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Best Luxury Credit Cards

by on Fri March 16, 2018 • No Comment
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The time has come to upgrade your credit card and you’ve decided to go for a luxury brand that offers more benefits and perks. Competition in the luxury card segment of the market has grown, with brands including American Express and Citi rolling out new or upgraded products to the market in 2017. With so many options out there from the top card companies, how do you decide which one is best for you?

Most of these cards come with annual fees that top more than $400 a year. That sounds steep, so why choose a luxury card when there are others out there with lower or even no annual fees? It’s all about the rewards and perks that come with luxury cards that tend to justify their cost. And if you play your cards right, you can even offset part or even all of the annual fee.

What sets these luxe cards apart are benefits that go above and beyond for cardholders. They include things like the ability to transfer points to airline loyalty programs, more points for spending, access to premium airport lounges, airline fee credits, credits that cover Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ ® trusted traveler program enrollment and dedicated 24/7 phone assistance. So if you travel regularly, would use all the perks and would spend regularly on travel and other things, a luxury card may be worth it despite the high fee.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at three luxury cards and highlight the benefits you get from having one. By the time we’re done, you’ll be able to choose the card that’s best for you.

In choosing these cards, we wanted to highlight the ones for those who want the most out of their credit cards, tend to spend a lot of money on them and aren’t afraid of a high annual fee in exchange for great rewards and a plethora of perks. We also wanted to show other special benefits such as price protection, lounge access, access to VIP experiences, concierge services, free upgrade opportunities and other perks that come with having these credit cards.

Luxury cards: at a glance

BenefitThe Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Chase Sapphire Reserve®The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
Annual Fees
$550
$450
$450
How to earn points
  • 5 points per $1 spent for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel
  • 5 points per $1 spent on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com
  • 1 point per $1 spent for all other purchases
  • 3 points per $1 spent on travel and dining
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1 mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
Bonus Categories60,000 Membership Rewards points after using a new card to make $5,000 in purchases in first three months50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening50,000 AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening
Transfer PropertiesPoints transferrable to those enrolled in domestic airline loyalty programOne-on-one point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
N/A
Unlimited Points/MilesEarn unlimited Membership Rewards pointsThere is no limit to the number of points you can earnNo maximum number of AAdvantage miles you can accumulate on your credit card
Points/Miles ExpireMembership Rewards points do not expirePoints don’t expire as long as your account remains openNo expiration as long as there’s activity every 18 months

The Platinum Card® from American Express

With an annual fee of $550 (and $75 per authorized user), the card is one of the most expensive in the luxury travel category, but it includes elite features and personalized service that American Express is known for.

How to make it worth the $550 fee:

Nab that sign-on bonus. New cardholders can earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after using the card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months. Every 10,000 points is worth $100 in flights, hotels, car rentals or cruises, which adds up to an instant $600 that can be used to book travel. So long as you spend enough to earn the bonus, you’re already earning enough to make up for the fee, plus an extra $50 in your pocket.

Once you’ve taken your one-time bonus, it gets more challenging but not impossible to earn enough to justify the fee in the years ahead.

Spend at least $200 in Uber rides and take advantage of other credits. The yearly credits for Uber rides, airline fees and Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® enrollment almost covers the card’s annual fee. If you fly regularly, free access to airport lounges, including Centurion Lounge, international American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass, can save you a lot of money. For example, Priority Pass, one of the Platinum card partners, charges $399 a year plus $27 per guest for access.

Book at least $2,750 worth of travel each year. In the first year, spend enough to get at least 38,400 points and combine them with your 60,000 new cardmember bonus points. That translates into $984. If you take advantage of your $30 savings in foreign transaction fees and your annual airline fee credit of $200, this more than covers the card’s $550 fee. From year two and beyond, you’ll need to spend at least $2,750 a year to offset the Platinum card fee.

Pros:

  • Transfer Membership Rewards points to 16 airline or three hotel loyalty programs.
  • $200 yearly credit for Uber rides, a $200 credit on fees charged by the airline of your choice and up to $100 in credit to register for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® trusted traveler programs.
  • Free access to Centurion, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass, Airspace and Escape airport lounges.
  • No blackout dates or seating restrictions when you book for travel
  • Points don’t expire.
  • Automatic Gold status at Starwood and Hilton hotels.
  • Free Boingo internet access at more than one million hotspot locations worldwide.
  • Access to Platinum Travel counselors that specialize in providing custom itineraries and tailored recommendations for your travels.
  • Special access to reservations and extraordinary experiences at restaurants under the Global Dining Collection program.
  • Curated By Invitation Only® experiences to once-in-a-lifetime events – from sporting and fashion to fine dining, art and performances.
  • Access to 24/7 medical, legal, financial or other select emergency coordination and assistance services.
  • Extended warranty and price protection programs.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Add a free Gold Card to your Platinum account and earn points for all eligible purchases made by additional cardmember(s).

Cons:

  • $550 yearly fee with no first-year waiver.
  • Balance must be paid in full every month.

Read full review of The Platinum Card® from American Express here.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve®

This card has a $450 annual fee, so how do you justify paying it? It starts by offering new cardholders 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of the account opening.

How to make it worth the fee:

Right off the bat, you can earn up to $300 in credits for travel fees and a $100 credit to enroll in either Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ®. Those perks alone almost pay for the yearly card fee. Then there’s the one-time 50,000 sign-on bonus. If you book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website, each point is worth 1.5 cents, making those 50,000 points worth $750 in travel value, which, coupled with the travel fees and Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® enrollment, more than justifies the $450 fee for the first year.

From year two and beyond, you will have to do some work to justify the card’s $450 annual fee. You still get the $300 annual travel credit, but the Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® enrollment credit is out, since these programs are renewed every five years. So you’ve only got to earn an additional $150 worth of value to justify the full $450 annual fee.

It’s not that difficult a goal to accomplish. The card offers free annual membership in the Priority Pass lounge system, which usually costs $399 a year, along with $27 for each guest.

Going off of points alone, you only need to spend $450 in travel or dining, at three points per $1 spent, to earn enough to cover the $150 gap you’d have once you take advantage of the $300 credit. It’s even easier when you combine the three points for every $1 spent with the 1.5 cent per point value for travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards website.

Pros:

  • Each point earned is worth 1.5 cents for travel booked the Chase Ultimate Rewards website.
  • Book flights on the rewards website on most major airlines and hotels without blackout dates or award travel restrictions.
  • Points don’t expire for as long as you keep your card account open.
  • Transfer points at a one-to-one rate directly into one of Chase’s nine airline and four hotel partners at a rate of one cent per point.
  • $300 annual travel credit to use for airfares, airline fees, hotels, parking and tolls.
  • $100 credit to use toward Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® enrollment fees.
  • Priority Pass membership that covers more than 900 airport lounges with free access for cardholders and their traveling companions.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • 24/7 access to a customer service specialist.
  • Trip cancellation insurance, trip delay coverage, basic emergency medical coverage and medical evacuation coverage for cardholder and family members for travel bought with the card.
  • Collision damage coverage for rental cars paid for with the card.
  • Access to Visa Infinite Concierge, which offers help for requests like dinner reservations, or Broadway, music and sporting event tickets.

Cons:

  • $450 yearly fee with no first-year waiver.
  • No access to the lounges of major U.S. airlines.

Read the full review of the The Chase Sapphire Reserve here.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the annual fee for this one is $450. New members can earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles after spending $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. The biggest attraction for this card is that it helps you earn those all-important Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) to maintain your premium status on American Airlines.

How to make it worth the fee: Earning EQMs on this card is a good benefit. But this card also helps you save money with the perks it offers. At $25 for each checked bag, you can save up to $225 per flight segment with the free bag the card gives you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation with you. If you travel a lot, that can more than balance out the card’s fee. You also get a free Admirals Club lounge membership for you and your immediate family, which usually runs $550 a year for an individual and $875 a year for a family. These two benefits alone more than justify the yearly cost of the card.

Going off points alone, you’d have to spend about $900 on American Airlines purchases to earn enough to cover the fee.

Pros:

  • Miles can be redeemed on oneworld and other partner airlines.
  • One free checked bag on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation.
  • Priority check-in, priority airport screening (where available) and boarding privileges for you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation.
  • Free Admirals Club access for friends and family, but the cardholder must be present.
  • Transfer miles into points with hotel partners.
  • $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® enrollment fee.
  • A dedicated concierge for help with foreign and domestic travel, shopping, dining, household and entertainment needs.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Access to Citi Private Pass, giving you entry to top concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and family entertainment.

Cons:

  • $450 yearly fee with no first-year waiver.
  • No chance to earn a travel companion certificate.
  • Can’t get bonus when redeeming miles.
  • No ability to transfer miles.

Read a full review of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® here.

Alternative rewards cards

If the annual fee charged by luxury cards are too high, there are others that cost less per year and offer some perks and benefits. Below we highlight two cards that could better alternatives to the luxury options above.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card vs. The Chase Sapphire Reserve

Perks offered under the The Chase Sapphire Reserve are understandably better than those offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. They include $300 in credits for travel fees, a $100 credit to enroll in Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® and a free annual membership in the Priority Pass lounge system, valued at $399 a year.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card starts with an introductory annual fee of $0 during the first year, then it goes to $95 a year, which is lower than the $450 fee charged for the The Chase Sapphire Reserve card. The new cardmember bonus for both cards is the same: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. But the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows you can earn another 5,000 bonus points after adding a first authorized user and making a purchase in the first three months from the account opening.

You earn 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases with the Preferred card, while it’s 3 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining for the Reserve. Both allow you make one-to-one point transfers to airline and hotel loyalty programs, but you only earn 1.25 cents per point on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — as opposed to 1.5 cents per points earned on the The Chase Sapphire Reserve card — when you book travel on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website. And both cards have are no blackout dates or travel restrictions when travel is booked on the Rewards website, and you won’t pay foreign transaction fees.

They both also cover trip delay reimbursement, baggage delay coverage, trip cancellation/interruption insurance and car rental collision damage waiver.

But with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you lose benefits like airline lounge access, free checked bags, annual credits for airline fees and Global Entry/TSA Pre✓ ® enrollment and access to Visa Ultimate Concierge services offered by the Reserve card.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card vs. The Platinum Card® from American Express

There’s no question that perks for The Platinum Card® from American Express are better than The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. They include $200 yearly credits for Uber rides, $300 airline fee credits and a credit for the $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® enrollment fee. You miss out on free access to Centurion, Delta Sky Club, Priority Pass, Airspace and Escapes airport lounges, along with automatic Gold status at Starwood and Hilton hotels and free Boingo internet access at more than one million hotspot locations worldwide. You don’t get services like special travel counselors, the Global Dining Collection program and Curated By Invitation Only® experiences. And you don’t have access to 24/7 medical, legal, financial or other select emergency coordination and assistance services.

But there’s no annual fee with The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, which is great news for those who don’t want to pay the $550 fee of the Platinum card. The new cardmember bonus on the EveryDay card is much lower, at 10,000 Membership Rewards points, after you use your new card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first three months. The Platinum cardholders earn a more generous 60,000 Membership Rewards points after using the card to make $5,000 in purchases in the first three months.

The EveryDay card offers most of the benefits and flexibility of other Amex cards, including earning points that can be converted into miles at major U.S. airlines. But the cards differ in how many Membership Rewards points can be earned with purchases. The EveryDay card offers 2 points for every $1 spent at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases) and only 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases, including travel.

The Platinum card is much more generous, allowing 1 point for every $1 spent, 4 more points for each $1 spent on eligible air and hotel purchases and 5 points per $1 spent on flights and hotels booked via amextravel.com. But you can get a 20% bonus on the points you earn if you make 20 or more purchases during every statement cycle on the EveryDay card. And both cards offer double points when paying for eligible travel on amextravel.com.

Both cards allow you to use a mix of points and cash to pay for travel via the website, transfer Membership Rewards points to 16 airline or three hotel loyalty programs, have no blackout dates or seating restrictions when you book travel on the website and your points don’t expire. And both offer extended warranty and price protection programs.

The intro bonuses for the Sapphire Preferred and EveryDay cards aren’t that great when compared with the luxury cards. But since you’re getting a card with a low or no annual fee, this may be a balance that’s worth it to you. If you don’t use your points for travel, you’ll find they don’t stretch as far as with other cards, so only get this if you plan to use the points for travel.

Learn more: Which luxury card is right for you?

So now that you know about your luxury card options, it’s time to pick the one that works best for you. But before you hit that apply button, here are some key questions to ask before making your final decision.

Is the fee too high?

Yearly fees for luxury credit cards can be steep, but the perks and benefits, along with the annual financial credits for things like airline fees, can balance them out. If you’re doing the right amount of spending, the high fee may be worth it to you.

Is there an offer for bonus points for new cardmembers?

All these cards offer bonus points for new cardmembers who spend set amounts in the first three months. The trick here is to weigh if spending the needed amount to get the bonus justifies what can be a nice boost to your points account.

Which card offers the best points for credit card spending?

You want to look for a card that offers bonus points per $1 spent for travel-related spending. You also want a card that offers bonus points for things like dining and groceries. This will allow you to accumulate points faster, leading to rewards more quickly.

Can I transfer points to other travel partners?

The first two of these cards allow you to transfer to airline and hotel loyalty programs. Check each card to see which major U.S. airline and hotels are on their list of transfer partners. While the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® allows you to transfer points to eight hotel chains, It doesn’t allow transfers to other airlines. However, you can use your AAdvantage miles to book travel on the 14 oneworld alliance airline partners, along with 10 other global carriers.

What travel perks does the card offer?

A general rule of thumb is the higher the fee the better the perks. All three have credits for airline fees and enrollment fees for Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ ®. All three also offer airport lounge access in different programs, but the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® only offers it for the American Airlines’ Admirals Club. And this card is the only one that offers you priority boarding and baggage handling, along with a free checked bag. You get 24/7 dedicated phone assistance and access to concierges that help make dinner reservations in the best restaurants, along with scoring tickets to special entertainment events. Finally, you want a card that allow you to easily transfer points to airline and hotel partners.

Can I accumulate unlimited miles?

All of these cards allow you to accumulate unlimited miles.

Do my miles or points ever expire?

Miles earned on the Platinum Card® from American Express and the The Chase Sapphire Reserve cards don’t expire as long as there’s card activity. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® points don’t expire as long as there’s activity every 18 months.

Does the card fit my lifestyle?

It depends on how much you travel. If you travel regularly, perks like free checked bags and airline lounge access are worth it. And the fact that you can get reimbursed for airline fees and enrollment into the Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ ® programs is a real benefit. And access to dedicated travel counselors and special event planners can be very helpful when on the road. If you don’t travel as much or don’t want the perks that come with a luxury card, then lower-fee credit cards may be a better fit for you.

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Benét J. Wilson is Associate Editor, Credit Cards at MileCards.com. She's also the founder of Aviation Queen LLC, an aviation/travel writing, multimedia and consulting business.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

Yes

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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