credit card advice
Credit cards are not created equally. That means it is always in your best interest to shop around, compare perks, and find the card that will reward your individual lifestyle and purchasing habits. With dozens of cards available at any one time, shuffling through them can be exhausting — especially if only the best will do. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you with this list of 15 popular (and exclusive) credit cards.
1. American Express Centurion® Card (The Black Card)
Most everyone has heard of the coveted “Black Card”, but few know that it’s real name is the “Centurion.” This invite-only card is highly coveted and one of the most recognizable cards for big spenders. In addition, this card features:
- Activation fee of $7,000+ and a $2,000+ annual membership fee
- Dedicated concierge, travel agents, and shopping assistance
- Travel perks of one free hotel stay with a booking, flight upgrades, and lounge access
In addition to the massive spending that must occur to be eligible for this card (rumored at $250,000 and up), it is currently not something you can apply for. American Express selects and invites those with high earnings to be part of this cardholder club.
2. MasterCard® Gold Card
The crème-de-la-crème of MasterCards is its Gold card, made from 24K-Gold-Plated carbon. It has the best rewards of all the luxury MasterCards, as well as the highest annual membership fee (currently $995). Perks include:
- Double points when redeemed for airfare and a $200 annual airline credit
- 2% cash back
- $100 Global Entry application fee credit
Cardholders also get the occasional luxury gift and a subscription to MasterCard’s members-only magazine. It is currently taking applications for this card on its website.
3. MasterCard® Black Card
We’re not surprised to see MasterCard with its own version of a luxury card. This card happens to be open for anyone to apply for, however, and features the following perks and fees:
- $495 annual membership fee
- Receive a $100 annual airline and $100 Global Entry application fee credit
- Luxury gifts from brands throughout the year
No need to wait for an invitation with this Black Card. Those with worthy credit and a sizeable income can apply at the MasterCard website.
4. Platinum Card® from American Express
Another exclusive, invite-only card from Amex, this account offers specially curated perks and member experiences. You’ll enjoy:
- Automatically qualify for Hilton HHonors Gold Status and earn a 5th night free per stay
- Receive preferred seating at games, events, and concerts
- No pre-set spending limit
This Platinum card has a $450 annual fee, which is much lower than the American Express Black Card.
5. MasterCard® Titanium Card
One step below the Black Card is MasterCard’s Titanium. Made from brushed stainless steel, it’s pretty to look at and has decent perks. Among them:
- Earn double the points when you redeem them for airfare and receive an annual $200 airline credit
- Get 1% cash back on all purchases
- Subscription to Luxury Magazine, exclusive to Luxury card members
Apply today, and you’ll be charged a much lower $195 annual fee upon acceptance.
6. Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®
If you fly American Airlines frequently, this is the exclusive card for you. Your membership offers free admission to any Admiral’s Club lounge worldwide. This includes additional cardholders on your account – even if they aren’t with you. Already a lounge member? You might qualify for a statement credit. Additional perks include:
- The first checked bag is free for you and up to 8 traveling companions on the same flight
- Receive a $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee credit
- No foreign transaction fees
Annual fees and bonus offers will vary. See the American Airlines website for updated terms.
7. Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
Delta flyers will love this card, which boasts 24/7 concierge service and travel assistance. These popular benefits are also included:
- Free Companion ticket upon annual renewal
- Complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club lounge with free snacks, beverages & WiFi
- Free checked first bag for you and up to 8 guests
Apply for this card for frequent fliers at the website. The annual fee for this card is $495.
8. Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Not ready to go with the Reserve? This more modest card, which is still a step up from the Gold membership, is a fairly exclusive option. Those with excellent credit can expect the following perks:
- Free first checked bag for you and up to 8 travel companions
- Receive a domestic main cabin round-trip companion ticket each year you renew
- Take advantage of the MilesBoost earning plan
The fee for this card is currently $195. You can apply on the website – no invite is needed!
9. Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Visa Card
If only the finest hotel experiences will do, then paying a $450 annual fee for this loyalty credit card shouldn’t be difficult. The very generous perks include:
- Earn an annual $300 travel credit and $100 hotel room credit
- Upgrade to Ritz-Carlton Club level up to 3 times a year on stays up to 7 nights
- Complimentary airport lounge access
Qualified travelers will also get free TSA Pre✓® privileges. Applications are accepted for those with excellent credit and who haven’t had the same card in the past 24 months.
10. Citi Prestige® Credit Card
Travelers with no loyalty to any particular airline or hotel will find this card for excellent credit holders to be a worthy possibility. The annual fee of $450 is offset by some attracting perks, including:
- Earn a $250 travel credit
- Get your 4th night free at a hotel of your choice when you book through the Citi Prestige Concierge
- Missed event ticket protection
A flexible rewards program (called “ThankYou” rewards), is another favorite feature. Apply via the Citi website to see if you qualify.
If You’re Not Platinum Status (Yet), Try These Instead
If you’re not black or titanium card material (or feel that even the Platinum doesn’t match your wardrobe), don’t feel bad. Most of us don’t have champagne tastes, and need something a bit more practical for our credit needs. The following cards have excellent benefits and are ideal for those with excellent credit. The average Joe will see them do an extraordinary job of balancing perks with practicality.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
This card is well-known for its premium travel and dining rewards. Bonus point offers are available for certain purchases, and your perks go further when redeemed for travel! With its sleek metal finish, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is just as stylish as some of its more exclusive counterparts.
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of approval, equal to $400 in travel
- Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
- Travel when you want with no blackout dates
- Miles don't expire and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $59 after that
Excellent, Good Credit
There is no limit to the rewards you can earn with this card. Travel perks and earnings opportunities are plentiful! Every 100 Capital One Venture miles you earn is worth a full $1 when redeemed toward travel.
- Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.49-24.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
- Redeem for cash — any amount, anytime
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
- No annual fee
15.49% - 24.24% Variable
This card is appropriately named, as it promises unlimited cash back earnings on every qualified purchase. Plus, earnings never expire! Frequent Amazon shopper? You can link your Chase Freedom Unlimited card to your Amazon account to use your cash back rewards when ordering.
at Discover'ssecure website
- Our Take: "One of our favorite cards, with long 0% intro APRs, low ongoing APRs, awesome cash back rewards, and lots more.
- 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, up to $1,500 per quarter when you sign up for the quarterly bonus
- 1% cash back on all your other purchases
- Matches the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers)
- No limit to the amount of cash back that can be matched"
11.49% - 23.49% Variable
New members of this generous perks card can get even more back when they take advantage of the match program. In this unique program, Discover will match rewards earned during the promotional period — dollar for dollar! Categories include everything from gas stations and big-box stores to Amazon and home improvement locations.
at Wells Fargo'ssecure website
- Earn $150 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on virtually every purchase
- Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified mobile wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Android Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
- Cash rewards don't expire as long as your account remains open
- $0 Annual Fee
- 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a 13.49%-25.49% variable APR; balance transfer fees apply
This is the premier Wells Fargo cash back card, available only to those with good to excellent credit. The Wells Fargo Cash Wise card makes a great everyday card with its unlimited 1.5% cash back, no categories required.
The Best Exclusive Card for You Depends on Many Factors
With so many fantastic credit cards available, your perfect card is likely on this list. What may be exclusive to you, however, may not be appealing to others. That’s why it’s important to carefully study your individual spending patterns, determine the perks you find most valuable, and think about the type of service you expect from a card issuer. Taking time to evaluate all the options is the best way to make sure your credit experience is world-class — each and every time you shop.