|by Mr Credit Card|
The Visa® Black Card by Barclays Bank was introduced in the beginning of the year. But I was hesitant to really review this card because I do not have the card. I thought about getting the card but given the fact that every one is coming up with new cards after the CARD Act, I thought I’d save some bullets. The main reason I was hesitant to review it is that they did not include their airline reward program on their website. In fact, they still do not put their rewards on their site so I do not know how their merchant partners are for their gift cards. But for folks looking at high end cards like this, gift card rewards are the least of my worries. But finally, they have now explained how their airline program works on their FAQ page. Armed with this information, I think I’m equipped with enough to form an informed opinion of this card.
I will first list their rewards and compare them with other high end cards and finally write my views on the card and who it is suitable for.
Airfare – In my opinion, this is the most interesting aspect of the rewards program. Cardholders can redeem points for airfares with no restrictions or blackout dates. But the key question is what is the exchange ratio?
The minimum points required in $300 and that is good for a ticket costing up to $500 – making the ratio 1.67:1. There after, in the ticket cost exceeds $500, you have to use (a minimum) of 5,000 points that is worth $50 (1:1 ratio). I’ll elaborate more on this in my verdict.
Hotels – You can exchange points for hotel stays.
Car Rentals – You can redeem points for certificates at Alamo, National and Hertz.
24 hour Concierge Service – Cardholders get access to a 24 hour concierge service.
Cash Back – You can choose to redeem points for cash on an 1 for 1 basis (that means you earn 1% cash back). You can earn unlimited cash back.
Priority Pass – Visa Black Card holders will receive a Priority Pass Membership which allows for two complimentary lounge visits each year.
Gift Cards – Like most reward programs, you can also exchange rewards for gift cards.
Fees – Let’s get this out of the way as well. As a high end, prestige credit card, The Visa Black Card has a $495 annual fee. Each additional cardholder will cost $195. You can even a 0% balance transfer offer and teaser (you would think that anyone who applies for this card will pay in full).
Comparison vs other cards – So how does the Visa Black Card stack up versus other high end cards and who is this card most suitable for?
In my opinion, the best comparable would be the Amex Platinum Card because of the annual fee. Other cards in a similar annual fee range include the Citi Chairman Club. Let’s start with the non-reward features first. The features that the Visa Black Card offers are quite standard among elite credit cards these days. Things like 24 hour concierge service, warranty extension, purchase protection, auto rental collision waiver are all common features in many good credit card.
The Amex Platinum has more features like their international airline program, their private jet membership program, automatic starwood preferred guest gold membership. Amex Platinum also have their own shopping mall where you can earn extra points by shopping through their online portal. And because Amex sponsors lots of sports and musical events, card members get early notifications of the best seats in town. The Citi Chairman Card has international airline partners where you can get discounts on their airlines.
So in terms of common features, I find the Visa Black Card slightly lacking compared to the Amex Platinum and the Citi Chairman Card. But whether it affects you depends on whether you use those features. If you do not travel internationally, then it does not matter!
In terms of rewards, this is a harder call simply because the reward program and how you redeem points for travel are different. In the case of Amex and their membership reward program, you have two choices on how to redeem points for airline travel. You can either transfer points to frequent miles of their partner program or use points to book flights directly with the Amex Travel site which is powered by Travelocity. The Citi Chairman Card reward program (ThankYou) requires that you book with their travel site (which is actually expedia.com) and redeem points that way (1:1 ratio – as in 100 points is worth $1). Chase’s new Ultimate Rewards program allows you to either book with their travel site (much like Amex or Citi) or you can also book with any other travel agent online or offline and redeem points for a statement credit.
The Visa Black Card travel rewards is a throw back to the good old days of rewards where a certain number of points gets you a ticket of up to a certain value. So in this example, if your ticket prices normally costs $400-500 dollars, then you will only use 30,000 points. If you have booked your tickets with Amex, Citi or Chase, you would have needed at least 40,000 to 50,000 points. But if your ticket normally costs only $150, then you would still need to use 30,000 points. In this case, this is not a good proposition.
Verdict – When I look at high end cards, the most important thing to me are the travel rewards (especially airline rewards). I doubt any serious cardholder exchange points for gift cards and other merchandise stuff! The Visa® Black Card has a travel reward system that is different from other high end cards and will suit travelers who travel frequently on flights that cost between $400 to $500. It is in this range that you get the most bang for the buck on your reward points. If you fly southwest and your ticket costs around $200, then this card is not for you.
If you are the sort of person that has multiple frequent flier programs and like to use airline alliance to get the most bang for the buck, then this card is not for you. Perhaps an Amex Platinum or Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card is a better bet. If you only fly one airline, then perhaps, getting that particular airline credit card is better.
In terms of other features, I think that the cards like the Amex Platinum has got more features although you may not necessarily use it. For example, I have not yet used their international airline companion ticket program. Neither am I going to use their private jet program anytime soon. I have taken advantage of events they have sponsored and got great seats for those though. But like I said, only you can decide which features are important to you.
One thing that this card has going for it is simply that it is a Visa and you will be assured it will be accepted in more places than an American Express or a Diners Club. The Visa Black Card also has a very cool black titanium card design. One cannot understate the value of the prestige a high end card carries. For those working in industries where image is very important, the Visa® Black Card is a card to consider.