Is the Mastercard Black Card worth it?
With a sleek design and a hefty annual fee, the premium card can hardly compete with other premium ? and even lower-fee ? cards
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.
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Is the Mastercard Black Card worth the high annual fee?
The Mastercard Black Card bills itself as a luxury card charged with premium benefits. It also charges a $495 annual fee. But it's hardly worth it.
You can easily find the same cash back or travel redemption value the card offers in other lower-fee and even no-fee cards.
And if you don't mind paying hundreds of dollars in exchange for a high-end rewards card with premium travel benefits and a generous sign-up bonus, there are other cards in the market that offer better deals.
Dear Cashing In,
I just came across an ad for the Mastercard Black card. It looks pretty slick. But the annual fee seems pretty high. Is it worth it? – Mason
You can tell a lot about the image a card is trying to project by looking at its website. Travel cards typically conjure visions of vacations, of people hiking on a snowy mountain, looking out over the wing of an airplane or sitting on the bow of a boat as it pulls into an exotic beach.
See related: Metal credit cards aren’t just for the wealthy now
Mastercard Black Card: the ‘Luxury Card’
The website of Barclaycard’s Mastercard Black Card, on the other hand, conjures pure luxury.
It calls itself the “Luxury Card” and has 46 patents related to its “metal card design and construction.”
A TV ad shows a mom who models, does ballet and takes her daughter sailing with the help of the card’s concierge service.
Made of stainless steel, it reeks of class and exclusivity. So does its price: $495 a year.
But is it worth it? Or is it all sizzle and no steak?
What the Mastercard Black Card has to offer
As with most purchases, it pays to look past the marketing hype and dig down into the details of the offer while understanding what is important to you.
The card comes with a lot of perks, including:
- A $100 annual credit toward airline purchases.
- A Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit (worth $100).
- Airport lounge access through Priority Pass.
- Use of a personal concierge service
With the card, you earn one point for every dollar you spend. When redeeming, you can choose either cash back at 1.5 percent or airfare redemption at 2 percent.
The card’s marketing material notes that those redemption rates are the highest among high-annual-fee cards.
Let’s see how the card compares with other cards that offer similar cash back or points for a lower or no annual fee – and also whether there are other premium offers that may offer you a higher return for a pricey annual fee.
Tip: Premium cards come with a slew of benefits – and a hefty price tag. It you have a rewards card with a high annual fee, do the math to see if the benefits you’re using offset the cost of keeping the card. Read “High-annual-fee credit card: To renew or not to renew” to learn more.
How Mastercard Black Card compares versus lower-fee, no-fee cards
Of course, what the advertising doesn’t point out is what the Mastercard Black Card lacks that those other cards have: sign-up bonuses, category spending bonuses and much wider latitude on using points, including transferring them to airline and hotel partners.
And while Mastercard Black’s cash-back and air travel redemption levels may compete with other cards in the $450-plus-per-year range, they are not higher than what some less expensive cards may offer.
- For example, the Citi Double Cash card, which has no annual fee, gives 2 percent back in cash (1 percent when you charge and 1 percent when you pay your monthly bill on time) – higher than Mastercard Black’s 1.5 percent.
- The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which has a $95 annual fee (waived first year), gives you 2 percent back on all travel – more flexible than Mastercard Black’s 2 percent on only airfare.
- In other words, there are less expensive cards that give superior cash and travel rewards, if that is what you are interested in.
Cheaper cards, though, don’t come with perks such as airfare credits, airport lounge access and Global Entry credits. And they don’t come with concierge service.
Barclaycard, by the way, also offers two sister cards, the Mastercard Gold Card (plated with 24-karat gold, $995 a year) and the Mastercard Titanium Card (made of brushed stainless steel, $195 a year), though the perks vary. None of them offers a sign-up bonus.
See related: Are elite cards worth it?
How Mastercard Black Card compares versus other premium cards
If travel perks are important to you and you don’t like having multiple cards, you might want to take a look at other premium cards to see how they compare before settling for the Mastercard Black.
If you don’t mind shelling out $495 a year for a premium card, these two offers may seem more competitive than Mastercard Black’s:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (annual fee: $450): $300 annual travel credit; 3 points per dollar spent on travel (after earning your $300 travel credit) and 3 points at restaurants; Priority Pass Select membership; Global Entry/TSA Precheck credits; 50,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months; 50 percent bonus on travel rewards redeemed through Chase UItimate Rewards travel portal.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express (annual fee: $550): 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly with airlines or with Amex travel; 5 points per dollar spent on eligible hotels booked with amextravel.com; up to $200 airline fee credit; Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit; up to $200 Uber credit; $75-$100 hotel credit; up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit (enrollment required); 60,000-point intro bonus if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months.
Is the Mastercard Black Card worth it?
From a rewards standpoint, you are probably better off combining a competing card that offers a sign-up bonus and transferrable points with a low- or no-annual-fee card that has superior cash back or travel redemption rates.
But if you prefer combining a bunch of features in one card that’s visually appealing and whose sleek metallic design is sure to draw the attention of waiters and cashiers, then the Mastercard Black Card might be the one for you. Just make sure to understand what you'll be missing out on – including a generous sign-up bonus.
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