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 very well be worth it for you – 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 $450 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 privilege 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 card 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 Chase, 10X points on Chase Dining purchases, 5X points on flights booked through Chase, 3X points on travel worldwide and dining out and 1X points on other purchases. New cardholders can also earn 50,000 points after spending $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 airport lounge access with entry to more than 1,300 lounges worldwide
- 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase
- $550 annual fee not waived the first year
- Best rewards rates for purchases made 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 more than one way, and if you want premium perks like airport lounge access and annual travel credits.
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 Platinum Card® from American Express stands out due to its exceptional earning rates for travel and the flexibility of the American Express Membership Rewards program. While a $695 annual fee applies, new cardholders can earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $6,000 on purchases within six months of account opening. Cardmembers also earn 5X points on up to $500,000 in flights booked direct or through amextravel.com each year (then 1X points) 5X points on prepaid hotels booked through American Express and 1X points on all other purchases.
- Array of statement credits good for Uber rides, 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 $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: Sign up 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.
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.
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 with a reasonable annual fee of $395. That makes this 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, 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One and 2X miles on all other purchases. The new cardmember 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, up to $100 credit for expedited airport security membership and Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership
- 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 (e.g. Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards)
- Best earning rates for purchases through Capital One
- Annual travel credit only for 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 Admirals Club airport lounge access when they fly with the airline. New customers who sign up can earn 50,000 American miles when they spend $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. Cardmembers also earn 2X miles per dollar spent with the airline and 1X miles on all other purchases. A $450 annual fee applies.
- Generous welcome bonus
- Admirals Club airport lounge membership
- Fee checked bags, priority boarding, fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership every five years and more
- Loyalty Points toward American elite status
- High annual fee of $450
- Entry to Admirals Club lounges only 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 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 new cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. This card also earns 3X miles on 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)
- Annual companion certificate
- Upgrade priority, a first checked bag free, fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, 20% 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 airlines other than Delta, you should look at other travel credit cards instead. You can even consider flexible travel cards that earn American Express Membership Rewards points since these points transfer to Delta.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card: Best for Marriott Bonvoy enthusiasts
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 75,000 points after spending $3,000 on eligible purchases within three months of account opening. From there, they can earn 6X points on eligible Marriott hotel stays, 3X points on flights booked directly and U.S. restaurants and 2X points on all other purchases. A $450 annual fee applies.
- $300 Marriott Bonvoy statement credit each year and $100 Marriott Bonvoy property credit
- Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership
- Automatic Gold elite status with the Marriott Bonvoy program
- Free night award every year on your cardmember anniversary (for stays up to 50,000 points)
- Benefits difficult to use if you rarely stay with Marriott
- Points mostly good only for Marriott hotel stays
- Points less valuable than flexible travel points
Who should apply: Consider this card 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 2022
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||Perks and benefits||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Best for flexible rewards||$550 annual fee|
|The Platinum Card from American Express||Best for premium travel benefits||$695 annual fee|
|Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card||Best luxury card on a budget||$395|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard||Best for American Airlines||$450 annual fee|
|Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card||Best for Delta Air Lines||$550 annual fee|
|Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card||Best for Marriott Bonvoy enthusiasts||$450 annual fee|
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’ll 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.
- Decide which cardholder perks you want the most. Compare cards based on their perks, whether you want airport lounge access, free checked bags, annual travel credits or all of the above.
- Decide how loyal you are. Where 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 The Platinum Card from American Express.
- Compare annual fees. Finally, make sure you select a luxury travel credit card with an annual fee you’re comfortable with. 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 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 should depend on the type of rewards you want to earn and the perks you value the most.