MasterCard® Black Card™ Review: Is it worth the $495 annual fee?

John Ganotis

John Ganotis | Reviews

Mar 01, 2017 | Updated Mar 10, 2017

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The MasterCard® Black Card™ is a metal credit card for people with excellent credit. It has an annual fee of $495 and comes with some nice luxury benefits, but if you’re willing to pay a fee that high there may be better cards for the money.

MasterCard® Black Card™
Apply Now

MasterCard® Black Card™

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $495
  • Interest Rate: 15.49% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • Stainless Steel/Carbon Card—Patented Design
  • Industry-Leading Rewards
  • DOUBLE POINTS Value When Redeemed for Airfare
  • 1.5% Value for Cash Back Statement Credit Redemptions
  • Luxury Card Concierge™
  • VIP Airport Lounge Access with Priority Pass™
  • $100 Annual Airline Credit Toward Qualifying Airline Purchases
  • Global Entry & TSA Pre-✓® Application Credit
  • Members-Only Luxury Magazine
  • Annual Fee: $495 ($195 for each additional account)
  • 15.49% Variable APR on Purchases and Transfers
  • 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers made in the first 45 days after account opening

The Bottom Line: 4 out of 5 stars

This card has some nice benefits, and some people may want it for the perceived prestige of having a black card that’s made of metal. The annual fee is relatively high compared to most credit cards, and there’s no sign-up bonus like with many travel-focused cards.

It earns decent rewards at 1 point per dollar spent, which can be redeemed for 1.5% cash back or 2% if redeemed for travel.

Looking at the benefits of this card compared to other cards with similar annual fees, there may be better options.

Keep reading to learn more about the details of this card.

Using this card as part of your credit card strategy

  • Use this card to get complementary airport lounge access.
  • To maximize the value of points, always redeem them for travel purchases through the Luxury Card rewards site.
  • You probably don’t need more than one high annual fee travel card in your wallet, whether it’s this card or one of its top competitors (listed below), because they tend to have similar benefits.

The Rewards

This card effectively earns 1% to 2% on all purchases, depending on how points are redeemed. Unlike many travel-focused cards, this card does not have a signup bonus.

All purchases earn 1 point per dollar spent. There are no bonus categories that earn more points with this card. Instead, there are three possible values you’ll get when you redeem points:

  • $0.02 per point when redeemed for airfare
  • $0.015 per point when redeemed as a statement credit or direct deposit
  • $0.01 per point when redeemed for gift cards or merchandise

Points don’t expire as long as card is open, active, and in good standing. The points earned with this card can’t be transferred to airline or hotel partners. With some cards, transferring points provides an opportunity to get a higher value per point.

When considering the annual fee, a maximum value of $0.02 per dollar spent is somewhat low compared to other cards. For example, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® effectively earns $0.02 to $0.021 per dollar spent depending on how points are redeemed with an annual fee of $89 that’s waived the first year. However, the main value you get from the Black Card™ may come from the benefits rather than the rewards.

When redeeming for airfare, you can redeem in increments of 50 points and there’s no limit to the price of the ticket you can purchase. If you don’t have enough points to cover the cost of your airfare you can pay the difference.

When redeeming for statement credit you can apply points in increments of $1.

You can redeem points at myluxurycard.com or by calling 844-724-2500 and selecting option 1 between 7:00am and 9:00pm Monday through Friday, and between 9:00am and 9:00pm Saturday and Sunday Eastern Time.

The Benefits

Travel Credit

This card comes with an annual $100 travel credit, which can be applied to travel expenses like airfare, baggage fees, and in-flight purchases. Barclaycard determines whether a purchase can dip into this credit based on the merchant category code of the transaction, and the travel credit renews every calendar year.

When considering whether the annual fee is worth it to you, the value of the travel credit is straightforward, and if you’re thinking about getting this card it’s likely you’ll be able to spend the whole thing every year.

Most travel card with an annual fee in this range have some sort of travel credit, and the MasterCard® Black Card™ is one of the lowest. See below for a comparison with other similar cards.

Global Entry (and TSA PreCheck) Credit

Another easy-to-value benefit of this card is the $100 Global Entry credit. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that provides expedited entry to the U.S.

If you travel internationally often, the time savings of Global Entry could add up quickly. Even if you only travel domestically, Global Entry includes access to TSA PreCheck, which could be a valuable timesaver on its own.

Remember, the benefit isn’t enrollment in the program, it’s a statement credit for the $100 application fee. You’ll still need to go through the separate application process and be approved.

Keep in mind Global Entry lasts 5 years, so while this $100 credit will be available to you again every 5 years, it’s not like you’re getting an additional $100 in value every year. The MasterCard® Black Card™ doesn’t provide anything beyond what other similarly-priced cards offer here, so if you travel frequently and value this benefit there are other cards that offer it.

Airport Lounge Access

Another common benefit of most high-end travel cards is lounge access, which is also included with this card. While it’s a great benefit, the MasterCard® Black Card™ card doesn’t offer any special lounge access that’s better than it’s major competitors.

If you travel a lot, this benefit can go a long way toward making the annual fee worth it.

Within a few weeks of opening a Black Card™ account, you’ll automatically receive a separate card for Priority Pass™ Select, which is the lounge access membership that comes with this and several other similar travel cards.

This membership gives the primary account holder or any additional authorized users and their guests access to over 1000 airport lounges worldwide at no charge. The number of guests allowed can vary depending on the lounge, so you may want to call in advance if you’re traveling with other people who aren’t members.

The separate Priority Plus membership card must be presented for lounge access instead of the Black Card™, so remember to carry it with you when you’re flying.

Concierge

The Black Card™ comes with Luxury Card Concierge, which is a 24/7 concierge service. While it might be possible to use this concierge for hard-to-get restaurant reservations or sold-out tickets, I personally don’t think it adds much value to make the annual fee worth it. Usually, it just seems faster to do a quick Google search than go through the trouble of asking someone else to complete a simple task. If you’re interested in learning more about credit card concierges and what people request from them check out this Reddit AMA with a former American Express concierge.

Other Luxury Benefits

The Black Card™ has a few other benefits that are a bit ambiguous and hard to value, so I put them all together in this section. The benefits in this section might be nice add-ons, but to me the real value of this card comes from the benefits mentioned above.

MasterCard Priceless Program

According to the Luxury Card website, “members enjoy curated, invitation-only, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Enjoy a look behind the scenes, sit courtside, see the dress rehearsal before opening night or learn skills from top experts in their trade. Priceless delivers exclusive opportunities to go beyond the ordinary.”

There aren’t many specifics listed on the website for what you might get, except for some golf perks that include “Priceless tips and instructions from golf professionals” and “access the Tournament Players Club (TPC) network of private club courses.” If you have this card and can provide an example of an experience you’ve had thanks to the Priceless program, please let us know in the comments.

VIP Hotel & Travel Benefits

This is another ambiguous benefit that includes “an incomparable array of amenities such as room upgrades, spa credits, complimentary food and beverage and competitive rates from over 3,000 properties from the world’s finest travel destinations” according to the official website for the card. Again, if you have specific examples please let us know in the comments.

Luxury Gifts

As a cardholder, you’ll randomly receive gifts “from some of the world’s most iconic and recognized brand names.” I say randomly because the official card website says the gift program “has no predetermined schedule or frequency.” So, if you get this card you might get some surprises in the mail. If you’re a cardholder, leave a comment and let us know what you got!

Luxury Magazine

The Black Card website says this magazine “exclusive to Luxury Card members,” yet they link to luxurymagazine.com, which appears to be accessible to anyone. It’s possible they mean the print edition is only available to cardholders, but either way this seems like a pretty weak benefit of the card.

The Costs & Fees

What stands out most in the cost of this card is the annual fee of $495. If you travel frequently the cost may be worth it, but you’ll want to make sure you consider other cards in the same annual fee tier before you make your decision to apply. If you want to add authorized users to the account it will cost you an additional $195 per year for each one.

There’s no foreign transaction fee, which I think is a must for cards marketed as travel cards.

Interest rates are not very high, although I recommend you avoid interest completely. The balance transfer offer could be nice, but it’s probably not something people in the market for this card would need. The other fees are all pretty standard for what you’ll find on similar cards.

Annual Fee Intro APR for Balance Transfers Regular Purchase APR Regular Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
$495 0% for 15 months 15.49% (Variable) 15.49% (Variable) 25.49% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
3% ($5 min) 5% ($10 min) 0%
Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
Up to 27.24% (Variable) Up to $37 Up to $37

How to Apply for the MasterCard® Black Card™

This card is issued by Barclaycard, so if you apply they will be the bank evaluating your credit to determine if you’ll be approved. Barclaycard usually pulls information from your TransUnion credit report. The card is intended for people with excellent credit, so if your credit is not great you may not be approved.

MasterCard® Black Card™
Apply Now

MasterCard® Black Card™

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $495
  • Interest Rate: 15.49% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • Stainless Steel/Carbon Card—Patented Design
  • Industry-Leading Rewards
  • DOUBLE POINTS Value When Redeemed for Airfare
  • 1.5% Value for Cash Back Statement Credit Redemptions
  • Luxury Card Concierge™
  • VIP Airport Lounge Access with Priority Pass™
  • $100 Annual Airline Credit Toward Qualifying Airline Purchases
  • Global Entry & TSA Pre-✓® Application Credit
  • Members-Only Luxury Magazine
  • Annual Fee: $495 ($195 for each additional account)
  • 15.49% Variable APR on Purchases and Transfers
  • 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers made in the first 45 days after account opening

Alternatives to the MasterCard® Black Card™

There are a few other cards with a similar annual fee and benefits that you might want to check out if you’re looking at this card:

MasterCard® Black Card™ vs. Citi Prestige Card

The Citi Prestige, with it’s $450 annual fee, is a strong alternative. It has a $250 annual air travel credit, which is $150 more than you get with the MasterCard® Black Card™. Most of the benefits are the same as other travel cards with similar annual fees, like a Global Entry application fee credit and airport lounge access. The Prestige also has a valuable signup bonus, which is missing from the MasterCard® Black Card™.

MasterCard® Black Card™ vs. The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card is the card that established this tier of travel card with a high annual fee and great benefits. It has a slightly higher annual fee of $550, and a much higher annual airline travel credit of $200 compared to $100 with the MasterCard® Black Card™. It also comes with $200 in Uber credits for U.S. rides each year ($15 each month, and $20 in December) and a $75 hotel credit available with some booking restrictions.

This card includes access to Centurion Lounges, American Express’ brand of high end airport lounges. It also includes access to Delta Sky Clubs, and Airspace Lounges, in addition to free Priority Pass lounge access that comes with the MasterCard® Black Card™. Another nice benefit of the Platinum card that the Black Card™ lacks is free, unlimited Boingo hotspot access.

The American Express card effectively earns 1% on most purchases, since it earns one point per dollar and each point is worth about 1 cent or as much as 1.2 cents depending on how they’re redeemed. Some purchases earn more rewards. Purchases through American Express’ travel website earn 2 points per dollar spent, and flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express’ travel portal earn 5 points per dollar spent. The MasterCard® Black Card™ earns a higher reward rate for regular purchases, at 1.5% to 2% depending on how you redeem your points, but can’t compete with the 5x air travel multiplier on the Platinum card.

The Platinum card signup bonus seems to change often and can be quite valuable, especially considering the MasterCard® Black Card™ has no signup bonus. When this article was last updated, the Platinum card offered 75,000 membership rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. That’s $750 if you redeem the points in a way that gets 1 cent per point. Or, if you transfer the points to an airline to book a flight you may be able to effectively get a higher rate of 1.2 cents per point.

MasterCard® Black Card™ vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a popular newcomer in the high-end travel card market. It has a slightly lower annual fee of $450, but its annual travel credit is $300, which is three times the travel credit of the MasterCard® Black Card™.

If you spend a lot on travel and dining, the Chase Sapphire Reserve can provide much higher rewards than the MasterCard® Black Card™. It earns 3 points per dollar on travel and dining expenses, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. Depending on how you redeem the points, your effective rewards rate could be as high as 4% with the Chase Sapphire Reserve compared to a maximum rate of 2% when redeeming points earned with the MasterCard® Black Card™ for travel.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also has a big signup bonus, which the MasterCard® Black Card™ lacks.

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