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Luxury Card Mastercard Black card review

Published: December 13, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Luxury Rating:
2.8 rating
2.8 rating
2.8 / 5
Rewards Value: 1.3
Annual Percentage Rate: 5.0
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 4.0

In a nutshell:

The Mastercard Black card is your best bet for over-the-top luxury benefits, but its rewards program falls short.

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Rewards Rate
1:1 general purchases (1.5% bonus for cash back redemptions, 2% bonus for airfare redemptions)

Sign-up Bonus
None

Annual Fee
$495

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($75,000 spend)
$1,205

APR
15.99% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros:

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • No limit on points you can earn
  • Use points for all or a portion of your purchase
  • Low number of points required for redemptions (50 points for airfare)
  • Redeem points for a wide number of categories: travel, merchandise, gift cards, experiences
  • Purchase travel from outside services and redeem for statement credits
  • Double points by redeeming for travel through Luxury Card rewards site

Cons:

  • No travel partners

Other Notable Features: $100 annual travel credit; $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit; no foreign transaction fee; complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges; select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks; trip cancellation and interruption insurance; car rental insurance; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage insurance; trip delay insurance; purchase protection; refund price differences; return protection; extended warranty; 24/7 customer service; exclusive events and experiences; zero fraud liability; year-end summary

Rewards Rating:
2.2 rating
2.2 rating
2.2 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.9
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 4.0

In a nutshell:

With a $495 annual fee, the Mastercard Black card is one of the priciest cards in its class, and comes with travel benefits that don’t hold up to other luxury cards.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate
1:1 general purchases (1.5% bonus for cash back redemptions, 2% bonus for airfare redemptions)

Sign-up Bonus
None

Annual Fee
$495

Average Yearly Rewards Value
$159

APR
15.99% (variable)

Pros:

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • No limit on points you can earn
  • Use points for all or a portion of your purchase
  • Low number of points required for redemptions (50 points for airfare)
  • Redeem points for a wide number of categories: travel, merchandise, gift cards, experiences
  • Purchase travel from outside services and redeem for statement credits
  • Double points by redeeming for travel through Luxury Card rewards site

Cons:

  • No travel partners

Other Notable Features: $100 annual travel credit; $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit; no foreign transaction fee; complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges; select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks; trip cancellation and interruption insurance; car rental insurance; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage insurance; trip delay insurance; purchase protection; refund price differences; return protection; extended warranty; 24/7 customer service; exclusive events and experiences; zero fraud liability; year-end summary

Travel Rating:
2.2 rating
2.2 rating
2.2 / 5
Rewards Value: 0.0
Annual Percentage Rate: 4.5
Rewards Flexibility: 4.2
Features: 4.0

In a nutshell:

Though some may be tickled by the card’s unique luxury perks,  most travelers will find that the Mastercard Black card doesn’t provide enough benefits or value to match its high fee.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate
1:1 general purchases (1.5% bonus for cash back redemptions, 2% bonus for airfare redemptions)

Sign-up Bonus
None

Annual Fee
$495

Average Yearly Rewards Value
$159

APR
15.99% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros:

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • No limit on points you can earn
  • Use points for all or a portion of your purchase
  • Low number of points required for redemptions (50 points for airfare)
  • Redeem points for a wide number of categories: travel, merchandise, gift cards, experiences
  • Purchase travel from outside services and redeem for statement credits
  • Double points by redeeming for travel through Luxury Card rewards site

Cons:

  • No travel partners

Other Notable Features: $100 annual travel credit; $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit; no foreign transaction fee; complimentary access to more than 900 airport lounges; select Visa Infinite hotel, air and car rental perks; trip cancellation and interruption insurance; car rental insurance; baggage delay insurance; lost luggage insurance; trip delay insurance; purchase protection; refund price differences; return protection; extended warranty; 24/7 customer service; exclusive events and experiences; zero fraud liability; year-end summary

An initial glance at the Luxury Card homepage gives a pretty good indication of the intended audience for the Mastercard Black card. In the spotlight is the card’s “heavy metal” construction, featuring a “patented” stainless steel front side, a carbon back side and laser engraving for a “personalized look.” The Luxury Card page also includes an unboxing video, offering Mastercard Black applicants a preview of the reception they will receive as new card members, including a personally signed welcome letter and an embossed black box with their new card nestled in foam padding.

In essence, the Black card is mostly style over substance. For a credit card holder willing to plunk down $495 for a card that gives them “distinction,” the Mastercard Black card is the card of choice. However, for an elite traveler looking for a luxury card that gives the best value on travel benefits, there are much better options to be found.

The rewards don’t justify the high annual fee

The Mastercard Black card is a poor choice for collecting reward points. The card’s base rewards rate – one point per dollar of spending – is meager and does not suffice to balance out the card’s $495 fee. The card does double your points if you redeem those points through the Luxury Card travel site for travel rewards. Assuming that you redeem all of your points for travel, you can bump up your rewards rate to 2 percent, which is still less than impressive in comparison to the many other travel rewards cards.

There are many travel cards that come with a 2 percent rewards rate for a much lower fee, including Barclay’s own Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, which offers double rewards points on all purchases upfront – with no redemption restrictions – for an $89 annual fee. Plus, if you redeem these points for travel rewards through Barclay’s rewards site, you get a 5 percent bonus, bumping your rate up to 2.1. This beats the rate on the Mastercard Black card.

Note, the card also offers a 1.5 percent bonus on rewards points redeemed as statement credits, which essentially makes it a 1.5 percent cash back card. However, $495 is a very steep fee for a 1.5 percent cash back card (you can find many cash back cards that offer a 1.5 percent cash back rate for no annual fee), and you would have to spend a large amount annually on the card to make up for the fee. Also, since the card offers a 2 percent bonus for travel redemptions, you are better off applying your points to travel rewards.

Some may argue that luxury cards in general don’t offer the best value on rewards points, since they are intended to deliver status and luxury perks, rather than free travel. However, the rewards on the Mastercard Black card even pale in comparison to other luxury travel cards. Many cards in the same class offer similar rewards for lower annual fees, as well as large sign-up bonuses that can help cover the first year of an exorbitant membership fee. The Mastercard Black card, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any sign-up bonus.

Fair travel credits

The Mastercard Black card does come with a couple of travel credits that help compensate for the $495 annual fee. The card offers a $100 annual credit for travel expenses, including airfare, baggage fees, lounge access and in-flight purchases. The card also provides a $100 reimbursement every three years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry registration.

Unfortunately, the Mastercard Black card fails to match the travel credits offered by similar luxury cards. Cardholders looking for value can find cards that offer credits of $300 or more, which can go a long way to canceling out a $400-plus fee.

Complimentary lounge access

The Mastercard Black card’s access to Priority Pass lounges is a fair justification for the card’s high annual fee. The card grants complimentary access for the primary account holder to more than 950 Priority Pass lounges worldwide. However, cardholders can find better values on Priority Pass membership elsewhere. Some travel cards with a lower annual fee grant complimentary Priority Pass access to the cardholder plus additional guests. And, while the Black card does allow the cardholder to add an authorized user with the same Priority Pass access, it comes at a pretty high price: $195 to add an authorized user.

Flexible redemption options

The Mastercard Black card does have very flexible redemption options. Cardholders can redeem points for a variety of rewards, including travel, merchandise, gift cards and experiences. Points can be used to cover a portion of the purchase, and the minimum points required for redemption start at a very low  threshold of 50 points for travel rewards. There are no blackout dates or redemptions on travel rewards – cardholders can even purchase travel from sources outside the Luxury Card rewards program and then redeem their points as statement credits.

That said, since the program doubles your rewards points when you redeem them for travel through the program website, it makes little sense to choose alternate redemption options. Even the 1.5 percent value that the card offers for cash back rewards can’t compare.

No transfer partners

The Mastercard Black card, unfortunately, does not include any options to transfer points. While similar luxury cards let cardholders transfer points to a range of airline and hotel partners, as well as to other credit cards under the same issuer, the Luxury Card program does not include any travel partners. This further degrades the value of Luxury Card points. Through a rewards program that allows you to transfer points to travel partners, you can often find values for your points that far exceed a 2 percent rewards rate.

Over-the-top luxury travel benefits

Aside from the status conveyed by the card, the luxury perks on the card are the next best reason to sign up for the Mastercard Black card. While some competing luxury cards come with a far more extensive list of perks, the Mastercard Black card distinguishes itself  by outdoing its competitors in the sheer luxuriousness of its offering. The card offers unique perks, designed to enforce convenience and status, such as airport “meet and greets,” global luggage delivery and chauffeured services. The card’s “Priceless” program promises access to “curated, invitation-only, once-in-a-lifetime” experiences. The card’s VIP travel program – which offers spa treatments, room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and early check-in and checkout at luxury hotels – probably surpasses the VIP program on other cards, since it covers over 3,000 properties.

The Mastercard Black card also promises occasional luxury gifts from some of the “world’s most iconic and recognized brand names.”

Is all of this worth a $495 fee? The answer probably varies greatly, depending on how much value you place on frills such as luxury spa treatments and monogrammed pen sets.

Good travel insurance benefits

The card does come with a large list of travel insurance benefits that, while not the best that the credit card industry has to offer, can help take the sting out of a journey gone awry. The coverage includes primary car rental insurance, and insurance for trip and luggage mishaps, including:

  • Travel medical insurance – Up to $150,000 reimbursement for medical expenses, emergency travel costs for family, hospital cash, medical transfers, repatriation and hotel expenses.
  • Trip interruption/cancellation/delay insurance – Up to $3,000 for loss of travel and accommodation expenses.
  • Trip delay insurance – Up to $200 if trip is delayed for four hours or more.
  • Baggage delay insurance – Up to $600 for baggage delay of four hours or more.
  • Lost baggage insurance – Up to $3,000 for lost luggage.
  • Travel accident insurance – Up to $1 million per person in case of accidental death or dismemberment of you or a family member (both foreign and domestic travel).
  • Robbery protection insurance – Between $1,000 to $10,000 of coverage per incident, depending on severity.
  • Car rental insurance – Up to $75,000 of primary coverage for car rentals up to 60 days, excluding select countries.

Other useful benefits

Aside from luxury perks, cardholders will find value in some of the other benefits of the card, including the lack of a fee for foreign transactions, and purchase protections, such as price protection, return protection and extended warranty.

Why get the Mastercard Black card?

  • You are looking for a card that gives you status.
  • You want airport lounge access.
  • You are an elite traveler who values luxury perks such as airport escorts and chauffeur services.

How to use the Mastercard Black card:

  • Stick to travel redemptions, which provide, by far, the best return on your points.
  • Redeem your points for travel through the Luxury Card rewards site to double your point value.

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