15 of the World’s Most Exclusive Credit Cards (2018)

By: Linsey Knerl • 8/14/2018

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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.

The Most Exclusive Credit Cards

When it comes to the most exclusive credit cards, many people think of the invite-only luxury cards for high rollers. But while you can often buy your way to a big card, even some cards available to the everyday budget are exclusively for consumers with excellent credit, putting them out of reach for the average person.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card — and its pricier sibling, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — are 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.

There is no limit to the rewards you can earn with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards 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.

This is the premier Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, available only to those with business owners with excellent credit. The Ink Business Preferred℠ Card makes a great everyday card for businesses with its triple point bonus rewards for multiple popular categories, including travel, shipping, and advertising purchases.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. The Platinum Card® from American Express

Another exclusive 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 $550 annual fee, which is much lower than the American Express Black Card. Apply here

8. 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.

9. 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.  

10. 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.

11.  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.

12.  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.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited 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.

New members of the generous Discover it® Cash Back 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.

The sister card to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the original Chase Freedom card offers rotating 5% cash back categories instead of a flat rate on all purchases. If you can keep up with the quarterly offers, 5% back is hard to beat!

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.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

About the Author

Linsey Knerl

Linsey is a finance blogger, author and public speaker with a passion for helping everyday families earn more and live better. In addition to covering the credit card industry in depth on CardRates, she shares her expertise for parents who want to start budget-friendly businesses from home at 1099Mom.com.