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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.
2019’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 Premium Travel Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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 (3 points on travel after you earn the $300 travel credit). 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% (3 points on travel after you earn the $300 travel credit)
- Annual Fee: $450
Best Credit Card for Luxury Treatment: The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express offers some of the best perks made available through any credit card. For example, cardholders have access to concierge services that are consistently well reviewed by customers—something we don’t see from other cards on this list. Additionally, when booking hotels through Fine Hotels and Resorts, you receive exclusive benefits like late checkouts, spa credits, room upgrades or complimentary Wi-Fi. The Platinum Card® from American Express also comes with all the trappings of a premium card. The card grants cardholders access to Amex Centurion Lounges, which are widely regarded as the most luxurious lounges available. These lounges provide travelers with various amenities, including shower suites, work spaces and luggage lockers. It's fairly common for these lounges to also offer complimentary food and beverages.
While there are other cards that may offer more points across more varied categories, very few of them combine a lucrative rewards program with as many perks as those offered by the The Platinum Card® from American Express. What makes the points so lucrative is that you have your option when choosing what to redeem them for. For instance, you can choose to book travel with them or even use them to pay for Uber rides.
- $550 annual fee.
- Get a $200 airline fee credit and up to $200 for Uber rides annually.
- Includes Amex Centurion Lounge access—widely considered among the best airport lounges.
- 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- 1x points for each dollar of eligible purchases.
For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
Best Premium Hotel Credit Card: Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
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. 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 who spend at least $3,000 on purchases within their first 3 months from account opening will 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 some of the cards listed 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 from American Express: Is It As Good As The Rest?
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 $250,000 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.