Is the MasterCard Black Card Super Lame?

A dude with an executive desk job who also drives a motorcycle? Rocks an Italian suit in the office, then quickly changes into a cool leather outfit (complete with stylish riding boots) while speeding away, only to change into an unbuttoned, crisp white dress shirt as he walks into a very cool dinner party with perfect hair?

Sure, no problem. You are, after all, a Black Card customer. At least, that’s what the new commercial seems to be attempting to convey. Superhero status. Oh, and did we mention the card is made of metal (stainless steel and carbon)? And the song is the coolest you’ve ever heard?

We’ve seen this MasterCard Black Card ad run a lot on TV recently, during major sporting events like the NFL playoffs. Clearly it’s a big push for the revamped credit card, which used to be a Visa product, but is it effective?

What Does the MasterCard Black Card Actually Offer?

In today’s day and age, we wonder if appealing to lifestyle without offering tangible benefits is still effective? After all, we’ve already got luxury credit cards that come with very real benefits, like Amex Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Citi Prestige.

So does anyone care if there’s another credit card out there that’s black and metallic? Maybe, we’re not sure. What we weren’t sure of, at least from the commercial, was what the card actually offered.

After some digging, we found out that the Black Card, which is part of the Luxury Card family of credit cards from Barclaycard, has a $495 annual fee.

That beats out all three of the aforementioned luxury credit cards, which all happen to charge a $450 annual fee.

What’s more, the Black Card doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus of any kind. Again, those other three do, and big bonuses at that.

The Black Card does offer an annual airline credit, but it’s only $100. Meanwhile, the other three cards offer annual credits ranging from $200 to $300.

The one bright spot is Black Card comes with 1.5% cash back on every purchase, and points are worth double when redeemed for airfare.

But again, there are no annual fee credit cards out there that offer 2% cash back on every purchase. And it would take a lot of spending at a rate of 1.5% to earn that annual fee back.

How the MasterCard Black Card Stacks Up

Benefit Black Card (Barclaycard) Amex Platinum Chase Sapphire Reserve Citi Prestige
Annual fee $495 $450 $450 $450
Sign-up bonus n/a 40k points for $3k spent 100k points for $4k spent 50k points for $5k spent
Airline credit $100 $200 $300 $250
Lounge access Priority Pass Select Centurion Lounges, Delta lounges, Priority Pass Priority Pass Select Priority Pass Select
Bonus category 1.5% cash back on all purchases 5X on flights booked via Amex 3X travel, hotel, dining 3x travel, 2x dining
Forex fee None None None  None
Global entry $100 credit $100 credit $100 credit $100 credit
Transfer points? No Yes Yes Yes

As you can see, the luxury credit cards available from four major issuers offer a lot of the same stuff, with some major differences with regard to sign-up bonuses and point-earning categories.

And the Black Card doesn’t allow point transfers to travel partners, another huge benefit to the other cards listed above.

With the highest annual fee of all the cards, you might expect more, such as a healthy sign-up bonus or a larger annual airline credit. At least you can use the credit for airline purchases and not just incidentals.

But is that enough to justify an industry-leading annual fee?

Not sure. At least the cool guy with the motorcycle can get into the airport lounge, thanks to a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership with Black Card. Oh, and he gets Luxury Gifts, whatever those are, and a quarterly Luxury Magazine to read. Sweet.

By the way, there’s a MasterCard Gold Card that’s even more expensive, at $995 per year, which is plated in 24-karat gold. It earns 2% cash back and comes with a $200 annual airline credit. Hmm.

(photo: Véronique Debord-Lazaro)

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