It’s natural to want finer things, including premium credit cards. But not all that glitters is gold, and not all gold earns you the best rewards. An expensive credit card product may be worth it — but only if it fits your lifestyle and spending.
More and more top credit card issuers have begun offering high-end cards, often with annual fees of $395 or more. Yet, despite the high price tag, some of these cards can often make sense for customers who have excellent credit but don’t employ live-in butlers or park Rolls-Royces in the garage.
The perks that come with prestigious credit cards often include annual travel credits, airport lounge access and huge caches of frequent flyer miles and can be worth $1,000 or more right off the bat. At the same time, some of these cards can be more of a status symbol, charging astounding fees but not offering much more than the prestige of having a luxurious credit card product.
If you’re curious about premium credit cards or considering one, read on to learn what they offer and if they’re worth the price.
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Best for flexible rewards
Why we picked it: The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is easily one of the top premium travel credit cards available today. A $550 annual fee applies each year, but customers earn 10X points on hotels and car rentals booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, 10X points on qualifying Lyft rides (through March 2025), 5X points on Chase flights, 3X points on general travel and dining and 1X points on other purchases. New cardholders can also earn 60,000 points after 4,000 on purchases within three months of account opening.
- Annual $300 travel credit
- 14 different hotel and airline partners for Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfers
- Priority Pass Select membership grants access to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide
- 3X points on general travel begin after spending $300 travel credit
- $550 annual fee
- Best rewards rates for purchases made through Chase50 percent more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase
- Welcome offer lower than some other premium cards
Who should apply: Apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve if you want to earn flexible rewards you can redeem in numerous ways and if you want premium perks like airport lounge access and annual travel credits. Earning its flexible rewards will also be worth it to anyone who flies often with Chase’s airline partners such as Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic or United Airlines.
Who should skip: Skip this card if you want the broadest airport lounge benefit possible or if you want access to more international airline transfer partners.
The Platinum Card from American Express: Best for premium travel benefits
Why we picked it: The The Platinum Card® from American Express stands out due to its plentiful statement credits and the flexibility of the American Express Membership Rewards program. While a $695 annual fee applies, new cardholders can earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $8,000 on purchases within six months of account opening. Cardholders also earn 5X points on up to $500,000 in flights booked direct or through American Express Travel each year (then 1X points), 5X points on prepaid hotels booked with Amex Travel and 1X points on all other purchases.
- Array of statement credits good for Uber rides and eats, Saks Fifth Avenue purchases, Equinox purchases, Walmart+ membership and more
- Broadest airport lounge access benefit of all travel credit cards
- Up to $200 credit toward airline incidentals with a chosen airline and another up to $200 credit toward select prepaid hotel bookings (minimum two-night stay required)
- Automatic Gold elite status with Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors programs
- High annual fee of $695
- Very specific statement credits offers
- High APR if you carry a balance
- Inferior earning rate for non-travel purchases
Who should apply: Apply for the Platinum Card from American Express if you want access to Priority Pass lounges as well as Centurion lounges and Delta Sky Clubs when you fly with Delta. Also consider this card if you want to choose from more international airline partners when it comes time to transfer your miles. If you think you can make use of most, or all, the various travel and lifestyle statement credits the card offers, then the Platinum Card is worth your while.
Who should skip: Skip this card if you’re trying to pay the lowest annual fee for a premium credit card you possibly can, or if you want to transfer your points to more domestic airlines. If the card’s digital entertainment, Uber Cash or Equinox credits don’t suit your lifestyle, then you won’t enjoy the Platinum Card.
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Best luxury card on a budget
Why we picked it: The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers many of the luxury perks other premium cards do at a more reasonable annual fee of $395. That makes the Venture X Card a better choice for frequent travelers who are trying to keep credit card expenses as low as possible. New cardholders get to earn 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One and 2X miles on all other purchases. The sign-up bonus is also worth 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months.
- Lower annual fee than other exclusive credit cards
- $300 annual travel credit and up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
- Priority Pass Select membership and entry into Capital One airport lounges
- Transfer points to over 15 Capital One travel partners
- Capital One transfer partners not as popular as some other flexible programs (such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards)
- Best earning rates for purchases through Capital One
- Annual travel credit only applies to Capital One Travel purchases
Who should apply: Sign up for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card if you want to enjoy premium travel perks like airport lounge access with the lowest possible out-of-pocket cost.
Who should skip: Skip this card if you want access to better airline and hotel transfer partners. Also, consider other cards if you don’t plan to spend a lot booking travel through the Capital One portal.
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard: Best for American Airlines
Why we picked it: Not only does the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® let users earn miles they can use to fly to more than 1,000 destinations worldwide, but they can enjoy entry into any Admirals Club or partner lounge when they fly with the airline. For a limited time, new customers who sign up can earn 100,000 American miles when they spend $10,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Cardholders also earn 4x AAdvantage miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and after spending $150,000 in a calendar year, cardmembers can earn a total of 5X AAdvantage miles on eligible American Airlines purchases for the remainder of the calendar year. A $595 annual fee applies.
- Admirals Club airport lounge membership
- Free checked bags, priority boarding and up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership every four years
- Earn Loyalty Points toward AAdvantage elite status
- High annual fee of $595
- May only enter Admirals Club lounges when flying with the airline or its partners
- Low earning rate on regular purchases
Who should apply: Choose the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard if you fly with American Airlines often and want lounge access and premium travel benefits when you do.
Who should skip: Skip this card if you want more flexibility in your rewards, or if you frequently fly with airlines other than American.
Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card: Best for Delta Air Lines
Why we picked it: The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card is excellent for Delta enthusiasts who want to access Delta Sky Clubs while maximizing rewards on Delta itineraries. This card charges a $550 annual fee, but as you can earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card also earns 3X miles on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and 1X miles on all other purchases.
- Delta Sky Club membership and access to Amex Centurion Lounges when you fly with Delta
- 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year (up to four times per year) through 12/31/23
- Annual companion certificate
- Upgrade priority, a free, first checked bag and fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, 20 percent discount on in-flight purchases and more
- High annual fee of $550
- Airport lounge access only when you fly with Delta
- Low regular purchases earning rate
Who should apply: This card is best for frequent flyers who already fly with Delta Air Lines all the time. After all, most of the perks only work when you’re flying with the airline.
Who should skip: If you frequently fly with other airlines as often as with Delta, you should look at other travel cards that earn flexible rewards such as a Membership Rewards card since those points transfer to Delta.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: Best for Marriott Bonvoy
Why we picked it: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card offers a generous welcome bonus and stellar earning rates for Marriott hotel stays. Cardholders start off earning 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after spending $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of card membership. From there, they can earn 6X points on eligible Marriott hotel stays, 3X points on flights booked directly and restaurants worldwide and 2X points on all other eligible purchases. A $650 annual fee applies.
- Up to $300 in statement credits per calendar year (up to $25 per month) for eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and up to a $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct for a two-night minimum stay using your card.
- Priority Pass Select membership
- Automatic Platinum elite status with the Marriott Bonvoy program
- Free night award every year on your account anniversary (for stays worth up to 85,000 points)
- Points mostly good only for Marriott hotel stays
- Points less valuable than flexible travel points
Who should apply: Consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant if you’re a Marriott enthusiast who stays at the properties several times per year or even more. This card will not only help you earn elite status, but you can maximize points on paid hotel stays.
Who should skip: Skip this card if you want more flexibility in your rewards or you stay with different hotel brands throughout the year.
Comparing the best luxury credit cards of 2023
The comparison chart below shows how the most exclusive credit cards stack up in terms of their bonus offers, earning rates and cardholder perks. Also note each card’s annual fee.
|Top card options||“Best for” category||Rewards||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Best for flexible rewards||$550|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||Best for premium travel benefits||$695|
|Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card||Best luxury card on a budget||$395|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||Best for American Airlines||$595|
|Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card||Best for Delta Air Lines||$550|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card||Best for Marriott Bonvoy enthusiasts||$650|
How to choose a luxury credit card
Choosing from the most exclusive credit cards available today is not an easy task, and that’s especially true if you’ve never had a premium credit card before. By comparing the factors below, you can get a better handle on the exact luxury credit card that would suit you best.
- Compare welcome offers. Start by comparing welcome offers and the spending requirements to earn them. Ideally, you’d earn the biggest bonus you can qualify for based on your regular spending and bills.
- Look for earning rates that make sense with your spending. Check for premium credit cards that offer more points in categories you spend the most in. If you spend a lot on dining and travel, for example, look for cards that award you in those categories.
- Choose which cardholder perks you want the most. Compare cards based on their perks: airport lounge access, free checked bags, annual travel credits or all of the above.
- Decide how loyal you are. Though co-branded cards let you enjoy elite benefits with an airline or hotel brand, their rewards are less flexible overall. However, many co-branded credit cards can help you work toward elite status in addition to offering points on your spending.
- Know how you want to redeem your rewards. Also choose a luxury credit card that lets you use your points or miles how you want to. If you want as many options as possible, consider a flexible premium card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum from American Express.
- Compare annual fees. Finally, make sure you select a luxury travel card with an annual fee you’re comfortable with fitting into your regular budget. Also note that there are a variety of rewards credit cards with no annual fee.
Premium cards definitely charge higher annual fees overall, but the benefits and rewards can be well worth the cost. After all, some come with welcome offers that can be worth thousands, and most come with card perks like airport lounge access, annual travel credits and fee credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership.
That said, the right luxury travel credit card for you depends on the type of rewards you want to earn and the perks you value the most.