About two years ago, I did a comparison of the costs and benefits of the Visa Black Card and the American Express Platinum. And the result wasn't even close -- the Amex Platinum was better in virtually every way. Many reviews around the same time even referred to the Visa Black Card as the worst credit card product on the market. Since then, the Visa Black Card has been rebranded as the "Luxury Card," so let's see if the card is now a worthy competitor for the Amex Platinum.
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The American Express Platinum: High-end benefits at a reasonable cost
At first glance, the American Express Platinum card's $450 annual fee may sound expensive, and it is in the sense that there are plenty of reward credit cards you could get for less. However, consider the array of benefits that come with it.
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Travelers will enjoy a $200 annual airline fee credit that is automatically applied to incidental expenses such as baggage fees or in-flight food and drink. Plus, there is a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check every four years. In addition, the card gives access to Delta Sky Club airport lounges, as well as lounges in the Priority Pass network, and the ultra-luxurious Centurion lounges.
Through its Fine Hotels and Resorts program, cardholders can get benefits such as room upgrades and late checkout, and also have access to American Express' Platinum Travel Service, whose representatives can provide custom travel itineraries and recommendations. Cardholders also get elite status at several major hotel and car rental chains, such as Starwood's SPG Gold status and Hilton HHonors Gold.
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As far as rewards go, purchases earn Amex Membership Reward points at a one-point-per-dollar rate for most purchases and a generous five-point-per-dollar rate on air travel booked directly. As an introductory offer, American Express is advertising a 40,000-point bonus after spending $3,000 over the first three months, which basically covers your annual fee for the first year.
Luxury Card's MasterCard Black Card:Better than before
As I mentioned, the Visa Black Card issued by Barclays has since been rebranded as the Luxury Card, which is available in three tiers of MasterCard products -- Titanium, Black, and Gold. The MasterCard Black Card is the old Visa product's direct replacement, as the annual fee is at $495, same as the old product.
My biggest complaint about the old Visa Black Card is that for virtually every one of its benefits, the Amex Platinum offered a better version. And this is still true, in many cases. For example, the MasterCard Black Card comes with a Priority Pass airline lounge membership, while the Amex Platinum includes this and access to Delta Sky Clubs and Centurion Lounges. And the $100 annual airline fee credit offered by the card is one-upped by the Amex Platinum's $200 annual credit amount. Both cards reimburse members for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry. To be fair, these benefits are an improvement over the Visa Black Card.
The rewards program is also improved, and is superior to the Amex card's program in terms of redemption value. Just like with the Visa Black Card, the new MasterCard version has the double point-redemption rate for airfare. Additionally, there is a new 1.5-to-one redemption rate for cash back rewards. The Amex Platinum has neither of these benefits.
One final big drawback to the MasterCard Black Card is the lack of any introductory offer advertised on its website -- no point bonus, introductory APR, fee waiver, or anything is mentioned as of this writing. This is rare among lower-end credit cards, let alone those that cost nearly $500 per year.
The MasterCard Black Card is certainly an improvement over its predecessor but not by much, especially in the current ultra-competitive high-end credit card market. Simply put, the Amex Platinum offers a much more compelling value for a slightly lower cost, while this is just not the case for the MasterCard Black Card.
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Matthew Frankel owns shares of American Express. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Mastercard and Visa. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.