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.)
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.)
Credit & LoansUnderstand the difference between an average credit card and an elite credit card for the wealthy. Learn about the top five credit cards for the super rich.
Credit & LoansAn equated monthly installment is a fixed payment a borrower makes to a lender on the same date of each month.
EconomicsUsing credit rather than debit at the gas pump doesn't just provide more fraud protection. It also could give consumers lucrative benefits.
Credit & LoansBefore using your home as loan collateral, consider both your financing needs and your appetite for uncertainty.
ProfessionalsAccepting credit cards is a must these days, but small business owners can take steps to minimize profit-eating credit card fees.
Personal FinanceLearn how sending money via Gmail works, and understand how Google makes money from offering this service despite it being free to use.
Credit & LoansWant to use your residence as collateral for some financing? Our handy how-to guide to getting a home-equity loan or line of credit explains it all.
Credit & LoansLearn the ways in which a lost or stolen credit card can hurt your credit, and understand the steps you can take to protect yourself if this happens.
BudgetingLiving paycheck-to-paycheck — which many high-income earners do — leaves little wiggle room for any unexpected expenses.
Credit & LoansKnowing the difference between a home-equity loan and a HELOC is important. Here's how to tell which is a better fit for your needs.
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 >>
Bankruptcies can be devastating to your credit score. Even worse, a bankruptcy will be listed on your credit report for between ... Read Full Answer >>
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 >>
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 >>
It is currently not possible to transfer your credit history to another country if you relocate. The credit metrics used ... Read Full Answer >>
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 >>