Anyone looking to pay upwards of $450 per year for a credit card should evaluate whether they’re getting their money’s worth. We analyzed premium credit cards from the nation’s top issuers to see whether the benefits match the price-tag. The cards listed here are intended for individuals with excellent credit scores (740+), who travel very frequently. Anyone looking to just maximize rewards, with little regard for luxury, should look into top rewards credit cards instead.
2017’s Top Premium Credit Cards
What makes something the “best credit card” is highly dependent upon what you’re looking for. In evaluating the different premium credit cards available to consumers, we considered the value each provides in specific use-cases. The factors examined included things like long-term and short-term rewards value and customer service. Here are the best luxury cards that made the cut this year:
|Best For…||Card||Airport Lounge Access||Annual Fee|
|Travel||Chase Sapphire Reserve℠||Priority Pass||$450|
|Customer Service & Perks||The Platinum Card® from American Express||Priority Pass + Centurion Lounges||$550|
|Luxury Hotel Stays||Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card||Lounge Buddy||$395|
|Airline Travelers||Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express||Delta Sky Club®||$450|
After first being introduced in 2016, the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ immediately jumped to the top of the list for best premium credit cards. Between an incredibly high sign-up bonus and great rewards on dining and travel, this card blows the competition out of the water. Even in 2017, there are few credit cards that can match its offering. You get 50,000 bonus points once you spend $4,000 on the card within the first 3 months of account opening. That’s worth $750 when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards points – one of the biggest credit card bonuses we’ve ever seen. On day-to-day spending, cardholders are awarded 3 points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants. All other spending gets just 1 point.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the Chase Sapphire Reserve℠ is that it’s yet another Ultimate Rewards (UR) credit card. This reward program reigns supreme over all other current offers on the market. What makes Ultimate Rewards stand out are its excellent hotel and travel partners. You can move your Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio to loyalty programs like Southwest Rapid Rewards and Marriott. Additionally, you get a 50% bonus when redeeming points through the UR portal for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises. That boosts the card’s rewards rate to anywhere between 1.5% and 4.5% - depending on how you spend and redeem.
- Access to 900+ airport lounges
- Rewards rate on dining and travel can be as high as 4.5%
- Annual Fee: $450
The Platinum Card® from American Express has long been a favorite luxury card among travelers. The concierge services are consistently highly reviewed by customers – something we don’t see from other cards on this list. Additionally, you get access to Fine Hotels and Resorts. When booking your stay through this, you receive exclusive benefits like late checkout, free room upgrades or complimentary breakfast. The Platinum Card® from American Express also comes with all the trappings of a premium card. You have access to airport lounges, $200 airline credit, and Global Entry fee waiver.
When it comes to customer service and special promotions, The Platinum Card® from American Express is second to none. As an example, earlier this year cardholders were e-mailed special codes that let them purchase tickets for Hamilton, the Broadway musical. Cardholders could purchase them at face value – roughly $180 each. At the time, the show was sold out, and the only other way to get tickets was through third-parties starting at $1,000 each. The Platinum Card® from American Express does not match the benefits on other cards on this list in terms of pure dollar value. There is, however something to be said for the high standards it sets for customer service.
- Includes Amex Centurion Lounge access – widely considered to be the best U.S. airport lounges
- $200 Airline Fee Credit
- Annual Fee: $550
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card is a fantastic option for anyone who ends up frequently staying at hotels during their travels. The card has a great early spend bonus. You get two complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel, after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. We estimate the value to be around $930, given how pricey nights at these properties tend to get. You also receive 3 free upgrades to The Ritz-Carlton Club® Level annually on paid stays of up to 7 nights. With this, you have access to a dedicated concierge and personalized amenities. Finally, cardholders also receive a $100 hotel credit towards their Ritz-Carlton stays, and free Platinum Elite Status anytime they spend over $75k in one year.
Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card cardholders also get a lot of extra benefits not tied to the hotel brand. This includes Lounge Club membership and $300 in annual travel credit that can be used for baggage fees, seat upgrades and more.
- $300 Airline Travel Credit
- Automatic Platinum Elite when you spend $75,000 on purchases each account year
- Annual Fee: $395
The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express is an excellent premium credit card for anyone who frequently flies with the affiliated airline. Cardholders have access to over 30 Delta Sky Club® locations throughout the country, as well as priority boarding benefits. There's also something to be gained if you travel in pairs. Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express cardholders receive a Delta Companion Certificate upon renewal. This acts as a "buy one get one free" promotion on main-cabin flights in the United States operated by the carrier. Companion tickets are valued at hundreds of dollars.
The card’s biggest selling point is the MQMs you can earn. You get 10,000 after your first purchase. You get another 15,000 once you reach $30,000 in purchases on your card within the calendar year. This second bonus kicks in every year you have the card. For those who don’t know, MQMs help you qualify for elite status with Delta. There are several tiers of membership, each with its own set of benefits. The extra 15k you can earn per year can help push you over the edge to the next level. The lowest tier starts at 25k points and goes all the way up to 125k.
- 10,000 MQMs and10,000 Bonus Miles after first purchase
- Delta Sky Club® Access
- Annual Fee: $450
How Do The Best Premium Credit Cards Compare To One Another?
We graphed our estimate for the value of the four cards above. The estimates in the graph below are based on the value of bonuses, lounge access and airline credits. They do not factor in the rewards you would earn for using the cards to make daily purchases.
There are plenty of other premium credit cards available to consumers. While some have plenty of great features, certain things about them prevented us from putting them on the above list. We detail them in this section.
Citi Prestige® Card
The Citi Prestige® Card has one of the best rewards rates among premium credit cards. Cardholders enjoy 4% on air travel and hotels, 2.6% on dining and entertainment, and 1.3% on everything else. It also awards a solid air travel credit of $250. Unlike the credit in some other offers listed above, this one can be applied towards airfare.
What kept it off our list: The Citi Prestige® Card is slowly diminishing in value. It will lose the Admirals Club lounge benefits starting July 2017. Recently, it also devalued its bonus – down from 50,000 points to 40,000. At the same time, it increased the required spend on it to $4,000 in 3 months.
United MileagePlus® Club Card
The United MileagePlus® Club Card is a solid card with decent airport lounge access benefits, and a decent rewards rate. Cardholders get anywhere between 2.4% and 3.2% returns on their shopping. As one would expect from an airline branded credit card, it gives credit for checked baggage. The primary cardmember and one companion traveling on the same reservation will receive their first and second standard checked bags free.
What kept it off our list: The United MileagePlus® Club Card has a very weak sign-up bonus. Cardholders get $100 statement credit after their first purchase. This is the type of bonus you could expect from a no-annual-fee credit card. It pales it comparison to the other cards listed here that have welcome offers worth hundreds of dollars.
The Centurion Black Card is often heralded as the king of premium credit cards. You can't apply for it, since the card is invite only. Generally, you have to have The Platinum Card® from American Express first. Those who spend $250+ annually on it card have a chance to be invited to the Black card. The Centurion Black comes with a $2,500 annual fee and a one-time $7,500 origination charge. The issuer is rather secretive about the card and its features. What little is known about it has come through second-hand reports.
There are no sign-up bonuses on the card. Instead, if focuses on giving users the maximum amount of luxury treatment. You are automatically enrolled in high-tier elite status across multiple hotel and airline brands, including Starwood, Delta, Hilton, and IHG. It comes with decent lounge access, like all other premium credit cards.
Is it worth it? This answer will differ from person to person. There are far more economical means of obtaining elite status with different programs. The same is true of lounge access. You shouldn’t try to get the Centurion Black credit card just for those reasons. Instead, it acts as a strong status symbol. This highly sought-after card may be beneficial to businessmen needing to make an impression when paying for dinner. As far as dollar value is concerned, you can achieve similar results for far less than $2,500 per year.
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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.