|by Jason Steele|
The American Express Platinum Card has been catering to the high net worth crowd for a while. It’s success has prompted rivals from within, such as their Centurion Card, as well as competitors from other networks. The Visa Black card from Barclay’s bank is among the more recent cards that seek to emulate the American Express Platinum’s appeal at the high end of the market.
Black vs. Platinum Is Not Apples To Apples
As we will see, the Visa Black card is a vastly different product than the American Express Platinum. Let’s take a look at how they stack up:
|Features||Visa Black||Amex Platinum|
|Type of Card||The Visa is a standard credit card. You are free to carry a balance at their standard interest rate, 14.99%. This rate more than doubles to their “penalty rate” of 30.24% if you should miss a payment.||The Amex Platinum is a charge card. As such, you are always expected to pay all balances in full and on time. In essence, carrying a balance is the same as being in default, and the penalty rate is always applicable.|
|Rewards Program||They offer a 1% cash back as a statement credit towards any expense. They do offer airline ticket awards for 25,000 points for tickets up to $500 in value.||Platinum card holders are enrolled in their Membership Rewards program. This program features mileage redemption options with several major airlines. In addition, there are numerous hotel, car rental, dining, gift card, and shopping redemption options. Redemption rates are typically 1 cent per point.|
|Concierge Services||Visa provides a 24 hour concierge services for personal, business, and travel needs.||American Express offers a concierge services ranging from restaurant reservations and gift recommendations, to event planning.|
|Special Card||Visa Black offers a unique, carbon fiber card.||American Express offers a standard, plastic card that is platinum colored.|
|Airport Lounge Access||Visa Black offers membership in the Priority Pass program. You get four annual complimentary entries into a member lounge, and then you must pay $27 per visit.||American Express Platinum offers Priority Pass as well, but they also include American Airlines Admiral’s club, Delta SkyClub, US Airways Club and Continental Airlines club access.|
|Companion Airline Tickets||Visa Black does not offer any companion tickets at this time.||American Express Platinum offers unlimited companion airline tickets for full fare, international, business and first class tickets.|
|Airline Fee Credits||Visa Black does not offer any airline fee credits at this time.||American Express Platinum offers $200 annually towards any non-ticket purchase from an airline.|
|Foreign Transaction Fees||Visa Black has a 3% foreign transaction fee on all purchases processed outside the United States.||The American Express Platinum recently dropped it’s foreign transaction fees.|
|Acceptance||Visa Black is accepted anywhere the Visa card is.||The American Express Platinum is only accepted where American Express is. There are many occasions where Visa is accepted and American Express is not.|
|Complimentary Gifts||The Visa Black card offer’s its members complimentary luxury gifts such as cross pens.||American Express Platinum has no complimentary gift program.|
|Annual Fee||The Annual Fee for the Visa Black is $495||American Express Platinum has an annual fee of $450|
|Other Significant Amenities||Visa Black offers trip delay, interruption, and cancellation insurance.||American Express Platinum offers a free membership in the Global Entry system|
What the Visa Black Card has that the Amex Platinum Does Not?
One of the unique features of the Visa Black Card is the way you redeem points for airline tickets. For ticket value of up to $500, you only need to use 25,000. That is a 2% value. For the portion of the ticket above $500, the amount of points needed equates to a 1% rebate (ie 100 points for $1 in ticket value).
In contrast, the Amex Platinum has 2 ways to get free airline tickets. You can transfer points to Membership Rewards Airline Partners. If you are savvy enough, you should be able to get more than 2% rebate equivalent. If you decide not to transfer points, then you can use Amex online travel booking system (powered by travelocity) to book your travel. There you are getting 1% return (100 points for $1 in ticket value).
One is not necessarily better than the other, but they are both different and each method could be better under different circumstances.
What the Amex Platinum Has That the Visa Black Card does not
There are many features which the Amex Platinum has which the Visa Black Card does not.
Elite Hotel Membership – Card members of the Platinum Card automatically become Starwood Preferred Guest Gold members. This is such great feature because on the occasion where you stay at Starwood Hotels, the Gold membership could help in terms of upgrades.
Car Rental Memberships – Platinum Card members can get memberships at three car rental companies. At hertz, you are entitled to a Gold membership which is worth $60 a year and certainly helps when you arrived at an airport at midnight and could just get your car in the lot! You are also entitled to preferred membership with Avis and National Car Rental.
Fine Hotels and Resorts – This is one of the great and under-rated features of the Platinum Card. How many hours do you take to do research on hotels? Well, if you simply choose a FHR at the place where you are going, you will save a lot of time doing research, get a room upgrade, complimentary continental breakfast and a $100 credit (which I have used at spas!).
Cruise Privileges – Book a cruise with Amex Platinum and you get a $300 stateroom credit or a 2-category room upgrade.
Annual $200 Airline Credit – With the Amex Platinum card, you can choose an airline and apply $200 of credit in a year on items like baggage fees, food you on the airline etc.
US Custom Global Entry – Platinum Card holders will get credit if they apply to be on the US Custom Global Entry program. If you are, you can avoid the long immigration lines when you return from an international flight!
No Foreign Transaction Fee – The Platinum Card has recently waived any foreign transaction fee when you use the card outside of the US. The Visa Black Card charges 3% FX transaction fee.
International Companion Ticket Program – Amex Platinum has an international companion ticket program whereby if you purchase an international business class ticket with their partner airlines, you can get a free companion ticket. The Visa Black Card does not have any companion ticket program.
Private Jet Program – Platinum Card holders get extra benefits when they use Amex Travel to charter or get fractional or ownership of private jets for travel.
Platinum Destinations – Amex has also teamed up with upscale travel agents like Abercombie & Kent to offer exclusive vacations to exotic places. When you book such vacations with Amex, you get 25,000 bonus membership reward points.
Which Card Comes Out Ahead?
Both cards to a respectable job of catering to high end customers who desire concierge services. Visa has always been accepted at more places than American Express, and the Visa Black card does include an impressive array of travel protection benefits. It must be nice to receive luxury gifts from time to time as well. Some people may appreciate the tangible difference of the carbon fiber card itself, but it provides no monetary advantage over traditional plastic.
American Express still holds the edge in several key areas. Their Membership Rewards program is more full featured, there is no foreign transaction fees, and cardholders are granted unlimited complimentary access to several major airline clubs, not just the limited Priority Pass program. Furthermore, Amex’s $200 airline fee credit and their Global Entry membership goes a long way in justifying American Express’s slightly lower annual fee. Using their Fine Hotel and Resorts about 2 or 3 times a year will enable you to recoup the annual fee as well.
Which Card Should You Get?
There is no way to directly compare the concierge services offered by the two cards, which are at the heart of the reasons to own such exclusive cards. Neither of these cards is targeted at the typical user who values high rewards or low interest rates. The ideal customer of one of these cards is someone who values an exclusive range of services over other mundane details. By most objective measures, the American Express Platinum seems to offer more amenities and fewer fees than the Visa, but there is one thing you are never allowed to do, carry a balance. With the largest merchant network in the world, Visa Black may be the leading credit card, with American Express continuing to retain the title of the premier charge card (short of their ultra high end Centurion card).
Mr Credit Card Final Note – I personally have the platinum card and would not trade it at all for the Visa Black Card because just by signing up for the Card Rental elite memberships (which I use a few times a year), and booking a couple of “FIne Hotel & Resorts” hotels with Amex, I’ve basically covered my annual fee. Since I travel internationally once a year or tow, the fact that this card has no FX fees, and the new US Custom Global Entry credit and $200 annual airline amenities credit make a whole difference for me.