Most exclusive credit cards of 2021: Are they worth it?

If your credit rating is outstanding, you earn big and you spend big, you could get a luxury credit card that provides premium benefits – but the costs can make you gasp


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.

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Never before have so many luxury credit cards been available to the masses.

More and more credit card issuers offer high-end cards, often with annual fees of $450 or more. And, despite the high price tag, some of these cards can often make sense for customers with excellent credit but who don’t employ live-in butlers or park Rolls-Royces in the garage. Others, on the other hand, are by-invitation-only and are an option for consumers who can spend thousands of dollars on annual fees.

The perks that come with prestigious credit cards often include travel rebates, airport lounge access and huge caches of frequent flyer miles and can be worth far more than even the heftiest annual fees. 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.

Best luxury credit cards

CardRewardsPerks and benefitsFees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • 50,000-points sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
  • 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Up to $100 Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit
  • Two $60 DoorDash credits (one in 2020 and another in 2021)
  • Complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges
  • Select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks
  • Exclusive events and experiences
  • Free Lyft Pink membership for one year
  • Free DashPass membership for one year
$550 annual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Welcome bonus of 100,000 points if you spend $6,000 in first 6 months
  • 10 points per dollar on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S.  (on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, then 1 point) in first 6 months
  • 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • Free airport lounge access
  • Up to $200 airline fee credit for incidentals
  • Up to $179 credit for Clear membership
  • Up to $200 Uber credit
  • Up to $200 hotel credit on eligible bookings
  • Hilton Honors gold status
  • Complimentary Eats Pass from Uber
  • Platinum concierge service
  • Car rental perks and discounts
  • Luxury hotel perks and discounts
  • Exclusive events and services
  • Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit
$695 annual fee
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
  • Sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months
  • 2 miles per dollar on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
  • Free Admirals Club lounge access
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every 5 years
  • Priority check-in, boarding and airport screening
  • 25% savings on in-flight purchases
$450 annual fee
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
  • 6 points per dollar for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 3 points per dollar at U.S. restaurants and on directly booked flights
  • 2 points per dollar on other eligible purchases
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus Free Night Award if you spend $5,000 in eligible purchases in the first 3 months of card membership. Resort fees may apply. Terms apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021
  • Free night award each year after card anniversary at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy program (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points). Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Up to $300 hotel statement credit each year for eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • Priority Pass lounge membership
  • Up to $100 property credit for qualifying purchases at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton hotels on stays of two nights or longer
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck
  • Complimentary Gold elite status
  • Platinum status each year after $75,000 in card spend
  • 25%-point bonus on hotel stays
  • Enhanced hotel experience: room upgrades, 2 p.m. checkout and more
$450 annual fee
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 80,000 Bonus Miles and 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months (Offer expires 11/10/2021)
  • Annual bonus of 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, up to four times per year
  • 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
  • One companion ticket each year
  • Delta SkyClub access for cardholder and two guests
  • Concierge services
  • Free checked bag
  • Priority boarding,
  • In-flight promotions
$550 annual fee
Mastercard® Black Card™1 point per dollar on general purchases (1.5% bonus for cash back redemptions, 2% bonus for airfare redemptions)
  • Up to $100 annual airline statement credit
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit
  • Complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges
  • Select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks
  • Exclusive events and experiences
  • Airport meet-and-greets
  • Global luggage delivery
  • Chauffeured service
$495 annual fee ($195 for each authorized user added to the account)
Citi Prestige® Card*
  • Sign-up bonus of 50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
  • 5 points per dollar on air travel and restaurants
  • 3 points per dollar on hotels and cruise lines
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Free Priority Pass lounge access for cardmember and 2 guests
  • 4th night free at any hotel up to 2 times per year
  • Up to $250 travel credit
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck
  • 24/7 concierge
  • Citi Private Pass Beyond
$495 annual fee
J.P. Morgan Reserve Card
  • 10 points on Lyft rides (through March 2020)
  • 3 points per dollar on travel and dining
  • 1 point per dollar on everything else
  • Priority Pass lounge access
  • $300 travel credit
  • $100 statement credit for TSA Precheck/Global Entry
  • $60 in annual statement credits for DoorDash (through at least 2021)
  • Complimentary DashPass subscription for DoorDash
  • Complimentary year of Lyft Pink
  • Access to VIP events and experiences
  • Special benefits at the Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection
$595 annual fee
Mastercard® Gold Card™1 point per dollar on every purchase (2% bonus for cash back redemptions, 2% bonus for airfare redemptions)
  • Up to $200 annual airline fee credit
  • Up to $100 Global Entry credit
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • 24/7 Luxury Card concierge service
  • Global luggage delivery service
  • Cruise privileges
  • Private jet and yacht charter services
  • Chauffeured transportation
  • Airport meet and greet
  • Access to Mastercard Priceless Cities
  • Access to exclusive events and experiences
  • Private golf club access
  • Subscription to Luxury Magazine
  • Luxury gifts
$995 annual fee ($295 for each authorized user added to the account)
Centurion® Card from American Express
  • 1 point per dollar on all purchases
  • $100 Global Entry fee credit
  • Access to American Express Centurion lounges
  • Priority Pass Select membership
  • 24/7 Personal Concierge Program
  • Complimentary CLEAR membership
  • Complimentary private suite membership at LAX
  • Automatic elite hotel statuses
  • Elite status with car rental companies like Hertz and Avis
  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status
  • Airport Meet & Greet services
  • Exclusive invitations to private events and experiences
  • Complimentary ShopRunner membership
  • A complimentary Destination Access membership to Equinox
  • $1,000 Annual Saks Credit
  • $10,000 initiation fee
  • $5,000 annual fee

Luxury credit cards for avid travelers

Premium credit cards may come at a hefty price, but they also offer high rewards and excellent benefits that can make every trip you take a much more comfortable and pleasant experience.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express are two of the most popular credit cards in this category. At $550 and $695 per year, respectively, both offer outstanding rewards and perks that make for luxurious travel. Numerous annual credits allow these cards to all but pay for themselves, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve offering a flexible $300 travel credit each year, and the Amex Platinum offering a $179 Clear membership credit, up to a $200 Uber credit, a $200 hotel credit and more. A frequent traveler has plenty of opportunities to save big with these cards.

Further, there are a few co-branded luxury credit cards for hotel and airline loyalists.

The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card comes with a range of valuable perks, including up to a $300 hotel statement credit, up to a $100 property credit for purchases at St. Regis or Ritz-Carlton hotels on stays of two nights or longer and up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck, as well as free night awards, complimentary elite statuses, memberships and more – all for $450 per year.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card costs $550 and can be a good card to have if you travel a lot with Delta. It offers one companion ticket each year (subject to taxes and fees, terms apply), Delta SkyClub access for the cardholder and two guests and benefits such as a free checked bag, priority boarding and in-flight promotions.

Of course, cards in the $500+ range aren’t for everybody. Surveys consistently show that most cardholders, even wealthy ones, prefer cash back to travel as a reward. Plus, people with average credit or who don’t spend much money might not qualify, and spending minimums could be hard to meet. Those accustomed to carrying monthly balances will find that interest charges will eat into any rewards.

Still, to the right cardholder, these credit cards can be excellent money-saving tools that also enhance their traveling experience. Their purpose is to offer value rather than convey status. If you’re looking for the latter, the next credit cards on our list might be of interest to you.

Prestigious credit cards that convey status

Not all luxury credit cards offer a good deal, and annual fees can get even higher.

This kind of credit card product serves more as a status symbol rather than a tool to earn rewards. For example, the Mastercard® Black Card™ costs $495 a year, only earns 1 point per dollar and offers modest travel perks. You can double your points if you redeem them through the Luxury Card travel site for travel rewards, but the value still doesn’t hold up to that of other travel rewards cards.

However, the card does make you feel like elite: With its heavy metal design and laser engraving, it showers you with luxury treatment, including airport meet-and-greets, global luggage delivery, chauffeured services and access to curated, invitation-only experiences.

On top of that, the card grants you access to 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge that can assist you with travel bookings and various personal requests. Examples of such requests include getting information on the type of shoes worn by actors in the Men in Black movies to arranging a private meet-and-greet after a hockey game with a cardmember’s all-time favorite player.

The Black card also makes you a part of its VIP travel program that promises spa treatments, room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and early check-in and checkout at over 3,000 luxury hotels. If you want a credit card to make you feel like a royal, the Mastercard Black Card will do just that.

If you’d like to take this level of prestige even further, there’s another version of this card – the Mastercard® Gold Card™. The rewards rate is underwhelming, and the annual fee is jaw-dropping at $995, but this product is pure credit card-shaped luxury. Made with a 24K-gold-plated stainless-steel front and carbon back, the Gold Card adds to the Black card’s benefits with private jet and yacht charter services, extra perks on cruises and private golf club access.

One might think it doesn’t get more high-end than this – but it does.

Enter exclusive credit cards that you can apply to only if you get invited.

Invitation-only exclusive credit cards

As expensive as the Black and Gold Mastercard cards are, they’re not even the most prestigious out there.

There’s nothing more elite than a private club veiled in secrecy. Credit cards that are available by invitation only can certainly make you feel like the crème de la crème of the high society. Such products don’t advertise their terms and are available only to private banking clients of major banks.

One such product is the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card, available to some Chase private bank customers. The card is very similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve – offering the same perks, credits and rewards rates – but at a higher $595 annual fee. So if you don’t mind not having the same card former President Barack Obama may have carried, the Sapphire Reserve may be an excellent alternative for you.

Finally, no list of luxury credit cards is complete without the infamous Centurion Card from American Express, also known as the Amex Black Card. The card isn’t open to the public, and there are rumors you need to spend at least $350,000 per year across your current Amex cards to qualify. If you meet that requirement but haven’t received an invitation, you can now request to be considered. Once you’re invited, expect to pay an initiation fee of $10,000 and an annual fee of $5,000.

For that cost, you’ll get multiple automatic hotel and airline elite statuses, meet-and-greets at airports, access to Centurion lounges, exclusive wining and dining experiences and much, much more. And of course, you’ll be able to use a personal Centurion concierge that acts more like a personal assistant – making your life more comfortable and convenient.

It really doesn’t get more luxurious than that.

Is a luxury credit card worth it?

To determine if moving up to the next credit card level is a good idea, first decide whether an inexpensive rewards account will suffice. Many banks issue cards with no annual fee that also come with excellent customer service, heightened insurance and warranty protection and a decent load of enticing travel and shopping rewards.

Still want or need the extras only associated with elite accounts? Review the best fee-based rewards credit cards on the market, analyze the perks of each and compare them to their annual costs. Choose right and you’ll realize it’s possible to come out ahead if you maximize the benefits.

*All information about the Citi Prestige Card has been collected independently by and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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