The Visa Black Card - Cash Back Rewards With Concierge Service
Published 2/16/09 (Modified 5/9/13)
Currently, the economy is undergoing a major recession, with consumer spending tanking, and dire ramifications emerging for the future of our financial and banking systems. But if you examined the newly released promotional material and advertisement literature for the new Visa Black Card, you might have thought otherwise. With an eye popping annual fee and lavish credit card perks oozing to great excess, this new credit card offer from the renown Barclays Bank definitely does not reflect the current mainstream economic sentiment.
The Original Black Card Craze
Years ago, the first card to emerge and promote itself through rumors and word of mouth marketing as the ultimate status symbol for high net worth spenders - was the American Express Centurion Black Card. With its extravagant spending perks and incredibly high credit limits, enough to buy a few palatial mansions and small estates with just a few card swipes, the Amex Black Centurion Card was considered to be the ultimate materialistic status symbol of its day, at least to those superficial few that actually cared about those types of things. Known as the first true "Black Card", the Amex Centurion program's strong reputation of exclusivity enabled it to attract the interest of a certain wealthy and high pedigree clientele - invite-only applicants, who were willing to spend more than $250,000 a year on their existing American Express credit cards and pay an annual fee of $2,500 to gain entrance into the exclusive program.
The New Visa Black Card - Another Card Designed For The Uber-Rich
Now, a new Black Card has emerged from the financial decadence of yesteryears, clad in black - this time from Barclays Bank Delaware - in the form of a more versatile and widely accepted Visa brand credit card. Now, for the low, low bottom basement price of just $495 a year (with absolutely no sarcasm intended of course), you can now get your grubby paws on and own your very own genuine Black Card courtesy of Visa. Fashioned from an admittedly attractive carbon graphite material (as opposed to the paltry plastic that adorns the credit cards of common peasant folk such as myself), and featuring a virtually unlimited credit limit with the ability to earn 1% cash back of all purchases, the new Black Visa Card appears to personify wealthy and power - or financial overkill - depending on how you look at it.
While seemingly totally out of place on a financial landscape littered with the dead and twitching bodies of former banking giants and credit lending organizations, the extravagant card features and exorbitant fees of the exclusive Visa Black Card from Barclays actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Rather than cater to the unpredictable credit card appetites and questionably untimely payment whims of ordinary consumers who may or may not be in the proper financial position at all times to pay back their credit card spending debts, why not peddle a product that targets the cream of the crop - the top percent of the American population with the vast financial means to afford their high spending lifestyle? Being not only able to rake in larger profit percentages from higher credit card merchant fees through the high rate spending habits of the financial elite, but also able to reduce the risk of dealing with ordinary Joe and Jane Plumbers struggling amidst a stagnant economy seems like the financial sure fire way to go in terms of profiting from credit card spending in an otherwise down economy.
Review Of The Visa Black Card's Features and Offers
One of the Visa Black Card's most aggressive promotional hitch is its unique exclusivity and selective membership. The card admittedly does state in its promotional tracts that the card is exclusive in nature and therefore not freely available to just anyone. While the Black Card's exclusivity doesn't stem from its availability to only just black people (as comedian Stephen Colbert comically lampoons in a Colbert Report TV skit), the card's marketing material does state that the program will only be limited to the top 1% of U.S. residents - "to ensure the highest caliber of personal service is provided to every customer" as they put it. Whether this is indeed a fact or just an artificially generated gimmick to inspire awe and mythical reverence in the Black Card name remains to be seen.
For those with high credit scores who apply and are approved for the Visa Black Card, selected members get to enjoy the following supposedly exclusive privileges:
- Limited Membership - Obviously a sought after feature for the high classy types who want to segregate themselves from the economic stimulus check-hungry masses.
- 24-Hour Concierge Service - This privilege I do find very appealing - though I'm not sure what I'd use it for exactly.
- Exclusive Rewards Program - Busy business travelers will definitely find the travel, airline, and hotel rewards very appealing, and the free upgrades worth the annual program cost of Black Card ownership.
- Business Travel Insurance Protection - Road warriors may appreciate the worldwide travel insurance, baggage protection, and card purchase guarantees available to cardholders.
- Luxury Gifts - Even rich people must appreciate expensive freebies.
- Patent Pending Carbon Card - The card does look and feel pretty cool. It's the ultimate buying tool - as the Black Card's website wisely points out to those who may skeptically think otherwise.
- Annual Fee Of $495 - *Gasp* Unless there's a decimal point missing in that numerical figure, this is probably a deal breaker for non high net worth applicants. However, the pricey annual fee will probably not faze the Black Card loyalists out there.
Perhaps like all super credit card offers for the rich and famous, the greatest appeal of the Visa Black Card, aside from its apparent exclusivity, is its unique access to a free members-only concierge service that operates at your beck and call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via telephone and email. With the Visa Black Card's concierge service, members get to enjoy personalized and complimentary assistance towards the fulfillment of their entertainment, travel, business, shopping, and lifestyle needs. For the ultra-rich clientele who is perfectly capable of affording anything they wish, oftentimes, it's the ability to acquire a product or service on demand as soon as it's desired that's worth its weight in gold. The ability of the Visa Black Card to tap into a service whose sole purpose is to help you open doors and acquire access to difficult-to-find products, or acquire ticketing admittance to otherwise unobtainable sporting events or exclusive restaurants may appeal greatly to upper echelon card carrying customers.
So, Does It Make Sense To Apply For The New Visa Black Credit Card?
Obviously for those of you who couldn't give a hoot, the Visa Black Card's not meant for your financial tastes. But for the lot of you who do exhibit some interest, read on. While the Visa Black Card does indeed provide a measure of exclusivity and offer a myriad of attractive credit card benefits such as a 1% cash back reward rate on all card purchases and a frequently sought after introductory 0% APR balance transfer rate, many skeptics (myself included) may have a legitimate argument when we point out that the card doesn't really offer anything that is genuinely exclusive or unavailable in other credit card programs. Many of the same high end perks of the Visa Black Card can be find in other high end card programs like the American Express Platinum, which offers virtually the same travel reward benefits and 24 hour concierge services, for the same comparable annual fee. One can even argue that the original "Black Card" - the American Express Black Centurion Card, stills promotes a greater sense of wealth and exclusive entitlement with its invitation-only application process. Unlike the Amex Centurion Card, the Visa Black Card can be directly applied for, while the Black Amex is by exclusive invitation only based on a pre-demonstration of the ability to record credit card charges at a very high rate for a certain period of time. It's clear the Black Visa Card is going right after the Amex Black Centurion crowd, but I'm not certain the program sufficiently distinguishes itself other than by name only. Is simply slapping the Black Card label onto the credit card offer sufficient to give it mystique and appeal among the high end trendy crowd? I'm not sure.
For big time spenders and those who place value into such indicators of wealth and status, the Visa Black Card's annual fee is easily paid for by the cash back offers, free gift rewards, and convenience of the 24 hour concierge services. But as an admittedly fairly frugal saver and spender, I'm not sure what type of status or self esteem boost I would gain from carrying around the carbon fiber credit card in my wallet. But then, I haven't become a millionaire and reached wealthy status yet.