Most people think of their credit cards as mere pieces of plastic they use to make purchases. In the process, they might also rack up some frequent flyer miles or reward points they can use to buy merchandise or get cash back.
However, not all credit cards are created the same— far from it. In addition to the standard reward cards that most people carry in their wallets, issuers have also created exclusive credit cards with lavish benefits that target the wealthy and uber-wealthy. These cards have very strict approval standards and usually charge high fees, sometimes including both an initiation fee and an annual fee. There are also rumors of double-secret handshakes, but we have not been able to verify this yet.
Five Ultra-Exclusive Cards
Kidding aside, here is the lowdown on five of the most exclusive credit cards in the world today, including acceptance requirements and fees. As for benefits, almost all of these cards offer a wide range of exclusive travel and concierge services, the opportunity to earn mega points and rewards, very high spending limits (or no limits at all) and reimbursements of airline baggage and other incidental fees.
- Dubai First Royale MasterCard — This may be the most exclusive credit card in the world. The card itself is made of gold and has a small diamond embedded in it.
This card was only offered to Dubai First Bank’s 200 richest customers when it first came out in 2008, though now an application for the card is listed on the bank’s website. But unless you live in Dubai and have a net worth with a long string of zeros in it, don’t bother applying. There is no spending limit on the card and, interestingly, no annual fee — it is simply offered as an exclusive benefit for Dubai First Bank wealthiest customers.
- American Express Centurion Card — Also referred to as the American Express black card, this card was first introduced back in 1999. At that time, the annual fee was $1,000 and there was no initiation fee. Now, the annual fee has been raised to $2,500 and there is also a $5,000 initiation fee for new card members.
To qualify, you must spend at least $250,000 in one year on another AmEx card. If you do, you may receive an invitation from American Express to apply for the black card, though you can probably get one without an invitation if you meet this requirement and ask for one. Some Centurion Card holders have complained that the benefits no longer justify the high cost and have downgraded to the still-prestigious American Express Platinum Card, which offers comparable benefits but only costs $450 per year with no initiation fee.
- Stratus Rewards Visa Card — Sometimes called the white card to distinguish it from the better-known AmEx black card, this card is targeted to affluent individuals who travel often by private jet. Its loyalty program is focused primarily on rewarding private jet travel through MarquisJet. The annual fee is $1,500, and the card is available by invitation only.
- J.P. Morgan Palladium — Like the Dubai First Royale MasterCard, one of the things that makes this card so exclusive is the material from which it is made: palladium and 23k gold. This card is only available to JPMorgan Private Bank and Chase Private Bank clients who have at least $5 million on deposit at the bank. The annual fee is $595.
- Sotheby’s World Elite MasterCard — This card is targeted to collectors who regularly buy art from Sotheby auction houses. To qualify, you must earn an annual income of at least $250,000 and possess at least $2 million in investable assets. It offers benefits that are comparable to some of the other exclusive cards — like concierge services and free business-class companion airfare on some international flights — at a price that is a relative bargain: only $395 per year.
Exclusive Cards for the Rest of Us
If you do not qualify for one of these credit cards but would like to carry a card that offers exclusive-type benefits at a more affordable price, consider one of these pseudo-exclusive cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card — This card is made out of metal, not plastic, so it has the look and feel of more exclusive (and much more expensive) credit cards. But it only costs $95 per year, and this annual fee is waived for the first year.
Originally, the card was only being offered to the top-earning 15 percent of U.S. households, but now, even people with modest incomes can get it if they have great credit. The card offers a very generous rewards program, which at this writing includes 40,000 bonus points redeemable for up to $500 in travel rewards if you spend at least $3,000 on the card within the first three months.
- Marriott Rewards Premier Card — This card is also made out of metal — and it is black, so it’s almost indistinguishable from the AmEx black card at first glance. The annual fee is only $85 (it is also waived for the first year) and you can earn 50,000 bonus points if you spend just $1,000 on the card within the first three months, as well as one free night’s stay at certain Marriott hotel properties.
Of course, the main purpose of a credit card is to pay for things you buy on credit, so it is important not to get too caught up in all of this. Nevertheless, if you can benefit from the perquisites and rewards offered by exclusive credits cards — and can afford the price of admission — then an exclusive card might make sense for you.
If you want more credit, check out MoneyTips' list of credit card offers.