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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 less generous Titanium Card (which has a $195 annual fee) and the super-exclusive Mastercard Gold Card (which has a $995 annual fee and is literally made of 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 double the value for gift card and merchandise redemptions. 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.
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 1,000 airport lounges worldwide, its travel perks include a $100 Global Entry application fee credit, global luggage delivery, airport meet and greet service, 24/7 concierge availability, and more. Plus, it feels exclusive – it’s made of brushed steel, so you know it’s not going to chip or break on you.
The Black Card earns 1 point per $1 spent on everything. 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 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.
You can redeem in increments as small as 50 points ($1 value), meaning partial redemptions (points and cash) are possible. 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. The minimum redemption amount for cash back is 66 points.
Alternative redemption methods include general merchandise and gift cards offered by hotels, rental car companies, and retailers. Redemption minimums vary for these options, which value points at $0.01 apiece unless otherwise noted.
Priority Pass Select Airport Lounge Access
This card entitles you to complimentary access to about 1,000 airport lounges worldwide through Priority Pass Select, a global airport lounge network. You’ll find Priority Pass lounges in more than 100 countries worldwide.
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.
Global Entry Fee Application Credit
As a Black Card user, you’re entitled to a $100 credit toward your Global Entry application fee. You’ll need to invoke this credit once every 5 years.
Black Card users have access to “professional representatives” charged with meeting them at the airport and escorting them through ticketing, security, and terminals. Meet-and-greet service helps travelers avoid lines and bureaucratic snags and unfamiliar airports, especially abroad.
Global Luggage Delivery
Black Card users can ship bags they’d normally check to most international destinations ahead of time, avoiding the prospect of lugging them around the airport, checking them, and claiming them. Luxury Card guarantees on-time delivery for shipped bags.
Black Card membership entitles you to professionally chauffeured transportation at most domestic and international destinations. Pick-up can be arranged ahead of time at your home, hotel, the airport, or other locations.
Car Rental Deals and Discounts
Black Card users get special deals and discounts on rental cars wherever they go. For example, Hertz extends complimentary Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership, 10% discounts on rentals shorter than 4 days, and 10% discounts plus free 1-class upgrades (for instance, mid-size to full size) on rentals longer than 4 days.
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. Their services include help obtaining hard-to-get tickets or reservations, help with complex travel bookings, recommendations for travelers to unfamiliar destinations, and more.
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.
Other Luxe Travel Benefits
Additional travel benefits include special perks on trips taken with more than 20 cruise lines and priority access to luxurious chartered vehicles such as yachts and private jets. Additional fees and expenses may apply.
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
- Extended warranties on items with existing manufacturers’ warranties of 24 months or shorter
- Complimentary rental car insurance on rentals paid in full with your card
- Price protection (reimbursement of the difference, subject to certain limits, should you find a lower price on a covered purchase within 120 days)
- Purchase assurance (reimbursement up to replacement value, subject to certain limits, of items lost or damaged within 90 days of purchase)
The Black Card offers a 0% APR promotion on balance transfers for 15 months from account opening.
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. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount, and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. Late and returned payments both cost up to $37.
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 1,000 Priority Pass airport lounges in more than 100 countries around the world. 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.
- 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). There’s also a host of benefits that are harder to value, from discounts on rental cars, to global luggage delivery, to meet-and-greet service at the airport. Taken together, they (and the airport lounge benefit) more than 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, Titanium is a great way to do so without foreclosing opportunities to earn rewards points or generous travel perks.
- Decent Value on Non-airfare, Non-cash Redemptions. Cash and airfare are definitely its best redemption options, but the Black Card’s alternatives aren’t totally worthless. Gift cards, including for hotels and rental cars, value points at $0.01 apiece. So do general merchandise redemptions. That’s actually a better deal than many competing cards, including branded cards such as the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express, which tend to devalue points redeemed on non-travel items to well under $0.01 apiece.
- 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.
- 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), whose bonus is worth $400 when redeemed for travel.
- 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. 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. Its 15-month 0% APR balance transfer promotion is also unusually generous for a travel credit card. And its lack of a sign-up bonus puts 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, 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).