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The Mastercard® Black Card™ is an exclusive travel rewards credit card marketed by Barclaycard. It has a $495 annual fee and a fairly generous rewards program that effectively offers a 2% return on airfare redemptions and a 1.5% return on cash back redemptions. It’s part of Barclaycard’s high-end Luxury Card™ brand, which also markets the more affordable Mastercard® Titanium (which has a $195 annual fee) and the super-exclusive Mastercard® Gold Card™ (which has a $995 annual fee and is literally made of 24-karat gold).
Purchases made with the Black Card earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent. There are no earning restrictions or special bonus categories with higher earning rates. Airline redemptions value points at $0.02 apiece, and cash back redemptions value points at $0.015 apiece.
Although the Black Card does not have a sign-up bonus or annual loyalty bonus, it does have a surprisingly generous (for a travel card) 15-month 0% APR promotion on balance transfers. Terms and conditions apply.
The Mastercard Black Card’s value really shines through in the VIP travel benefits department. In addition to complimentary airport lounge access at more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide, its travel perks include a $100 Global Entry application fee credit, 24/7 concierge availability, exclusive perks and discounts at thousands of hotels and resorts worldwide, and more. Plus, it feels exclusive – it’s made of PVD-coated stainless steel, so you know it’s not going to chip or break on you.
The Black Card earns 1 point for every $1 spent on purchases. There are no restrictions to how many points you can earn, and points never expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing.
The Black Card has no confusing tiers, rotating categories, or redemption thresholds. You never have to wait to redeem your points, and no bank account is required for cash back redemption.
The best way to redeem points earned with your Black Card is for airfare. Airfare redemptions always value points at $0.02 apiece, regardless of the route, carrier, underlying cost of the ticket, or other factors.
The other high-value redemption option is the cash back statement credit, which values points at $0.015 apiece – for example, 10,000 points translates to $150 in cash.
Priority Pass Select Airport Lounge Access
This card entitles you to complimentary, unlimited access to about 1,300 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select, a global airport lounge network with lounges in more than 100 countries worldwide (including about 31 restaurant lounges where Black Card members enjoy dining discounts to the tune of about $30 per visit). Lounge access is complimentary for all guests of the cardmember, including friends that are not direct family.
Annual Airline Credit
Every year your account remains open and in good standing, you receive a $100 annual airline credit that can be redeemed toward airfare, class upgrades, baggage fees, and other airline purchases. The credit is automatically applied to your account as a statement credit.
TSA PreCheck or Global Entry Fee Application Credit
As a Black Card user, you’re entitled to a credit up to $100 toward your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee. You’ll need to invoke this credit once every 5 years.
Luxury Card Travel Benefits
Cardmembers enjoy an average value of $500 annually in benefits and services per stay at over 3,000 properties around the world, according to Luxury Card. Participating brands include Montage, St. Regis, Park Hyatt, The Peninsula, Ritz Carlton, Fairmont, and more.
Typical benefits include spa credits, room upgrades, complimentary food and beverages, early check-in, late check-out, and welcome gifts. For example, a one-night stay at California Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills includes breakfast for two (a $50 value each), plus a $100 resort credit, free WiFi, and complimentary use of the hotel’s car within two miles of the resort.
24/7 Concierge Service
Black Card comes with 24/7, white-glove concierge service from a dedicated cohort of professional concierges that serve only Luxury Card members. Available by phone, email, and live chat within the app (a big help for travelers in countries where international phone calls are expensive), these concierge services include:
- Help obtaining hard-to-get tickets or reservations, especially in foreign markets where apps like OpenTable (or even Google searches) are unreliable and language barriers impede DIY reservations
- Help with complex travel bookings
- Securing event tickets
- Arranging car rental and limousine service
- Arranging flower, grocery, and dry goods deliveries
- Inventory and pricing research for hard-to-find items
- Directions to gas stations, supermarkets, parking garages, and other essential services
Black Card users get special (and sometimes exclusive) access to Mastercard’s lineup of “Priceless” events and experiences. These events are frequently invite-only or restricted to VIPs such as high-end Mastercard members. Examples of “Priceless” events include VIP and behind-the-scenes tickets to pro golf tournaments, and curated city experiences in exotic locales. Additional fees and expenses, such as airfare, may apply.
Luxury Card members get complimentary subscriptions to LUXURY MAGAZINE, a quarterly glossy mag that delivers a variety of content catering to an affluent readership, including articles on travel, architecture, real estate, autos, and technology.
Mastercard-Backed Travel Perks
This card comes with a nice lineup of more prosaic travel perks backed by Mastercard. Many are itemized components of standard-issue travel insurance policies. Notable inclusions:
- Baggage delay insurance
- Trip cancellation and interruption coverage
- Travel accident insurance with a death benefit of $500,000 per insured
- Complimentary rental car insurance on rentals paid in full with your card
- 10% discount on eligible bookings with Onefinestay
Additional Mastercard Benefits
The Black Card has some non-travel benefits backed by Mastercard as well. Highlights include:
- Join Fandango VIP to earn double the points when you use your Black Card (250 points per ticket). Earn 500 points to get a $5 VIP + reward.
- Enjoy complimentary cell phone protection up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per covered card in a 12-month period (maximum two claims). Each claim is subject to a $25 deductible.
- Use your Black Card to earn 5% cash rewards on eligible Boxed orders. Your rewards are available for use on future purchases.
- Take at least 5 eligible Lyft rides per month using your Black Card and earn a $10 Lyft credit.
- Sign up for a complimentary ShopRunner membership using your Black Card and receive 2-day free shipping and free return shipping on eligible purchases (a $79 value).
Another signature benefit, Mastercard ID Theft Protection, features monitoring on the covered cardmember’s:
- Email addresses
- Debit/credit cards/prepaid cards
- Bank accounts
- Web logins (username and password)
- Medical insurance cards
- Driver’s license
- Loyalty cards
- Affinity cards
- Passport number
- Vehicle insurance cards
- Social Security number
The Black Card offers a 0% APR promotion on balance transfers for 15 months from account opening. Terms and conditions apply.
This card has a $495 annual fee that is not waived in the first year. Each additional authorized user costs $195 per year. There is no foreign transaction fee.
This card requires excellent credit. Any blemishes in your credit history will threaten and possibly disqualify your application.
- Airfare Redemptions Offer Great Value. The Black Card’s best redemption option is clearly airfare. Points redeemed for airfare are always valued at $0.02 apiece, regardless of the destination, demand, dollar cost, or other factors that can affect airfare redemption values. While $0.02 per point might not be a world-beating rate on international travel, it’s definitely a cut above the competition’s average on domestic flights. Also, it’s nice to know that the value of your redeemed points will always be fixed.
- Complimentary Airport Lounge Access at 1,000+ Priority Pass Locations. This card offers complimentary access to more than 1,300 Priority Pass airport lounges in more than 100 countries around the world. Perks include unlimited guests of the cardmember, restaurant access at select U.S. locations, and no lounge visit limitations. You won’t find a Priority Pass lounge everywhere you go, but if you stick to top destinations, you’re unlikely to stray too far. When utilized more than a few times per year, this benefit can go a long way toward offsetting the Black Card’s annual fee.
- High-Touch Concierge Service. Cardmembers enjoy 24/7 service from dedicated concierges available by phone, email, and live chat within the app. Their capabilities are vast, covering everything from dinner and transportation reservations in unfamiliar international markets to securing hard-to-find supplies closer to home. For international travelers, concierge access through the app can significantly reduce the cost of cross-border phone calls.
- Super Generous Travel Benefits. Aside from complimentary airport lounge access, the Black Card’s VIP travel benefits are pretty awesome. For starters, there’s the $100 Global Entry application fee credit and the annual $100 airline credit (though the airline credit actually isn’t as generous as that of some other cards). The exclusive discounts and perks at more than 3,000 participating hotels and resorts worldwide have even greater potential value; depending on the location and benefits offered, a single stay could nearly offset the Black Card’s annual fee.
- Cash Back Redemptions Offer Above-Average Value. When you redeem your points for cash back, you get a 1.5% return on your spending – turning a 10,000-point redemption into a $150 statement credit, for example. That’s a better deal than most straight cash back cards, which typically value cash back points at $0.01 apiece.
- Long Introductory APR Promotion on Balance Transfers. Somewhat unusually for a high-end travel rewards card, Titanium has a generous introductory balance transfer promotion: 0% APR for 15 months from account opening. If you’re looking to get your credit card debt under control by transferring existing high-interest balances from other cards, the Black Card is a great way to do so without foreclosing opportunities to earn rewards points or generous travel perks.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. Black Card users never have to worry about foreign transaction fees. If you regularly travel abroad, this card is definitely worthy of your consideration.
- Very High Annual and Authorized User Fees. At $495, the Black Card’s annual fee is very high – and so is the authorized user fee of $195 per additional user. These fees are prohibitive for people who spend modestly and travel only occasionally. In fact, they really dampen the card’s appeal for anyone who can’t fully utilize its generous travel benefits, such as complimentary airport lounge access. That said, the more affordable Titanium Card is a strong alternative for applicants seeking a metal card, 24/7 concierge service, leading airline redemption rates, and hotel benefits – all at less than half the cost.
- Low, Flat Point Earning Rate on All Purchases. All Black Card purchases earn unlimited 1 point per $1 spent. That’s the standard base rate for most travel and cash back rewards credit cards, so it’s not terrible. However, the Black Card has no bonus spending categories that boost point earnings beyond the modest standard rate. This seriously limits cardholders’ earning potential and undercuts the case for the decent returns on airfare (2%) and cash (1.5%) redemptions. By contrast, Citi ThankYou Premier earns 3 points per $1 spent on travel and 2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment, and most branded airline cards earn at least 2 points per $1 spent on airfare.
- No Sign-up Bonus. The Black Card is one of the few high-end travel cards without a sign-up bonus. If you’re looking for a card juices your rewards account with bonus points, look to the Platinum Card from American Express ($550 annual fee).
- No Recurring Loyalty Bonus. Black also lacks any sort of annual loyalty bonus. Many higher-end branded airline credit cards offer free or discounted flights – or enough bonus miles to cover or greatly reduce the cost of a flight – on cardmembers’ sign-up anniversaries. Meanwhile, exclusive general travel cards such as Citi Prestige automatically extend a free 4th night to cardholders who book stays of 4 days or longer. This is another drawback for those seeking reliable offsets for the Black Card’s pricey annual fee.
- Credits Aren’t As Generous As Some Competing Cards. The Black Card’s $100 annual airline credit and $100 Global Entry application fee credit are nice gestures. However, the airline credit in particular isn’t as generous as those offered by some comparable cards. Citi Prestige offers a $250 annual air travel credit, for instance.
The Mastercard® Black Card™ is unusual in several ways. Its 2% value on airfare redemptions is second to none. Few other cards value cash back points at $0.015 at redemption: usually cash back is redeemed at $0.01 per point, regardless of the rate at which points were earned. And the 24/7 concierge benefit is second to none.
Meanwhile, the Black Card’s 15-month 0% APR balance transfer promotion is also unusually generous for a travel credit card. But its lack of a sign-up bonus does put it at a disadvantage relative to the vast majority of high-end cash back and travel cards.
All that aside, the Black Card’s lineup of awesome VIP travel benefits is very conventional for a high-end travel card. If you seek to reduce the stress and inconvenience of time on the road while capitalizing on valuable travel benefits and a $0 foreign transaction fee, this card is definitely worth a closer look. On the other hand, if you have no need for lots of exclusive travel benefits, you can safely pass over the Black Card in favor of a more practical, and probably less expensive, piece of plastic (or steel).
And, if you feel that the Black Card is out of your financial reach at the moment, no worries: You can still enjoy a similar metal design, leading airfare redemption, concierge, and hotel benefits with the Mastercard Titanium Card.