Q: I see an increasing number of credit cards with concierge benefits included. What is it exactly and is it useful or just a needless up-sell?
A: This is a benefit that has been around since the late 90’s. The first cards to offer concierge were the American Express Centurion and Platinum Cards as well as the Diners Club Carte Blanche. Last decade, the Visa Signature and MasterCard World Elite tiers were launched, which also include it as a benefit and hence increasing its availability. Go here for more specifics on the Visa Signature and World MasterCard concierges — and some things they’ve been used for.
But what will they do for you? Will they pick up your dry cleaning like hotel concierges do? Unfortunately not. But they will do whatever they can for you over the phone! Tasks such as…
This benefit is most popular in urban areas. They can make reservations at a restaurant of your choice – or – they can steer you towards one they recommend if you need advice.
But what makes this benefit any better than Yelp or Open Table? Well some credit card concierge services have special relationships with certain restaurants, where they might be able to snag you a last minute reservation even if Open Table shows no availability. Forum members here have shared success stories of this happening.
This is another common use. The concierge service can help you with making travel plans and also providing recommendations, if needed.
But truth be told, if you already know what exactly you want then it may be easier to just go to your favorite travel site and book it yourself. However if you’re traveling first class and want high end accommodations, it might make sense going through the concierge. American Express Platinum/Centurion cardmembers can get access to a number of deals and perks (like special hotel rates or a free night for staying X number of days at participating hotels).
For popular concerts, sporting events, Vegas shows, and Broadway plays, a card’s concierge may be useful. Now don’t expect them to be able to pull off something crazy like backstage tickets to a U2 concert, but sometimes they can score you preferred seating, pre-sales, and maybe hunt you down tickets to that sold out game or show.
Visa Signature has really made a big push with entertainment by regularly sponsoring events. For example, they coughed up so much money for the 2012 London Olympics, Visa is going to be the only form of payment accepted, believe it or not. Though it’s unclear what perks, if any, will be offered to those with their Signature cards.
the “everything else” category
This can consist of almost anything else you can conjure up. It could be something simple, like calling for directions or directory assistance. Or, it could be something outlandish like asking for help with a crossword (I have heard of it being used for this purpose, as crazy as that may sound) or where to buy that impossible-to-find thing, such as a vintage real-life spacesuit (another true story). As long as it’s not something illegal you are asking, I don’t think I have ever heard of any credit card concierge service saying “no” for a request (but prove me wrong and share below).
Worth it or not?
A lot of people make the argument that the concierge is not offering anything that Google can’t do, and in many ways, that’s true! For many simpler tasks like looking up a phone number or directions, pulling out your smartphone is probably the quickest way to do it.
But credit where credit’s due, for some things the concierge service is actually worth its salt. This is especially true while you’re driving, unable to fool around on your phone. Something to keep in mind though is that these services are more about completing the task, rather than finding you the best price. So if you’re a bargain hunter, mention price as a top priority when using this service.
The best cards with concierge in 2014?
- The AmEx Platinum with its $450 is definitely not appropriate for most people. But if you’re an avid traveler who enjoys a jet set lifestyle, then the benefits are probably worth it.
- The Chase Sapphire Visa Signature is available with no annual fee (for the regular version, the Preferred is $95/year). Both come with concierge and a ton of other perks.
Last updated June 2014.