Don't bother applying for these credit cards. If you qualify, they'll find you.

A small group of elite credit cards are gaining in popularity among affluent consumers. Rather than appeal to a broad customer base, the cards target a small segment of customers who routinely spend more than $100,000 on their cards annually.

TUTORIAL: What To Know About Credit Cards

These elite cards are marketed as a status symbol, offering prestige as well as exceptional perks and personalized services. Sky-high annual fees and ultra-selective issuance standards ensure that only a small group of high rollers possess the cards. (From car insurance to concert tickets, be sure to take advantage of whatever your card has to offer. Check out Credit Card Perks You Never Knew You Had.)

Centurion Card
American Express's Centurion Card is widely considered the leader in this segment, and is arguably the most prestigious. First issued in 1999, the card itself is reportedly made from titanium to help differentiate it from other cards.

The Centurion card offers a wide array of benefits, including concierge services, luxury travel, dining, shopping and special events. Hotel rewards vary, but may include complimentary butler service, free nights, room upgrades, free meals or special suites. Cardholders receive invitations to special high-end events reserved only for Centurion members.

As part of its marketing, American Express maintains an air of secrecy surrounding the card. The company does not publicly disclose the criteria for being selected for the card, and unsolicited applications are not accepted.

It is widely rumored that one way to be selected for the card is to hold another American express card and spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000 annually on the card. The fees for the Centurion card are not disclosed, but a variety of sources state that the U.S. version of the card comes with a one-time initiation fee of $5,000 and a $2,500 annual fee thereafter. (Managing your debt could mean the difference between spending $45,000 or saving $184,000. Check out Expert Tips For Cutting Credit Card Debt.)

Stratus Rewards Card
Launched in 2004, the Stratus Rewards Visa Card is similar to the Centurion card in many ways. Like the Centurion card, you can't apply for the Stratus Rewards card. Instead, you must be invited by a Stratus Rewards partner company or be nominated by an existing cardholder. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Stratus Rewards card charges a $1,500 annual fee.

Cardholders gain access to concierge services and special events, and receive high-end "award show" gift bags periodically. In addition, members can earn points toward discounted private jet flights, car services and luxury hotel upgrades.

Less Expensive Elite Cards
If you're not excited to pay thousands each year for a credit card, there are several other elite cards available for lower fees with many of the same benefits. They may not carry as much prestige, but they won't put as large of a dent in your wallet.

Cards to consider in this category include the American Express Platinum card, the Citi Chairman American Express Card and the Barclays Visa Black Card. All of these cards come with luxurious concierge services and travel benefits, though perhaps with slightly less luster than the super high-end Centurion and Stratus cards.

The annual fee for each of these cards is about $500. Not cheap, but seemingly a bargain compared with the Centurion or Stratus cards. And these cards have the added benefit that you can actually apply for them, though you'll still need great credit and a high income to be accepted.

The Bottom Line
For the segment of the jet-set crowd that would qualify for super high-end cards like the Centurion or Stratus, the extreme benefits and convenience offered could be worth the money. However, the rewards generally require a lifestyle of frequent luxury travel and high spending on the card.

For more moderate spenders, it may be a better value to go with a less expensive card and simply purchase separately any features or services that you feel are missing. (Charging purchases is not always a no-no. In fact, there are some very sound reasons for choosing this option. See 10 Reasons To Use Your Credit Card.)

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    The 7 Best Ways to Get Out of Debt

    Obtain information on how to put together and execute a plan to get out of debt, including the various steps and methods people use to become debt-free.
  2. Credit & Loans

    Don't Get Burned by High Credit Card Rates

    The average card charges 11.8%, and some rates top 20%. Experts warn that credit card interest may remain steep.
  3. Home & Auto

    Avoiding the 5 Most Common Rent-to-Own Mistakes

    Pitfalls that a prospective tenant-buyer could encounter on the road to purchase – and how not to stumble into them.
  4. Savings

    How Volatile Exchange Rates Affect Your Vacation

    Those ever-changing fluctuations can make a difference in anything from your hotel room to an ATM transaction.
  5. Credit & Loans

    Can Corporate Credit Cards Affect Your Credit?

    Corporate cards have a hidden downside. If the company fails to pay its bills, you could be liable for the amount and end up with a damaged credit rating.
  6. Credit & Loans

    Millennials Guide: Picking the Best Rewards Cards

    There are perks a-plenty on offer, but you have to find the right plastic for your lifestyle.
  7. Investing News

    What Is The New Credit Card Chip Good For?

    Under current U.S. credit card requirements, credit card issuers are required to issue chip cards as of October 1, 2015. Instead of swiping your card as you do now, you will slide the card into ...
  8. Credit & Loans

    5 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Card Points

    How to get the most bang for your rewards buck.
  9. Investing

    How to Effectively Compare Credit Card Rewards

    There are so many different reward credit cards that are available. Understanding how each type work will help you pick the best card for your needs.
  10. Credit & Loans

    Joint Credit Cards: The Pros and Cons

    A joint credit card may sound like an easy way to split the bills, but make sure you know what you’re getting into first.
  1. Transferable Points Programs

    With transferable points programs, customers earn points by using ...
  2. Luhn Algorithm

    An algorithm used to validate a credit card number.
  3. Roll Rate

    The percentage of credit card users who become increasingly delinquent ...
  4. Truncation

    The requirement mandated by the FTC for merchants to shorten ...
  5. Purchase Money Security Interest ...

    A security interest or claim on property that enables a lender ...
  6. Linked Transfer Account

    Accounts held by an individual at a financial institution that ...
  1. What is the difference between "closed end credit" and a "line of credit?"

    Depending on the need, an individual or business may take out a form of credit that is either open- or closed-ended. While ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the best way to start to rebuild your credit after a bankruptcy?

    Bankruptcies can be devastating to your credit score. Even worse, a bankruptcy will be listed on your credit report for between ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What were the primary financial crimes involved in the ZZZZ Best case?

    ZZZZ Best was a company started by Barry Jay Minkow that claimed to be a carpet cleaning business. In fact, it was a Ponzi ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can a creditor sue me for a delinquent account?

    If a credit card account becomes delinquent, the creditor can sue the debtor for the balance as soon as the delinquency occurs. ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do I transfer my credit card history from one country to another?

    It is currently not possible to transfer your credit history to another country if you relocate. The credit metrics used ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are some examples of simple interest loans?

    Two good examples of simple interest loans are simple interest car loans and the interest owed on lines of credit such as ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!