Why Would Anyone Pay $600+ for a Piece of Plastic?
Many of us have considered paying something like $99 to $150 for a credit card with extra benefits. But some Canadians might be surprised to learn that there is a whole other level of elite credit cards that charge upwards of half a month’s rent just to hang out in your wallet.
What Makes a Card ‘Premium’?
While some might still be drawn to the mere idea of flashing a prestigious credit card when they check out at the cash register, this public display of status is becoming less and less common due to the widespread use of mobile payments. Those who choose to invest in an expensive credit card are instead doing so in the belief that they’ll get back more from the card than they’re paying for it. But how?
Many of the benefits of the best premium credit cards revolve around travel, and if you take to the skies often, a premium card can reap enough rewards points to make the annual fee worth it. These cards frequently offer super-charged rewards for travel, restaurant and hotel expenses — all line items that travellers tend to spend a significant amount of their budget on. Some cards will even offer travel credits like a free checked bag or a set cash amount you can put toward a flight or travel-related expenditure.
Not only are the points or rewards you earn often revved-up for travel-related spending, some premium cards (like the American Express Platinum Card) even let you transfer your points to other loyalty airline programs, often at a 1:1 ratio. This is a nice (and rare) added bonus that could let you maximize your loyalty points with a favourite airline. Super premium cards also often feature other globetrotter-friendly benefits that can be very useful, like hotel loyalty status upgrades, room upgrades, late check-outs or free Wi-Fi.
Airport Lounge Access
Some lower-tier travel cards advertise that they provide airport lounge access, but don’t be fooled: this often amounts to just a membership (meaning you still pay a set fee each time you enter a lounge), or it means your access will be cut off after you reach a maximum number of annual visits. Premium Canadian credit cards, however, give you unlimited access to airport lounges, so you can sip champagne and nosh on gourmet nibbles to your heart’s content.
Airport lounge access is one of my personal favourite perks and one I get a lot of use out of. Remember, it’s a perk that can also save you significantly over time because you can enjoy free food, Wi-Fi and drinks at a lounge rather than paying for overpriced fare at a loud and crowded airport restaurant.
Generally speaking, you won’t get too much use out of the insurance offerings if you don’t travel often (but remember, insurance benefits aren’t just for international travel, out-of-province travel counts too). If you do, look for nice extras like how many days you’re covered for (many basic credit cards don’t offer more than 10 days of coverage), motel/hotel burglary coverage and a healthcare concierge who can help you locate a doctor in a foreign country. Also check to see if you get an auto club membership or a discount at select rental car agencies (this benefit is easy to miss if you don’t carefully read your insurance benefits). The Platinum Card, for instance, offers car rental status such as Hertz Gold Rewards Five Star and Avis Preferred.
What’s the point of having an exclusive credit card if you’re not actually given exclusive treatment? Many premium credit cards offer occasional store discounts or early access to concert tickets. Ultra exclusive cards, however, take things up a notch and offer bespoke, one-of-a-kind experiences like a private meal prepared by a Michelin-starred chef, front-row seats at a fashion show or learning to golf with a world-renowned pro.
Where to Find Premium Cards
Though premium cards are now offered by a wide variety of issuers, the company historically associated with premium cards is of course Amex. Accordingly, the Canadian poster child for an exclusive credit card is probably the American Express Platinum Card. At $699 a year, it’s one of the most expensive cards in the country. As a template for top-tiered cards, let’s quickly review what makes this luxury credit card so lavish.
Conditions ApplyEligibility Criteria:
– Credit score required: Good-Excellent
– Min personal income required: N/A
– Annual fees: $699
The card starts with a stop-you-in-your-tracks, 50000-point sign-up bonus (contingent upon minimum spend of $3,000 in the first 3 months of cardmembership). With its fixed points travel program, that bonus could get you a return trip anywhere in North America, as well as the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico. The card also significantly rewards those who prioritize travel and eating out. Cardholders get 3 points per $1 spent on eligible dining in Canada, 2 points per $1 spent on eligible travel and 1 point per $1 for all other eligible spending.
Aside from the substantial bonus offer, the Amex Platinum Card has a wide spectrum of premium benefits. The card features a comprehensive range of insurance, a $200 travel credit, airport lounge access (including the coveted Centurion lounge), invites to exclusive events and more. And for those who appreciate tactile quality the card now comes in precision-cut and engraved metal.
Does It Add Up?
Remember: when deciding if an ultra exclusive credit card is the best choice for your needs and spending patterns, assign all the perks some kind of approximate dollar value based on how much you’d use them and the money they’d save you. Paying an elevated annual fee only makes sense if you’re truly going to put all those premium benefits to good use.
* This post was sponsored by Amex Bank of Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.