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.
2018’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|
|Extra Hotel Nights||Citi Prestige® Card||Priority Pass||$450|
|Luxury Hotel Stays||Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card||Lounge Buddy||$395|
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 2018, 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 Citi Prestige® Card offers its cardholders perks that make up for the card’s $450 annual fee. The standout feature of this card is the complimentary fourth night stay after a minimum booking of four consecutive nights. The benefit only applies to bookings made through the ThankYou website or the Citi Prestige Concierge. Despite the restriction, the benefit can be worth hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Additionally, with the Citi Prestige® Card, you’ll be eligible for a $250 Air Travel Credit. These perks are included with a strong rewards program that allows you to transfer points to the following partners:
Citi Prestige® Card Transfer Partners
- Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
- Asia Miles
- Avianca Lifemiles
- Etihad Guest
- Eva Air
- Flying Blue
- Garuda Indonesia
- Malaysia Airlines Enrich
- Qantas Frequent Flyer
- Qatar Privilege Club
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Royal Orchid Plus
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
If you’re someone who values customer service, the card’s inclusion of a concierge service as a perk will be beneficial for you. You can call the Citi Concierge 24/7 for assistance on travel, shopping, dining, entertainment, and other everyday needs. The Citi Prestige® Card also offers cardholders access to Citi Private Pass, giving users access to presale tickets and VIP packages to concerts, sporting events, movie screenings and more. Citi Private Pass improves your chances to be able to purchase tickets for events that often sell out in a short amount of time.
- Earn 3 points per dollar spent on Air Travel and Hotels, 2 points for every dollar pent on dining and entertainment and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere
- $100 global entry fee credit
- 24/7 concierge
- Citi Prestige® Card Review.
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
United MileagePlus® Club Card
The United MileagePlus® Club Card is a solid card with excellent airport lounge access benefits, and a decent rewards rate. If you fly with United more than you do with Delta, this is the better airline card to get. 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.
The United MileagePlus® Club Card also has a very good sign-up bonus. Cardholders get $100 statement credit after their first purchase. Plus, when you spend at least $3,000 on purchases within your first 3 months of account opening, you'll receive 50,000 miles. Altogether, this bonus is worth between $700 and $850. That is significantly higher than most credit cards on the market.
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.
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 welcome 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.
Comments and Questions
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Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, and American Express Cash Magnet℠ Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
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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.