Imagine having access to practically limitless credit. You could buy anything with a swipe of your credit card. This is quite possible in the world of ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals who have access to super-premium credit cards. These are absolute top-of-the-line luxury cards. They have very high or no spending limits and give you immense social cachet. Think of unlimited lounge access around the world; top-of-the-line concierge services; curated experiences such as meals cooked by world-famous chefs; golf lessons; vouchers worth lakh of rupees for luxury brands such as Bottega Veneta, Canali, etc; and priority booking at the world’s best restaurants, among other offerings. And, there are things money can’t buy, such as a rare, autographed copy of a best-selling book, or tickets to a sold-out concert that you can get through the concierge service. If you are a UHNW individual holding one of these premium cards, the issuer will go out of its way to provide unparalleled benefits. It’s not unusual for such cards to be lined with precious metals, including diamonds. This is only a minor attraction compared to what these cards help you access. Take the example of the American Express Black Card. It is made of titanium, a precious metal, and allows limitless spending. It is reported that in one instance, its concierge service gathered sand from the Dead Sea and had it couriered to London to help a customer’s child with his school project on the Holy Land. The IndusInd Indulge Card comes with 22-carat gold inlay, has no set spending limit, and its services include discounted chartered flights, yachts and sailing lessons, and concierge services that would help you find rare supercars. Who is invited? Super-premium credit cards are offered on invitation, and are extended to customers depending on a bank’s selection criteria. Based on interactions with its high-worth customers, it prepares an invitee list. Therefore, in a typical scenario, you need to have used the bank’s other services to be eligible. For example, one card company requires you to have used one of its premium cards and met its spending threshold before you are upgraded to its super-premium card. Another bank might extend you the invitation if you have been a long-standing customer of its wealth management service. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to obtain one of these if you are not on the invitee list or not a high net worth individual. In some cases, you would not even be able to apply online for these. Snob value The benefits of such cards are endless for those who can afford these, or are eligible to enjoy such luxuries.Their annual fee could range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 4 lakh. Often, the high fees don’t deter customers who are repaid in kind — vouchers, discounts, deals, concierge services, etc. This means people looking for specific, rational benefits might seek these cards. But, if they have premium and exotic privileges through other banking relationships, or already have membership to exclusive clubs, they might not even need these. When you are weighing the benefits against the high ownership cost of these card, you need to be clear about the value you are going to derive. The card’s brand associations should resonate with you. For example, a card might promise you Canali suits but if you prefer Hugo Boss, getting this card could be a waste of money. Or, you may prefer Cartier watches but the card offers you Omega. The card should help you in your normal lifestyle, even if it means you don’t pick the most premium card in the market. Premium vs co-branded cards Do these cards give you an experience that is significantly better than what is offered by co-branded cards? Bear in mind that every card addresses specific requirements. Some of these are rational, like quantifiable value–X per cent off on business class tickets or unlimited lounge access. Then, there are emotional needs–like having an invitation-only card that is afforded to a select few, being able to buy a yacht with a card swipe, or being able to book a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant without waiting for months. Co-branded cards, especially airline cards, deliver great value to brand loyalists. In these cards, you are getting the benefit of the brand rather than the card. For example, one bank offers a Ferrari co-branded card. A Ferrari is an aspirational object. If you own this card, you could be a fan or intend to purchase one someday. Or a Ferrari owner. Therefore, for a co-branded card, one’s consumption of that brand needs to be high. Super-premium credit cards are not for everyone. But, for UHNW individuals, the high joining and annual fees are not a deterrent. The benefits these cards offer to globe-trotting worthies outweighs the cost.
The writer is chief business development officer at BankBazaar.com