Top Exclusive, Luxury Credit Cards of 2015

February 2, 2015, Written By Jason Steele

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Some people like to think of credit cards as luxury goods, much like fine jewelry or an expensive car. Yet for all the valuable benefits and attractive rewards offered by premium credit cards, they are still just financial instruments with annual fees that add up to hundreds, or even thousands of dollars per year. Smart credit card users need to look past the marketing material and focus on finding a card that offers not just compelling features, but competitive value.

Thankfully, there are some strong alternatives to premium credit cards that offer nearly all of the features and benefits, but at a much lower cost. Here are five of the top luxury credit cards, and their more sensible alternatives:

Citi Prestige

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Citi’s top-of-the-line Prestige card offers cardholders points in its ThankYou rewards program that can be redeemed for gift cards, travel reservations, and merchandise, or transferred to miles with one of eight foreign airline programs. This card also features airport lounge access and a $250 annual airline fee credit, but costs $450 per year.

Alternatively, the new Diner’s Club Premier MasterCard offers points in the Diners Club Rewards program that allows customers to transfer their points to miles with 14 different airlines and seven different hotel programs. This card also features airport lounge access, but has an annual fee of just $100.

Visa Black

The Visa Black card is offered by Barclays Bank and is made of stainless steel and carbon fiber. Cardmembers earn rewards worth 1% of their spending as cash back or gift cards, or 2% as airline reservations. Cardholders also receive unlimited airport lounge visits and luxury gifts from the leading brands, but pay a $495 annual fee.

Most cardholders will find more value in Barclaycard’s new Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, which offers double miles on all purchases, and each worth one cent as statement credits towards any travel expenses, not just airfare. Cardholders also receive a 5% rebate on miles redeemed, so rewards total 2.1% of spending. And unlike the Visa Black card, Arrival Plus’s plastic card is equipped with an EMV smart chip to ensure compatibility in foreign countries. The annual fee is only $89 which is waived the first year, which goes a long way toward paying for occasional airport lounge entry fees.

American Express Centurion

The mysterious Amex Centurion charge card is an invitation-only product requires an initiation fee of $7,500 an annual fee of $2,500, making it easily the most expensive card offered in the United States. Among its numerous benefits are automatic airline elite status with Delta, airport lounge access, and unlimited full-fare business or first class international companion tickets.

Yet the American Express Platinum card is undeniably a better deal for most cardholders. While customers won’t receive elite status with Delta, they will still receive a Delta SkyClub membership and access to the same other lounge networks offered to Centurion cardholders. Platinum cardholders only receive a single companion ticket, but most full fare tickets cost more than twice as much as a discounted ticket anyways. There is a $450 annual fee for this card, but cardholders receive a $200 annual airline fee credit.

Chase Palladium

Chase offers its Palladium card, made of metal, by invitation to its private banking clients. Cardholders receive one point per dollar spent, and double points on travel. Points in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program can then be transferred airline miles or hotel points. This card includes unlimited visits to the Lounge Club program and has an annual fee of $595.

Better yet, Chase offers its Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which is also composed of metal, for just a $95 annual fee, which is waived the first year. Like Palladium cardholders, Sapphire Preferred cardholders earn double points for travel, but there is no lounge access benefit. Nevertheless, the $500 difference is more than enough to buy an annual lounge membership or plenty of day passes.

Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card from Chase

This card offers five points per dollar spent at Ritz-Carlton and other partner hotels, double points on airline tickets, rental cars and restaurants, and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Other benefits include a $300 annual travel credit and three suite upgrades per year, all of an annual fee of $395.

While you could make an argument that this card offers considerable value to frequent guests of Ritz-Carlton hotels, there is a much more affordable alternative. It turns out that the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier card is essentially the same program as Ritz-Carlton, and the Marriott Rewards card earns the same number of points for each type of purchase. Since points from either program can be used for the same awards, many choose the Marriott card which only as an $85 annual fee that is waived the first year.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of February 2, 2015. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.

About Jason Steele

Jason Steele is freelance journalist and an expert on the credit card industry. He contributes to several of the top personal finance sites, and his work is syndicated to mainstream outlets such as MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, and Business Insider.
View all posts by Jason Steele