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

John Ganotis

John Ganotis | Reviews

Jan 07, 2019 | Updated May 13, 2019

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The Mastercard® Black Card™ is a metal credit card for people with excellent credit, clearly designed to provide a top-notch credit card experience.

If you’re looking for a thick, black, metal credit card this is one of the most impressive card designs out there.

It has an annual fee of $495, and while the rewards program is not the most valuable out there, this card comes with high-end benefits like airport lounge access, a concierge available for live chat via the Luxury Card mobile app and thousands of dollars in credits at hotels.

This card is part of the Luxury Card family of cards, which includes:

Card Annual Fee
Mastercard® Titanium Card™ (Review) $195
Mastercard® Black Card™ (This review)  $495
Mastercard® Gold Card™ (Review)  $995

Our Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

While some people may want this card for the perceived prestige of having a black card that’s made of metal (stainless steel to be exact), it comes with some great benefits that can go a long way toward justifying the annual fee.

The rewards work out to 1.5% cash back when redeemed for statement credit, or 2% if redeemed for travel. Some other travel-focused cards can earn you more in certain categories, but if you’re looking for a flat, consistent rewards rate across any kind of purchase this is an OK rate. There’s also no sign-up bonus like with many travel-focused cards, although this card is designed more around benefits than earning the highest rewards value.

If you can use the VIP Hotels & Travel extensively to get credits and discounts at hotels, for example, this credit card can easily be worth its annual fee, but if you don’t then it may not be worth it for you.

Using this card as part of your credit card strategy

  • Use the VIP Hotels & Travel benefits as much as you can to get large credits and discounts at luxury hotels.
  • Use the included Priority Pass Select membership to get complementary airport lounge access with unlimited guests.
  • Download the Luxury Card app to chat live with a concierge 24/7 and get access to exclusive tickets, restaurant reservations, and more.
  • 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 earns the equivalent of 1% to 2% cash back on all purchases, depending on how you redeem your points. 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 (cash back redemptions)
  • $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, point transfers offer the 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, but if you just want to earn a flat rate on all expenses 2% is not bad. You can easily get a cash back card with no annual fee that earns 1.5%–2% on all purchases, but 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. It’s great that this can be applied to airfare, unlike the airline credit on the Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card (Review), which can only be applied to incidental fees, like baggage fees and in-flight purchases, on one airline.

Global Entry (and TSA PreCheck) Credit

Another easy-to-value benefit of this card is the $100 Global Entry application fee 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 $100 application fee credit on your statement. 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 benefit of many high-end travel cards is lounge access, often through Priority Pass.

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.

Unlike other cards that limit the number of lounge visits or guests, the Black Card™ allows unlimited visits and unlimited guests, with no need to call in advance.

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. Most credit cards require you to call the concierge by phone, and while you can do that with this card, you can also chat live through a messaging interface in the Luxury Card app. From my experience this seems like a much lower barrier to asking quick questions or seeing what’s possible with the concierge, whether you’re looking for hard-to-get restaurant reservations or sold-out tickets.

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.

VIP Hotel & Travel Benefits

This 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. You can find a link to a book about all the hotels here.

Based on the book, this card comes with thousands of dollars of potential credits and savings at high-end hotels around the world. If you can use this a lot, the card could definitely be worth it, but if you can’t it may be hard to justify the annual fee of this card.

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.

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

If you travel frequently and use lots of the benefits, the $495 annual fee may be worth it to you. If you want to add authorized users to the account, each one will cost you an additional $195 per year.

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 we recommend you avoid interest completely. The balance transfer intro APR 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 17.24% Variable 17.24% Variable 27.49% 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 doesn’t meet their requirements you may not be approved. You can apply now securely on the Luxury Card website.

Alternatives to the Mastercard® Black Card™

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

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review) 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 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 $35 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™.

The American Express card effectively earns 1% on most regular non-travel 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. Flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express’ travel portal and eligible hotels booked on the 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 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 60,000 membership rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. That’s $600 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 for airfare redemptions.

 

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) 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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