The Incredible Perks of Credit Cards for the Rich
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February 15, 2012

Does your credit card get you free Ritz-Carlton upgrades, spa credits, free breakfast buffets, all-you-can-eat sandwiches and salads, afternoon tea, and a personal assistant?

Probably not.

Welcome to the high life of credit cards. Flaunting annual fees north of $350, ultra-premium rewards cards pack a lifetime of luxury into a small rectangle that fits inside a Prada wallet. Holding one makes you part of a special club of cardholders.

Exactly how exclusive? Barclays' Visa Black Card is limited to only 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to its website.

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And it's rumored only 17,000 people carry the card of cards, the American Express Centurion Card, which is informally known as the "black card."

"These cardholders have a higher level of income, higher credit rating and higher spending," says Thomas Hobbs, director of Discover Network product management, which includes the issuer's Premium and Premium Plus cards.

"Most of the time, the issuer acquires the customer through a traditional rewards (card) and based on the behavior on that card, the issuer may offer a premium (card)," he says.

So what does it feel like to hold one of these cards? Bankrate dives into the high-class world of elite credit cards and charge cards.

1. Travel
You know those well-dressed individuals who bypass long security lines at the airport and breeze through the fast lanes? They are probably carrying a premium credit card. You'll also see them kicking back in the airport lounge.

Many of these rewards credit cards, such as Barclays' Visa Black Card and the American Express Platinum Card, provide access to airport lounges worldwide. Others feature access to certain carrier's lounges such as the Continental Presidential Plus card by Chase. A layover doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

That's not all. Many of these premium rewards credit cards grant cardholders priority boarding and waive certain airline fees.

The perks keep coming at the hotel. For example, American Express Platinum charge card holders receive room upgrades (depending on room availability), free breakfast, a spa credit, or complimentary food and beverages at participating hotels and resorts worldwide, according to Leah Gerstner, a spokeswoman for American Express.

Those carrying a Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card from Chase can expect similar high-end benefits. Additionally, cardholders get three Ritz-Carlton Club upgrades each year, says company spokeswoman Laura Rossi.

A signature of the Ritz-Carlton experience, Club services include living-room type lounges that offer a hot breakfast buffet, lunchtime sandwiches and salads, afternoon tea with scones and small bites, predinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and late-evening cordials and chocolates.

2. Service
Premium rewards credit cards also come with personal assistants, or something very close to it. Most issuers offer customer service representatives 24/7 to help cardholders with such mundane tasks as procuring hard-to-get tickets, booking a table at Gordon Ramsay's newest restaurant or coordinating one-of-a-kind travel experiences, such as a cruise with the Food Network, says Thomas Hobbs, director of Discover Network product management, which includes the issuer's Premium and Premium Plus cards.

Other unique customer services include emergency translation services, weather forecasts, ATM locations, referrals for specialty services such as dog groomers and tailors, or locating rare books or other items for purchase.

One Discover Premium Plus cardholder sought help after a tree demolished half his house the night before a big vacation.

"The cardholder called, and the concierge helped track down the cardholder's insurance company and helped them rearrange their upcoming vacation," Hobbs says.

This past holiday season, American Express expanded its concierge services to include holiday shopping for its Platinum cardholders. Those lucky enough to hold the silver card could submit their Christmas (or Hanukkah) lists to the concierge gift-buying service, which would research gift options, compare prices, buy the presents and ship them. The only caveats: The purchases had to go on the Platinum card at a retailer that takes American Express.