by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.