Luxury Card (formerly known as Visa Black Card) review

Mastercard black cardAfter a several-month, uh, blackout, the formerly-named Visa Black Card from Barclaycard is back — rebranded as a suite of MasterCard products and renamed “Luxury Card.”

The old Visa Black card had a reputation for being overrated and overpriced. So are the new Luxury Card products as luxurious and exclusive as they claim? Our review will help you decide.

Three options

While the old version came in one color (black), there are three versions of Luxury Card:

Annual fee$195$495$995
Rewards1 percent cash back statement credit redemptions1.5 percent cash back statement credit redemptions2 percent cash back statement credit redemptions
Value for airline redemptions2-cents-per-point value when redeeming for airfare (50k points gets you $1,000 worth of airfare)
Annual Airline creditN/A$100$200
Lounge benefitsN/ALounge Club membership (495 participating lounges; some allow guests)
Global Entry application creditN/A$100 credit$100 credit
Luxury giftsN/AReceive luxury gifts from partner brands
Other travel benefitsAirport escort, chauffeured transportation, global luggage delivery, extra amenities on partner cruise lines, chartered yacht and jet services, upgrades at rental car partners
Sign-up bonus10k points after spending $1,000 in first 90 days25K points after spending $1,500 in first 90 days50k points after spending $3,000 in first 90 days
Made ofStainless steel24K gold

How do they compare to the competition?

The Black and Gold versions both offer more perks than the original Visa Black card. And the Titanium version offers a lower fee than that predecessor. However, while these cards have some good (and, in some cases, unique) benefits, they are overpriced compared to what else is out there.

Here’s why:

1. The rewards aren’t competitive: You will find no-annual-fee cards offering 1 percent, 1.5 percent or even 2 percent cash back. While your luxury card points are worth 2 cents each when redeemed for airfare, the Premier Rewards Gold card ($195 per year) from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) offers 3X points (which amounts to 3 percent back) on airfare. The Citi ThankYou Premier ($95 per year), meanwhile, offers 3X points on travel – and those points are worth 1.25 cents each when you redeem for travel (which amounts to 3.75 percent back). True, the Gold Luxury card gets you a 4 percent return on spending when you redeem for airfare – but you have to pay nearly $1,000 per year for it!

In other words, other cards with comparable (or lower) annual fees can get you an equal or higher return on your spending, even though the Luxury Cards double the value for airfare redemptions.

2. No transfer partners: Other cards let you transfer points directly to partner hotel loyalty and frequent flier programs. This helps you squeeze maximum value out of your points (if you redeem for premium-cabin international) and gives you some flexibility.

The Luxury Cards have no transfer partners. And that’s a notable omission because cards with comparable and lower annual fees do. The Chase Sapphire Preferred ($95 annual fee), Starwood Preferred Guest Card ($95 annual fee), Citi ThankYou Premier ($95 annual fee), AmEx Premier Rewards Gold card ($195 annual fee), Citi Prestige ($450 annual fee) and the Platinum Card from American Express ($450 annual fee) all have affiliated transfer partners (see a complete list here).

3. Other cards offer Global Entry and airfare credits: Statement credits against Global Entry applications and travel expenses are one of the easiest ways to cancel out the annual fee – so it’s good to see the higher-priced Luxury cards offering them. However, again, other cards are more generous.

For example, you’ll notice in the chart above that the Black card offers a $100 annual airline credit. The good news is that you can use this credit against airfare (some cards allow you to use it only against airline fees). However, the Citi Prestige gives you a $250 airline credit. And the Platinum Card from American Express gives you a $200 airline credit (although this one can be used only against incidentals such as baggage fees and in-flight meals).

As for Global Entry application, both the Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum reimburse you for that, too.

4. The luxury perks may not justify the high annual fees: The marketing of these cards puts luxury travel front and center. The Black and Gold offer Lounge Club access, for example. But, at this point, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that other cards (namely, the Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum) offer more robust lounge access, thanks to the sheer size of the lounge networks they partner with (see full details here). It will depend, of course, on the airports you frequently travel through, but in general, with the Luxury Cards, you’ll be paying more for access to fewer lounges worldwide.

The Luxury Cards’ entire “VIP Travel” suite of benefits, meanwhile, revolves around convenience and ease, with perks like airport “Meet and Greet” service, upgrades and extra amenities at partner hotels and cruise lines, access to chartered car services, and global luggage delivery. Plus, with the Black and Gold cards, you will randomly receive gifts from luxury brands.

The big questions are how much you’ll use these perks – and how much their monetary value is to you. The fountain pen you got from the card may be an exciting gift to one person, but totally useless to another. In fact, some of the perks require you to pay out of pocket. Yes, you have access to private jets through the card, but the card won’t get you the jet for free.

If you want perks with easy-to-calculate monetary value that may help cancel out the annual fee, here are some to consider from other cards:

  • Free Boingo Wi-Fi access: Offered by the American Express Platinum and the Starwood Preferred Guest card.
  • Automatic hotel elite status: The American Express Platinum gives you automatic Hilton Gold status, which means free breakfast at some properties.
  • Free hotel nights: The Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum give you a free night stay if you book several consecutive nights at eligible hotels (see full details here).

The bottom line

It’s pretty clear from our review that we don’t think the Luxury cards are the best deal.

However, the Luxury Cards aren’t necessarily trying to appeal to customers on the hunt for a good deal – and who are going to take out a calculator to see how close the benefits come to cancelling out the annual fee. They’re after more aspirational consumers who want lavish gifts, the ability to hire a concierge to walk them through the airport and a card made out of metal or gold.

If that describes you, Luxury Card gives you three compelling options – and, to be fair, that in itself is a step up from the old one-size-fits-all Visa Black Card.

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What are the types of “luxury gifts” one could expect to receive for having the Black or Gold card from Barclays? A few hundred bucks worth of luxury goods as freebies yearly may make this card a better value proposition.