Recession be damned! A new “ultra-elite” credit card has launched in the US, in an effort to woo clients who aspire to better travel benefits and members-only services. Barclays is behind the new Visa Black Card, which obviously hopes to emulate the aura of exclusivity and status that the black Amex Centurion Card has evoked for years.
But the black Visa isn’t in the same league as the black Amex. For starters, the black Amex is by invitation only, while the black Visa is a card you can apply for. The black Amex gives you automatic elite status on several airlines, while the black Visa doesn’t. But the black Visa also costs a heck of a lot less per year: $495 annual fee vs. a jawdropping $2500 for the black Amex.
(Incidentally, Latin American customers have had access to an even higher-end Visa product for a few years, which is closer to the black Amex: The Visa Infinite card, reportedly with a $2000 annual fee.)
For its $495 fee, the black Visa is unsurprisingly more comparable in benefits to the platinum American Express (annual fee currently $450).
Like the both the platinum and black Amex, the black Visa comes with membership in Priority Pass, the airport lounge network. But hold on: According to these reports, the Priority Pass membership included isn’t the top-tier version, which costs $399/year. Instead, you only get the equivalent of two guest passes. Two. Thereafter, you pay $27 a pop. The Platinum Amex is far superior on the airport lounge front.
One thing that’s nice about the black Visa: It includes trip interruption insurance, which used to be part of the Visa Signature benefits package. I’m not sure when that got nixed from the Signature profile, but it’s a good benefit to have. My wife and I took advantage of this benefit with our Visa Signature card back when we were on our honeymoon years ago… Because a tropical storm delayed our return home, and because we had charged our airline tickets to the Visa, the card covered our hotel, meals, transfers, and other expenses. But that’s no longer a Signature service (at least not in the US). I was disappointed to no longer find that benefit anymore when I looked over the list of Visa benefits.
But other card perks are less interesting. 1% cash back? Big whoop. Plenty of cards do that. Concierge services? Potentially interesting, but hard to gauge. “Luxury gifts from the world’s top brands” — what the hell is that?
The last remaining perk — if we can call it that — the card itself. It’s made of carbon, rather than plastic, so you can impress waiters, hotel lobby staff, and cashiers. And they’re certain to be impressed that you wasted $495 a year on a card with so few meaningful benefits at such a high cost.