Black Credit Cards

Updated 6 October 2020

Black is the new black, or at least, it is in the world of credit cards. There was a time, not so long ago, when gold was where it was at. Then, along came platinum. But, while platinum may have been top of the heap for a while, black came along and stole its crown. For some time now, the black card has been the card to have, offering not just status, but a whole world of enticing extras.

As the original black card, the American Express Centurion Card remains out of reach for all but the select few. Not only do you need an invite from AmEx before you can apply for this card, you also need to stump up $11,500 to get your hands on it, then $7,500 each year in annual fees. Needless to say, there are plenty of black cards on the market that are a lot more attainable.

If you’re interested in applying for a black card here in Australia, you can check out the selection on offer to find options from all four big banks, and some of the smaller banks and internationals too. However, before you start comparing their offerings, you should know that not all black cards are ‘black’. In the world of credit cards, black is less of a colour and more of a status, which means some black-level cards may be marketed as ‘diamond’, ‘ultimate’, or simply ‘premium’.

So, what can you expect from your black card? When it comes to black rewards cards, these tend to offer a higher points earning potential, with a higher points cap – or no points cap – in place. As for features, these could range from travel credit and upgrades, to airport lounge access, insurance covers and personal shoppers. It goes without saying, however, that each black card’s offering is different, with some providing much more than others.

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Time to invest in a black card?

Designed to suit big spenders, black credit cards are packed with premium features. Want to earn more points? You got it. Need a few little luxuries in your life? No problem. Want to access travel extras that will put you above the hoi polloi? But of course. Whether you want it for the status it conveys or the extras it provides, there’s no denying having a black card has its perks.

Black Card Basics

If you’ve spent any time at all comparing credit cards, you’ve probably noticed a tier system in place. So, what does that tier system mean? The tier system is designed to make it easier for cardholders to choose a card that suits their needs – while also simplifying the process for card providers as they design and market their cards.

Credit cards are generally classed within one of three tiers. Depending on what features it has to offer, how much it costs in annual fees, and how easy or difficult it is to get approved for, a card may be classed as standard, platinum or black. Standard cards stick to the basics, and are typically found at the bottom of the ladder. Platinum cards, providing that little bit more, are in the middle. While black cards – and their array of extras – are at the top.

Well then, how do you know which type of card is right for you? How much you spend on your card – and whether you pay off your balance each month – should help you determine the type of card you are most suited to. As a premium option, black cards tend to suit bigger spenders who want more spending power - and who have the income to back that spending up.

With their prestige extras, black cards also work well for cardholders who want more as they shop, and for the most part, as they travel. And points earning? As black cards are designed to suit big spenders, they reward that spending with a higher points earn than platinum and standard options. They may also have a higher spending cap, allowing for more points to be accumulated each year.

Black Card Features

So far, we’ve talked up the black card’s features, but we haven’t really gone into detail. Now it’s time to take a closer look at some of the features you could expect to find on a black card in Australia.

Higher Credit Limits: Cardholders with bigger incomes tend to need higher credit limits, allowing them to buy what they want, when they want it. Black cards tend to offer higher credit limits than platinum and standard options, giving cardholders more freedom as they spend.

Travel Credit: To help balance out higher annual fees, black cards often provide travel credit or complimentary flights each year.

Hotel Stays: Cardholders may also enjoy complimentary hotel stays, for example one free night each year at a premium hotel, or stay for four nights and pay for three. Hotel upgrades and extras may also be on offer.

Flight Upgrades: Where upgrades are available, black cardholders may enjoy a class upgrade, making travel that much more comfortable.

Lounge Access: Black cardholders may enjoy access to airport lounges, either through an affiliated airline or via a program such as PriorityPass.

Status Upgrades: Black cards affiliated with a certain loyalty program may offer complimentary status upgrades, allowing the cardholder to enjoy upgraded benefits as they travel.

Airport Transfers: Another handy feature for frequent travellers, black cards may provide access to a certain number of airport transfers each year.

Concierge Service: Typically a step up from platinum concierge services, a black card concierge service will go above and beyond to assist cardholders. Within the same vein, some black cards may offer a personal shopper service or dedicated travel booking service as well.

Insurance Cover: Another feature often provided on platinum cards, insurance cover on black cards may be more wide-ranging, while offering better coverage.

Exclusive Invites: Black cardholders may be provided access to exclusive events or promotions.

Black Card Rewards

When it comes to rewards, black credit cards again, tend to have more to offer than platinum and standard offerings. In terms of points earning, black cards typically offer a higher earn rate, allowing cardholders to earn more points on their spending. For card providers that place a points cap on spending, that cap will usually be higher – or non-existent.

Black Card Cost

Nothing in this world comes for free, especially in the world of credit cards. Black cards tend to have higher annual fees, simply because they offer so much more in extras. You could expect to pay annual fees in excess of $275 for a ‘standard’ black card, and as much as $700 for the more exclusive options.

As for interest, both purchase rates and cash advance rates tend to be high on black cards. For that reason, this type of card does not suit cardholders who can’t pay off their balance each month. Anyone who carries a balance on a black card will likely lose out on any value they receive from their extras and rewards, as a result of paying out interest on what they owe.

Black cards tend to have a higher minimum income requirement, which means you will need to earn above that amount to be eligible. The main reason for having that high minimum income requirement is to allow black cardholders access higher credit limits. Why? Black cards are made for spending.

To make the most of a black card, you will need to make good use of its features, while also earning sufficient rewards to make the higher annual fee worthwhile. As with any credit card, you need to get more back than you put in. If you don’t, perhaps a platinum card – or even a standard card – may be a better fit.

If you are unsure if a black card would be right for you, ask yourself these questions:

Do you pay off your credit card balance each month? There are no low rate black cards. That means, if you don’t clear your balance, you will end up paying out over the odds in interest. This will lower the value of the card, making all those extras far less valuable.

Do you have a significant spend? If you typically spend a lot on your card – and can afford to pay it all back – a black card’s higher credit limit could make it a good fit. Your higher spend should also help you get more value from the card in the rewards you earn.

What features do you need? While all those extras may sound appealing, if you won’t actually use them, there’s no point having them – or paying for them in annual fees.

How many cards do you have? Getting value from a black card typically means channelling a significant spend through it. If you have multiple cards, you may find it difficult to get value from all of them.

Not all black cards are created equal. While some black cards may seem pretty basic in their offering, others will provide the world on a platter. The key to choosing the right black card is knowing what you want, then to compare the options to find the right fit for your needs – and your spending style.

Features: A black card is nothing without its features. Check out what features are on offer – and try not to be swayed by those you won’t actually use.

Rewards: If you want to earn big rewards, a black card could make that happen. Black cards tend to have higher points caps and a higher points earn, and work well for bigger spenders.

Annual Fee: With more to offer in features and rewards, black cards typically come with a higher price tag. That’s why you need to make sure the value of what you will get back is more than what you will pay out in annual fees.

Interest: Interest shouldn’t be a factor in your comparison. If you carry a balance and pay interest, a black card simply isn’t for you.

Intro Offers: As a premium card, black cards tend to provide premium offers. That means more bonus points, and better 0% offers on balance transfers and purchases. You may also find reduced annual fees for the first year, which could allow you to sample a card’s wares at a lower cost before deciding whether to keep it long term.

While they may seem appealing, black cards aren’t for everyone. So, how do you know if a black card isn’t the right fit for you?

You don’t meet eligibility requirements: To be eligible for a black card, you will need to meet the card provider’s minimum income requirements. These usually start at $75,000 per year. You will need to be comfortable with having a high maximum credit limit and high minimum credit limit. And of course, you will need to have excellent credit.

You can’t afford the annual fees: Paying out hundreds of dollars each year in annual fees may not fit your budget.

You don’t have a big spend: If you don’t have a significant spend, it’s unlikely you’ll get true value from your black card.

You don’t clear your balance each month: We’ll say it again. If you regularly carry a balance on your card, a black card isn’t for you. The interest costs would simply be too high to see value from the card.

You don’t need the extras: Black cards are all about extras. If you don’t really need them, why pay for them?

• More spending power
• Higher points earn and typically no points caps
• Lots of extras, many of which are geared towards the frequent traveller
• Status and prestige
• Enticing intro offers

- Higher points earn and higher credit limits may encourage overspending
- Not a great option for balance transfers unless you can afford to pay off new spending and transferred balance within the intro period
- High interest and annual fees

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