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Beyond Platinum: What Some of the World's Most Exclusive Luxury Credit Cards Have to Offer

by Richard Barrington

Let's say you use credit cards heavily but have paid your bills and maintained a good credit standing. You deserve a reward--and there are a handful of exclusive credit card programs designed to offer rewards to the very highest tier of credit card users. If you have the financial means to live the good life, or just like to dream about it, you may be interested in what luxury credit cards have to offer. Here are seven of the world's best credit cards programs:

  • The Neiman Marcus/Bergdorf Goodman InCircle Program. Naturally, two of the world's most luxurious stores would feature an outstanding luxury credit card program. Benefits for the InCircle program are accrued when you use a Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman credit card. Besides offering many of the usual gift and travel benefits, this is the right program if you are looking for services such as fur storage or off-hours shopping. It comes at a price, though. There are several levels to the InCircle program, culminating in the ultra-exclusive chairman's circle for people who spend more than $600,000 on their cards.
  • The Citigroup Chairman Card. This card is available to private clients of Citigroup's SmithBarney investment affiliate. Having this access to your investments gives Citigroup confidence in your ability to pay your credit card bills, so this card features no pre-set spending limit. One unusual feature is medical evacuation coverage, so this may be the right card if you manage to be both a high-roller and a worst-case-scenario type.
  • The American Express Centurion Card. In many ways, this is one of the standard setters for luxury credit cards. The Centurion Card is part credit card, part exclusive club--it not only carries an annual fee, but there is also a one-time initiation fee. If you are interested, don't look for this credit card application in your daily pile of junk mail. As befits the stealthy appearance of this distinctive black card, American Express does not even list it among the options on its public credit card page. Information about the Centurion card can only be accessed via a special, password-protected site.
  • The Visa Black Card. When it comes to exclusive levels of credit cards, black seems to be the new platinum. Visa has gone a step further to distinguish itself. This is one credit card that can't be described as plastic, because it is actually made out of carbon. This card offers a special rewards program and concierge service. Its Web site also hints at the attitude that the best credit cards bring to the game and its $495 annual fee is actually listed under "exclusive privileges."
  • The Chase Sapphire Card. Chase has chosen to buck the trend toward basic black with its eye-catching Sapphire Card. This may be an especially good option for frequent travelers. Besides rewards points, the Sapphire Card offers reimbursements for trip delays and lost luggage, as well as travel accident insurance. Thus, this isn't quite aimed at the level of wealthy people who don't have to worry about such problems, but rather at people who feel they shouldn't have to.
  • The Stratus Rewards Visa. This program is designed with jet setters in mind--literally. Their slogan is "living at altitude" and benefits are centered around private travel. Points can be redeemed for difficult to obtain and auction items, as well as for private jet travel. To apply for this program, you must be nominated by an existing member, or referred by one of Stratus Rewards' partners in providing luxury goods and services.
  • The Coutts World Card. This card, issued by a leading UK private bank, is also available by invitation only. Black may be the new platinum, but Coutts insists that purple is the new black, and had their card designed in that distinctive shade by a Saville Row tailor. It's no coincidence that purple is the color traditionally associated with royalty, since Queen Elizabeth II is among the lucky few who have been invited to join this program. The emphasis here is on catering to the "lifestyle of Coutts' clients," with benefits including exclusive hospitality packages for events such as Wimbledon, the Cannes Film Festival, and the Monaco Grand Prix.

With most of these luxury credit cards, status comes at something of a price--either in annual fees, investment or deposit balances, or minimum spending levels. Indeed, when it comes to these credit card applications, the old adage regarding luxury comes into play--if you have to ask how much it costs, you probably can't afford it.

Published 01/13/11


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