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The Visa Infinite Credit Card Platform: What Is It?

October 4, 2016
Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Even luxury has its levels. A Mercedes-Benz is considered a luxury car, but a Maserati has an even greater wow factor.

In the world of credit card perks, the Maserati has arrived. Visa Infinite, a suite of superpremium benefits tailored to high-net-worth cardholders, has been offered on some Visa cards internationally for several years. Here in the U.S., a small but growing number of credit cards are available on the Visa Infinite platform.

“Visa Infinite was created specifically with the issuer’s most affluent customers in mind,” says Davin Chow, vice president of credit products at Visa.

Not every Visa Infinite card offers the same perks. The platform provides core benefits such as travel insurance, purchase protection and cardholder assistance, Chow says, but each credit card issuer can choose which benefits to offer on its cards.

» MORE: Visa vs. MasterCard: Does it make a difference? 

Issuers and networks

Terminology is important when discussing Visa Infinite or any credit card platform:

  • “Issuers” are the banks that actually distribute cards and handle accounts. Chase, Citi, Capital One, Wells Fargo or your local bank or credit union are all examples of issuers.
  • Visa is a payment network. When you use a credit card, the payment network handles the behind-the-scenes work of verifying the transaction and making sure the merchant gets its money and the issuer gets the information it needs to charge the right account.

Both issuers and networks offer benefits to cardholders, and the perks on any card are typically a combination of what’s provided by the network and what’s offered by the issuer.

Visa Signature, Visa Infinite overlap

Many of the benefits of Visa Infinite overlap with those of Visa Signature, previously the highest level of Visa benefits available in the U.S. But Chow says Visa Signature will remain its own distinct platform. Here are the perks the two platforms share.

VIP treatment

With Visa Infinite and Visa Signature, cardholders get access to special food and wine events and concert tickets, as well as the chance to attend sporting events as a VIP.

The travel benefits for both include luxury hotel booking, room upgrades, VIP guest status, later checkout times, free in-room internet, complimentary continental breakfast and a $25 food and beverage credit.

Protection benefits

Cards on both platforms provide various protections for travelers. These include rental car insurance, travel assistance (including lost luggage locator service), emergency medical and legal assistance, and emergency card replacement and cash service if your card is lost or stolen.

Both Visa Signature and Visa Infinite also offer complimentary concierge service 24 hours a day to assist clients with travel plans, shopping and restaurant reservations.

A sampler of benefits on two cards

While the benefits on a Visa Infinite card depend on the issuer, you can get a sense of what’s possible from the impressive benefits listed for cards already on the platform. NerdWallet combed through the benefits guides for two of the first Visa Infinite cards in the U.S. — City National Bank’s Crystal Visa Infinite and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — for highlights. Check with the issuer to see which benefits are available on a specific card.

  • Hotel theft protection: Coverage of up to $1,000 in personal property stolen from a hotel room paid for with a Visa Infinite card, minus any amount the hotel or your personal insurance may cover.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: Up to $5,000 for contents lost due to theft or mishandling by the airline. Excluded items include cell phones and business items.
  • Baggage delay: If your baggage is delayed for six hours or more, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card will reimburse you for purchases of essential items until your bags arrive. The limit is $100 per day for up to five days and includes one cell phone charger.
  • Roadside dispatch: With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, up to $50 in roadside assistance charges is covered on four service calls per year. The Crystal Visa Infinite service costs the customer $59.95 per service call with no limit on the number of calls annually.
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance: up to $5,000.
  • Trip delay insurance: If your trip is delayed by more than six hours or requires an overnight stay, you will be reimbursed up to $500.
  • Emergency evacuation and transportation: If you or an immediate family member falls ill on a trip, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 for ground, ship or air transportation.
  • Travel fee reimbursement: Hundreds of dollars’ worth of statement credit for travel costs and application fees for trusted-traveler programs TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
  • GoGo Inflight Wi-Fi: Passes for 12 flight segments per year.
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Access to more than 900 airport lounges around the world.
  • Car rental privileges: Discounts, upgrades and other amenities when cardholders enroll in reward programs with Avis, National or Silvercar.
  • Airline discounts: $100 discount on purchase of two to five round-trip domestic coach tickets on the same itinerary. No limit on the number of times you can use this benefit. Applies to the itinerary, not an individual ticket. Chase Sapphire Reserve® does not offer this benefit.

In addition to Visa Infinite benefits, both the Crystal Visa Infinite and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® have comparable rewards structures and fees. Both offer 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The annual fee on the Crystal Visa Infinite is $400 (the fee is waived the first year); Chase Sapphire Reserve® has an annual fee of $450.

» MORE: Full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

Protecting your purchases

Some of the purchase protections offered on the Crystal Visa Infinite and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are available on other cards, but Visa Infinite offers all of them on one card:

  • Price protection: With the Crystal Visa Infinite, if you buy an item with your card and find it available for less within 60 days of purchase, you can get reimbursed for the difference up to $1,000 per item and $4,000 per year. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can apply for reimbursement up to $500 per item and $2,500 per year within 90 days of the purchase.
  • Purchase security: With the Crystal Visa Infinite, if merchandise is damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase, you may be reimbursed up to $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® provides protection up to the same dollar amount but the offer is good within 120 days from the date of purchase.
  • Return protection: With the Crystal Visa Infinite, if you’re not satisfied with the merchandise and the retailer won’t let you return it, you get up to $300 per item within 90 days of purchase, for a maximum of $1,000 a year. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you’re covered up to $500 per item with an annual limit of $1,000, and you must file a claim within 90 days.
  • Extended warranty protection.

Other perks

Visa Infinite may also offer assistance if your identity is stolen, reimbursing up to $15,000 to pay for expenses you incur due to the theft.

In addition to the Visa Signature entertainment events, Visa Infinite may offer access to the Broadway League. This program entitles you to purchase house seats or premium seats to Broadway shows in New York City and shows on tour across America. The perks include backstage tours and meet-and-greets with actors in the shows.

Visa Infinite and beyond

While Visa Infinite is available on only a few cards issued in the U.S. now, Chow says, “we’re continuing to work with other issuers on additional card programs that will be in market within the next year.”

Since the benefits of the Visa Infinite platform depend on which card you choose, card shoppers in search of luxury perks have a dilemma. Do they apply for one of these cards now or wait to see what superperks another card might offer soon? Comparing credit cards carefully is always smart, and it’s imperative when you’ll be paying an annual fee well into the triple digits. Nevertheless, the fact that a card comes on the Visa Infinite platform is a signal that the issuer is making a play for frequent travelers willing to pay for service and comfort.

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.