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From the Experts at

The Best Premium Credit Cards in America

by Jason Steele

The Best Premium Credit Cards in America

Are you a power user of your credit cards? Do you maximize every feature and benefit of your cards while wearing out the magnetic strip by making charges all over town, or even the world? If so, then premium credit and charge cards that banks offer were created just for customers like you.

What Makes a Card ‘Premium’

These products offer benefits such as flexible travel rewards, airport business lounge access and a personal concierge. In addition, cardholders should not have to worry about preset spending limits, foreign transaction fees, and in some cases, airline fees. For the purpose of this month’s Best Credit Cards in America, we are looking at cards with an annual fee higher than $200 that are available to the general public. While this criteria excludes some of the more reasonably priced cards on the market, it also leaves out cards like the super-premium, and super-secret, Centurion card from American Express.

What to Look for in a Premium Card

The big draw of most of these cards is an airline business lounge membership, but it is important to know the details of this benefit. Some offer access to just the cardholder while others allow one or more guests. Another benefit that some of these cards feature are airline fee waivers and credits. Cards affiliated with a single airline can offer unlimited fee waivers on that carrier, while other non-airline cards may offer a limited amount of statement credits toward fees on eligible airlines.

Applicants should also look closely at the price of these cards and determine if the benefits are worth the annual fee. Those who travel frequently can usually find great value in these cards, while others who travel less often might find most of the non-travel benefits available in a less pricey product.

As you shop for a premium credit card, it can help to know your credit scores so that you apply for a credit card for which you’re more likely to be approved. There are free tools that can help you prepare for your search, like the Credit Report Card, which gives you your credit scores and an analysis of your credit data, updated every month.

The Winner: The Citi Executive/AAdvantage World Elite MasterCardThe Citi Executive/AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard

This card leads the way among airline credit cards, and with the merger of American and US Airways, cardholders will soon be able to utilize their benefits on even more flights.

The Rewards: Cardholders receive access to the American Airlines Admirals Club for themselves and all members of their immediate family, or up to two other traveling guests. Travelers also receive their first bag checked free for themselves and up to eight additional people on the same reservation. Other perks include access priority check-in, security screening lanes and boarding privileges where available, as well as a 25% savings on in-flight purchases. This is pretty much all the benefits of flying first class, except the seat. Still, cardholders also receive 10,000 elite qualifying miles when they spend $40,000 in a year, so they can get that much closer to being eligible for first-class upgrades.

The Costs: There is a $450 annual fee for this card. Additional cards for authorized users can be requested at no cost, but only the primary cardholder can access the lounge by him or herself.

1st Runner-Up: The American Express Platinum CardThe American Express Platinum Card

This card helped define the premium card category, even though it suffered somewhat in the past year when it dropped access to American and US Airways lounges, while Delta restricted its complimentary SkyClub access to just the cardholder and no guests.

The Rewards: For each dollar spent, cardholders earn one point in the American Express Membership Rewards program. Points can then be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards, and travel reservations or exchanged for airline miles with several different carriers. The impressive list of benefits includes a $200 annual airline fee credit and a $100 statement credit toward an application in the Global Entry program operated by the US Customs and Border Patrol. This card offers airline lounge access for the cardholder only through memberships in the Priority Pass and the Delta SkyClub programs. Other benefits include Gold status with Starwood Hotels, elite status with Avis, Hertz and National car rental, as well as numerous purchase protection and travel insurance polices.

The Costs: There is a $450 annual fee for this card, and additional cards can be ordered for $175 each.

2nd Runner-Up: The United Club Card from ChaseThe United Club Card from Chase

United’s top of the line card features outstanding benefits and rewards, however it recently devalued its MileagePlus program.

The Rewards: Cardholders receive 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, and two miles per dollar spent on United purchases. Customers also receive a United Club membership, which allows access to all United Club locations and participating Star Alliance affiliated lounges worldwide for themselves and any traveling companions. Other benefits include priority  check-in, security screening (where available), boarding and baggage handling privileges as well as two free checked bags for the cardholder and one companion. In addition, cardholders receive a waiver of close-in award booking fees, Platinum status in the Hyatt Gold Passport program and elite status with Avis car rentals.

The Costs: There is a $395 annual fee for this card. Additional cards for authorized users can be requested at no cost, but only the primary cardholder can access the lounge by him or herself.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

At publishing time, the The American Express Platinum Card is offered through product pages, and may be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

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  • Meet Our Expert

    jason_steele GravatarJason Steele has worked as a computer systems administrator, a commercial pilot, and a contributor to several of the top personal finance sites as an expert on credit cards and travel. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in History.
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