Is There a New and Improved Black Card?

By Fool.com

Image source: www.myluxurycard.com.

The Visa Black Card from Barclays has been notorious for its high annual fee and lack of competitive benefits. In fact, the card has been ranked among the worst credit cards in the market several times since being launched in 2008. Recently, Barclay's decided to stop accepting new applications and give the Black Card an overhaul in order to make its high-end credit card more competitive.

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Here's an overview of the changes and whether the new and improved Black Card is worth the cost.

The Black Card: Why was it so bad?The issue with the Visa Black Card wasn't that it was a bad credit card product. In fact, it had some pretty solid benefits, including:

  • Double value ($0.02/point) for point redemptions on airline tickets (so 25,000 points got you a $500 ticket)
  • Airport lounge access
  • VIP perks at certain hotels
  • A competitive 14.99% APR on purchases
  • Unique insurance benefits, such as $300 in trip delay coverage and $1,500 in trip interruption/cancellation insurance

Rather, the problem was that the benefits simply didn't justify the exorbitant $495 annual fee, plus $195 for each additional authorized user.

The Visa Black Card was often compared to the American Express Platinum card since the annual fees were in the same ballpark ($495 vs. $450). As I wrote in a recent article, the benefits of the two cards weren't even close. The American Express card offered much better elite status with hotels and rental car companies, and offered valuable benefits such as $200 in travel incidentals reimbursement per year and a $100 credit to reimburse the cardholder's Global Entry fee. These last two benefits alone nearly justify Amex's fee.

Better benefitsAs I mentioned, Barclays decided to give the Black Card an overhaul -- figuring that since it had to switch out all of its cards anyway to comply with the new chip requirements, it was a good time to make some changes.

First of all, the card is now a MasterCard, not a Visa, giving cardholders access to MasterCard's "priceless" cities benefits. And Barclays has created a new Luxury Card brand that will issue the Black Card. According to the company's website, it will be launching additional credit card products under the Luxury Card brand as well.

As far as the card's benefits are concerned, Barclays has done a decent job of filling in the gaps between its product and those of competitors. Cardholders will receive the same $100 Global Entry reimbursement that Amex Platinum members get, and although it's not quite as much as Amex's, there is a $100 reimbursement for travel incidentals, such as airline fees.

In addition to the double points redemption value for airfare, which was already the best in the industry, MasterCard Black Card customers will now get an improved 1.5% cash back redemption rate (formerly 1%).

As of this writing, Barclays has not begun accepting applications for the new and improved product, so we don't know what type of sign-up bonus will be offered. The most recent Visa Black Card sign-up bonus was 25,000 points after spending $1,500 within the first 90 days of membership, and I would expect to see something similar, which would be equivalent to $500 in air travel or $375 cash back, according to the new redemption rates.

But will it be worth the price of admission?Paying $495 per year for a credit card is a steep price, and the new version of the Black Card from Barclays does a better job of justifying the annual fee than its predecessor. However, you can get better reward earning potential from cards with little or no annual fee, such as the Capital One Venture or Citi DoubleCash cards. There isn't a ton of competition in the $450+ annual fee credit card market, and it's still pretty much American Express Platinum and everyone else. Unless the new version of the Black Card is offering some incredible sign-up bonus or surprises us with additional perks that haven't been disclosed yet, I couldn't justify applying for it.

The article Is There a New and Improved Black Card? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Matthew Frankel owns shares of American Express. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends MasterCard and Visa. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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