Black credit cards are the ultimate credit cards, offering the best premium features and luxury services. Although the black credit cards currently offered in Canada are very difficult for the everyday Canadian to obtain (think invitation-only American Express Centurion card), there are some powerful alternatives that offer similar perks to the elusive black credit card.
While these alternatives are not technically black credit cards, they do offer accelerated rewards and luxury benefits including complimentary airport lounge access, free night hotel stays, concierge services and comprehensive insurance coverages. But much like black credit cards, these cards tend to come with high annual fees. Compare some of the best black credit card alternatives below.
How do black credit cards work?
A black credit card is a super-premium credit card that offers more status and benefits than standard, gold or platinum credit cards. The use of the term “black” for this type of credit card refers to the level of the account, similar to the way travel rewards programs have different status levels. So in the case of credit cards, black is the best you can get.
How much does a black credit card cost?
The most well-known black credit cards in Canada include the American Express Centurion card, the HSBC Jade World Elite Mastercard and the RBC Private Banking Visa infinite Privilege. Most of these cards are invitation-only, which means you’ll need to be invited to apply for the card by the provider. All of these cards have income and spend requirements into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some may even require you to have investments as high as one million with the provider.
With these incredibly high eligibility requirements, annual fees can sit as high as $2,500.
Our alternatives to black credit cards have annual fees between $150 and $900.
Benefits offered by a black credit card
Black credit cards offer a range of exclusive features that vary between cards. Many of our alternatives to black credit cards include similar features. Some of the most exciting features you can get include:
Higher credit limits (up to $50,000, sometimes much higher)
Accelerated rewards points, miles or cash back per dollar spent
Flexible reward programs (such as high or no rewards caps and more ways to use points)
Flight and hotel discounts or upgrades
Greater financial coverage for insurance and/or lower excess payment requirements
A free flight or companion flight each year
A complimentary night’s stay at a premium hotel every year
Access to hundreds of airport lounges around the world
Complimentary airport transfers and valet parking
Dedicated travel booking services
Personal concierge service
Invitations to exclusive events or promotions
These features give you some idea of the status that comes from having a black credit card, but the specific benefits vary between credit cards. When you’re looking for a black card, it’s a good idea to go through all the features listed or ask the credit card provider for more information about specific benefits you want from a black credit card.
Who should get a black credit card?
Black credit cards, or their powerful alternatives, are designed for:
People with high incomes.
Those who spend a lot on their credit card each month.
People who have excellent credit scores.
Meeting the application requirements doesn’t necessarily mean you should get premium or black credit card. If you rarely use credit, you won’t be able to make the most of the benefits. This could mean that the annual fee costs you more than any value you get from the card.
On the other hand, if you’re a big spender, avid traveller or someone who will take advantage of features such as travel insurance and airport lounge access, the benefits could help offset the annual fee of the card.
How to compare black credit card alternatives
With high fees and plenty of features, it’s incredibly important to compare your credit card options before applying for one. Here are the major factors you’ll need to consider to compare black credit cards (or their alternatives):
Annual fee. When you’re looking at several black credit cards, check the annual fee and other potential costs so that you can work out how much each card will cost you. Remember that the benefits should outweigh the costs of the card.
Interest rates and interest-free days. Even a difference of 1% APR could save you a lot of money if you carry a balance from month-to-month, so it’s important to check the interest rates when comparing cards. Interest-free days, on the other hand, offer convenience and value if you regularly pay your balance off in full. You could get a lot more flexibility if a card offers up to 55 days interest-free compared to one that offers up to 21, for instance.
Complimentary extras. Compare complimentary extras based on what’s practical and valuable to you. For example, someone who frequently pays for entry to airport lounges might want a card that has complimentary lounge passes, while someone else might place a higher value on a card that offers a complimentary night’s stay in a hotel once a year.
Quality of extras and customer service. The terms and conditions for complimentary extras, as well as the level of service you get with a black credit card, impact its overall value. The quality of customer service offered could be very different depending on the credit card provider. Likewise, the coverage available with complimentary insurance could be more or less limited depending on the partnering insurance company, so be sure to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully.
How to choose the right black credit card for you
Do you use credit a lot? If you regularly pay with plastic, the higher credit limit of a premium credit card could help you avoid maxing out your account. It will also help you get the most out of features such as collecting rewards points.
Do you regularly pay off your credit card? Premium credit cards often have standard interest rates that could make them expensive if you’re used to carrying a balance from month-to-month. If you don’t pay off your balance in full each month, you likely won’t get the most value from the benefits offered.
How many of the features will you actually use? It’s great to have access to a wide range of features that these cards offer, but the value comes from actually using the features. Consider the features you want and how often you will use them. If you have no intention of taking advantage of the concierge service and other benefits, then there really isn’t any point in paying a few hundred dollars a year just to show it off.
How many credit cards do you have? Many Canadians have more than one credit card. With a premium credit card, you’ll get more value the more you can use it, so having multiple cards could make it less valuable.
Is there a premium credit card you actually want? It’s important to find a credit card that checks as many of your boxes as possible. Compare a range of premium cards before applying to make sure you choose the right one for your needs.
Even though black credit cards are definitely at the pinnacle of premium options, the most important thing is always finding the right credit card for your needs and spending habits – so that it really works for you (and not the other way around). Since black credit cards as we know them are very hard to obtain in Canada, our alternatives are powerful options that provide many of the same features.
If you don’t think any of these cards are right for you, start comparing other cards to find an option that suits your needs and spending habits.
Compare powerful alternatives to black credit cards
American Express Cobalt Card
American Express Cobalt Card
Purchase interest rate
Eligibility criteria, terms and conditions, fees and charges apply
American Express Cobalt Card
Apply today and earn up to 5 points for every dollar you spend
Purchase interest rate: 19.99%
Cash advance rate: 22.99%
Annual fee: $120
Credit rating: Fair, Good, Excellent
Minimum age: Age of majority in province/territory of residence
This depends on the type of premium or black card and the provider. You may be able to earn rewards points for an existing program like Air Miles or Aeroplan, while some providers may have their own specific rewards programs like American Express Membership Rewards.
Some credit card reward programs have options for transferring points to a range of programs.
Understandably, a black credit card is marketed to those with high incomes. You may need to earn into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to be eligible.
The alternative cards we have listed tend to have minimum personal income requirements around $60,000 to $80,000. Most importantly, if you don’t earn a high income each year, you likely won’t spent enough on the card each month to actually reap the benefits or meet any signup bonus spend requirements.
A black credit card is a step up from a platinum card. If you look at the platinum and black credit cards offered by the same provider, you’ll usually find that the black card offers much more complimentary extras, more points per $1 spent or even priority services like a personal shopper and free annual flights. Typically, black credit cards will also have much higher annual fees, higher credit limits and higher minimum income requirements than platinum credit cards.
This depends on your individual circumstances. For the everyday Canadian, most black credit cards are completely unobtainable unless you earn and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
There are some powerful platinum credit card offers that, for the everyday Canadian, may be a great alternative to a black credit card. They offer similar benefits and have an annual fee and eligibility requirements that can be relatively easily met. Still, you’ll want to make sure you’ll actually use the benefits of a platinum card since these cards tend to come with high annuals fees.
The simplest way to decide between a black credit card and a platinum one is to compare them side-by-side. Factor in your spending habits and budget, the benefits and perks you’re looking for, as well as your eligibility for both cards, and you’ll be able to decide which card is right for you.
Emma Balmforth is an Associate Editor at Finder. She is passionate about cryptocurrency, credit cards and loans, and enjoys helping people understand the often confusing world of finance. Emma has a degree in business and psychology from the University of Waterloo. She wants to help people make financial decisions that will benefit them now and in the future.
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