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Visa Black Card: As Good as Hyped?

by on September 17, 2011

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The Visa Black Card is built on prestige and exclusivity. In fact, this esteemed “ultimate buying tool” has its own website, the homepage of which describes it as “the world’s most prestigious and versatile credit card.” To “ensure the highest caliber of personal service,” Visa limits cardholders to 1% of the U.S. population. But for all its status and cachet, its most unique feature is the fact it’s made of carbon, not plastic.

We’ve seen this all before

If you’re looking for a symbol to immortalize your prominence and distinction, at least get one with better rewards. For a point of reference, we’ll use the American Express Platinum, the card perhaps most comparable to the Black Card. Both the Platinum and the Black Card are travel rewards cards with formidable reputations. Their annual fees alone limit who is worthy and who should kneel before their might. The Platinum will cost you $450 a year, and the Black Card is bit steeper at $495.

It is important to note that while the Black Card is indeed a credit card, the Platinum is actually a charge card, which means you have to pay off the entirety of your balance each month. Aside from that, these cards function much the same way.

Similar travel services

Both the Black and Platinum offer 24-hour concierge services, so a personal assistant should be available at any given moment to assist you with your travels. Basically, you have a walking, talking Google to consult. Through your concierge, you can get information or make reservations on flights, hotels, restaurants, car rentals, sports events and more. It’s a nice feature, especially since Platinum cardholders get their own seperate concierge service unsullied by Gold Card ruffians.

Either card will grant you a variety of travel assistance services, including travel accident insurance, baggage insurance, and roadside emergency services. They pretty much protect you from anything that could possibly go wrong whilst travelling. There are some minor differences you’ll want to take a closer look at (the Black offers accident insurance up to $250,000, whereas the Platinum will cover up to $500,000), but in general, they share a common goal: to make your trips as convenient and secure as possible.

The platinum edge

Where the two cards really diverge is in the extra benefits they offer. They both grant you access to private airport clubs and lounges, and they both offer purchase protection and warranties. But scroll through the Platinum’s details and you’ll see an extensive list comprised of virtually any travel service you could conceive of—benefits for limousine rentals, private jet bookings, rented rooms at private residences worldwide, cruise privileges, hotel upgrades and preferred seating at events. The Black Card advertises none of these perks.

If you look both rewards systems, the Platinum comes out on top again. The Black Card’s program is fairly simple. You earn 1% rewards and can redeem them for cash back or airfare at any airline. The Platinum program is a little more involved, but a lot more beneficial. Like the Black, the Platinum has a base rate of 1 point per dollar spent. But the Platinum goes beyond the base rate and offers double points for booking trips on the American Express website, and 10x points on purchases made on the rewards site. But here’s the real kicker and the reason the Black Card can’t compete with travel rewards: When you redeem your points for travel, you’ll instantly get 20% of those points back.

In addition, the Black Card has a foreign transaction fee of 3%, so international travel is automatically more expensive.  The Platinum has no foreign transaction fee. You won’t have to worry about paying an extra percentage for everything you buy outside the States.

Better than black

When it comes down to it, there is little reason to choose the Visa Black Card over its rival, the American Express Platinum. I mean, the Black Card is made of carbon, but if you’re okay with plastic, going Platinum will get you more benefits and better rewards for a lower annual fee. If both these cards are a bit out of your league, don’t feel bad. They’re beyond most of us common folk. Check out some of the other Visa Signature cards instead. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example, has a much more affordable annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), and comes with the same benefits and an even higher rewards rate than the Black Card. The CapOne Venture is an even better travel card, giving out 2 No Hassle Miles per $1 spent, with a $59 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fee.

In summation, the Visa Black Card needs to get over itself. It can’t contend with the Platinum, and it will never be the legendary Centurion.

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  • cscasi

    ‘The Chase Sapphire Preferred card, for example, has a much more affordable annual fee of $95 (waived the first year), and comes with the same benefits and an even higher rewards rate than the Black Card. The CapOne Venture is an even better travel card, giving out 2 No Hassle Miles per $1 spent, with a $59 annual fee that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fee.’
    Do either of the above give you unlimited VIP airport lounge visits??? No? Then, how can you tout “and comes with the same benefit and an even higher rewards rate than the Black Card”??

    • Mureille Ree

      is that all you care about though?
      lounge visits?

  • ishy

    this card is okay, they waived my $495, i enjoy the airport lounge (if you travel a lot). concierge is okay, i think citibank diamond preferred and visablack concierge shared the same agency when it comes to concierge because i tried emailing both and they all have the same signature name of the person who did my request.

    -no more foreign fees.
    -tho their auto rental collision damage waiver fee isn’t that great, blackcard ADW will use ur own car insurance by paying whatever your deductible which will affect your insurance premium compared to my AMEX that doesn’t use your car insurance policy, you claim straight to AMEX and it won’t touch your own car insurance,.

    bottom line is if you travel a lot, this card has travel insurance baggage insurance etc. (same as CITI Diamond Preffered) and i think also visa signature credit cards, and it gives you airport lounge visit which cost $450 if you want unlimited visit through PriorityPass. Amex Platinum doesn’t have travel insurance, they only have unlimited airport lounge and 200 airline credit every year.

    visablack also sends you gifts.

    just remember amex charge cards, you have to pay in full by the end of the statement unlike visablack that is a credit card, sure theres no limit but u pay amex charge card in full, visablack does have a limit because its a credit card

  • Davie

    EASILY THE WORST CARD I HAVE EVER OWNED. THE REWARDS ARE GARBAGE FOR THE COST. THEY CLAIM AMAZING SPECIAL SERVICE YET IN REALITY THEY CANNOT DO ANYTHING CORRECTLY. BEWARE OF THE TRAVEL SERVICES THEY BOOKED ME A FLIGHT AND THEN AT THE AIRPORT I MAGICALLY WAS NOT ON IT. WHEN ASKED FOR A REFUND BLACKCARD TOLD ME I IN FACT WAS ON THE FLIGHT AND THAT THEY CANNOT DO ANYTHING. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR GO AMEX. THE GIFT IS A PEN/PENCIL THING, HONESTLY IF YOU CANT AFFORD A PEN OR PENCIL ON YOUR OWN YOU SHOULDN’T BE GETTING THIS CARD TO BEGIN WITH ANYWAYS.

  • stevesmith1234

    Don’t get anything from Barclays. I have had terrible customer service. In my personal experience, worst bank ever. I was considering this card until I realized it was Barclay’s product, which tells me it is not worth it. AmEx is not perfect, but the Plat card has great benefits and customer service is very professional and helpful. Actually, I think the best card is the Starwood AmEx. Starwood has not devalued its points for hotels stay (unlike Hilton and others), and if you convert to airline points, you get a 5k bonus for every 20k you convert.

  • jh1289

    This sounds like a crap card, especially with that huge fee.