The Visa Black Card entered the status card market back in 2008, so there’s been a lot of time to see if its luxurious promises have held up. Is it just another luxury card with prohibitively high annual fees? Or do the benefits justify its expense? Read this review to find out whether you should get a Black Card of your own.
First, let’s debunk some of the hype surrounding this card:
This should not be confused with the AmEx Centurion “black” card. That one requires $7,500 in fees just for the first year ($5,000 initiation fee and $2,500 annual fee) and is invite-only for AmEx’s biggest spenders (you have to spend several hundred thousand annually on another AmEx card in order to be invited).
In a nutshell, Visa Black Card is just the issuer’s trademarked name for the card… reportedly there is no such thing as a “black card” tier for Visa cards.
If you want a rare credit card that’s black and made out of metal then save some money and go for the Marriott Rewards Premier – it has a $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year, then $85. Compare that to Visa Black which charges a $495 annual fee which is NOT waived for the first year.
Since the Marriott is made out of real metal, it leaves quite the impression. It clings when you set it on the table at a restaurant or bar top. I opened my account because of the current bonus mentioned below and have received comments from people who are quite impressed by it. If you have good credit and decent income, you should give the application a shot.
And with the Marriott you can get a significantly better offer:
- 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months from account opening.
- Plus you get 1 Free Night Stay after account approval in Category 1-4 locations. And then every year after your account anniversary date, you receive 1 additional free night stay at a Category 1-5 location.
- Here is the link to get this offer while its available
It’s marketed as something that is highly exclusive, but what are the Visa Black card requirements? According to numerous sources across the net, it sounds like they are not much different than most credit cards (for example, be a U.S. resident, have a qualifying credit score, etc).
If indeed this card doesn’t have any extra special requirements (like the AmEx Centurion with its $250k annual spending requirement to qualify) then it appears that a large number of Americans would easily qualify if they truly wanted the card. In fact, there are stories out there of people from many walks of life reportedly getting a Visa Black Card application in the mail, including rumors of college students with limited income, etc. (however I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that those were sent by accident).
First-Class Airport Lounge Access?
This credit card comes with Priority Pass, the largest airport VIP lounge program, which gives complimentary access to more than 350 airport lounges across the world.
For the first couple years or so after the card launched, they only gave cardholders four free lounge visits per year (you would have to pay per visit after that). I highly criticized this, because the AmEx Platinum gives unlimited visits for free. However sometime in 2011, Black Card changed it for the better and they now also give unlimited visits.
I do commend them for doing that, but it still falls short of the AmEx Platinum’s lounge program, because that gives you unlimited Priority Pass PLUS access to first-class lounges with partner airlines like Delta and US Airways.
The card touts various luxury gifts as perks that Visa Black Card members get. When the card first launched, it did sound like there were some decent gifts that some members got. However sometime after that, a first gift that was mentioned frequently in the blogosphere is a Cross pen set … not exactly exciting, given the $495 annual fee.
Superior rewards and benefits?
“Earning back” a high annual fee through rewards and benefits is what can make a card worthwhile.
With the Visa Black, you earn 1 point per dollar spent. When redeeming, you get 1 percent back on cash back, gift cards and merchandise and 2 percent back when you book airline tickets through the card’s rewards program.
Considering the $495 annual fee, that’s nothing to get too excited about. Cards with lower annual fees let you earn double or triple points on everything from dining, to travel, to groceries.
As for the benefits, the card offers a suite of travel protections and insurance, 24-hour concierge and upgrades (spa treatments, complimentary breakfast and late check-out) at participating hotels. It also waives foreign transaction fees. However, such perks aren’t anything that comparable cards don’t offer already. And notably missing are the things that make the lower-priced AmEx Platinum unique (the $200 airline fee credit and the Global Entry reimbursement).
Skip the Visa Black Card application and go for…
…the AmEx Platinum. The annual fee ($450) is slightly lower and the benefits are better than the Visa Black Card. Check out the American Express Platinum Card benefits to see for yourself. But if you don’t want to pay 450 smackeroos (which admittedly, is a lot) consider one of these instead…
Last updated April 1, 2014