black card visa Is Visas new Black Card worthy of the hype?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.

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8 Responses to “Is Visa’s new Black Card worthy of the hype?”

  1. Xeon Says:

    Citi’s Platinum Amex comes with the same Priority Pass level, and costs only $125/yr, with the first year fee waived, and actually has some good rewards – an unheard of 3 TY points per $ on EVERYTHING for the first 2 years, and 5 points per $ on Gas, Groceries, and Drugstores. Even with the elimination of fixed point flights, it is still a much better deal than the Barclay’s card.

  2. Mark Ashley Says:

    Thanks, Xeon. The Citi Platinum Amex you mention sounds like a solid card, indeed. Here’s a link:

    As you point out, the Citi Platinum Amex has the “entry level” Priority Pass membership, with a few day passes included, just like the Barclays Visa Black Card. With regard to the “regular” platinum Amex, I just checked the fine print regarding airport lounge benefits, and there is no mention of Priority Pass at all. Instead, if you’re flying on American, Northwest, or Delta, you have access to most of their lounges. If you’re flying other airlines, you’re out of luck. BUT, you don’t have any additional fees, and you can bring guests for free. Here’s the fine print:

    Access airport lounges around the world, including American Airlines Admirals Club®, Continental Airlines Presidents Club®, Delta Crown Room Club®, and Northwest Airlines WorldClubs®, compliments of the Airport Club Access Program.

    The Platinum Card® member must be traveling. Name on ticket must match name on Platinum Card. The Platinum Card member must be 18 years of age for American Airlines Admirals Club® Lounges and 21 years of age to enter into all other Airport Club Lounges without a parent or guardian. The Platinum Card member’s spouse and children under the age of 21 or up to two companions may enter the club as complimentary guests. Code-share and affiliated lounge agreements do not apply. Special industry reduced revenue tickets are not eligible with Delta and American Airlines. The Platinum Card member must present his or her valid Card, government-issued I.D., and airline ticket to club agents. Complimentary access is specifically for the airport club that corresponds to the airline operating the flight (access pertains to the aircraft, not the flight number) except with respect to American Airlines marketed code share flights with an American Airlines flight number which are also eligible for complimentary access to the lounge. Note that amenities may vary among airport club locations. Meeting rooms may be reserved for a nominal fee. Card members must adhere to all house rules of participating clubs. For a list of participating airport club locations, call 800-525-3355. Partners and locations subject to change.

  3. Wandering Aramean Says:

    The Amex Platinum Card in the USA doesn’t include a Priority Pass. It includes access to Continental, Delta, Northwest and American lounges when flying on the operating carrier. The benefit is VERY different.

    Still, I agree with the assessment that this Visa card is pretty much a joke at the price they are asking. Heck, the free Sak’s card offers the basic PPass membership ($27/visit).

  4. Roundup: Jenn Brown names best L.A. bars to watch the Super Bowl; Southwest sale; Is the Visa Black card for you? - Travel - LATimes.com Says:

    [...] travel | Were you considering applying for the Visa Black Card? Upgrade Travel Better analyzes its merits–and weighs it against the black Amex Centurion card–so you can be [...]

  5. Hannah Says:

    I talked to the pr staff of Barclay’s Bank, which issues the Visa Black Card, to get some more details — particularly on the concierge service. The concierge service seems like a pretty good deal. Here’s what I found out. Love your blog by the way.


  6. SF Kevin Says:

    Actually, as a current Amex Platinum cardholder, I can tell you from personal experience that you get both the “baked in” lounge access with the card, plus the ticket from the same airline, AND Priority Pass membership.

  7. Airport photo: No Amex Black Cards accepted | Upgrade: Travel Better Says:

    [...] – Is Visa’s new Black Card worthy of the hype? – How can I upgrade flights using American Express? – In defense of reward-earning credit cards [...]

  8. christina thomas Says:

    The Visa Black Card is worthy of the hype, but only if plopping down an extra $41 per month in annual fees strikes you as negligible. The benefits are alright; it is really a credit card for status.

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