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Visa's black card shows rewards going upscale
It's been widely reported this week that credit card companies are becoming increasingly stingy with their rewards programs.
Discover now makes cardholders give up cash rewards if they are late on a payment for more than two months or if their account is stagnant for 18 months. American Express abolished its double miles reward for shoppers using the Delta SkyMiles card. Chase cut some of the cash-back rewards on its Freedom card for new customers, and Citibank will eliminate in March some of the options in its ThankYou Rewards program aimed at air travelers.
Even rewards for AmEx's mad-elite Centurion card are being shaved. Cardholders used to get two nights for the price of one at Mandarin Oriental hotels in Hong Kong, Boston and Miami, which runs about $500 a night. But, epically sad, they will now only get a $200 credit.
The increase in rewards slashing is blamed on, of course, the gimp economy, which has banks cutting costs in an attempt to raise profits -- or at least stanch the flow of red ink.
But while most companies are becoming stingy with their rewards for cards aimed at the sheepherding masses, card issuers continue to pile rewards on for the champagne-popping, sheep-eating upper crust.
Thus, enter the new luxury card -- the Visa Black card.
Boasting rewards such as a 24-hour concierge service, access to VIP airport lounges and the ambiguous claim of "luxury gifts," the card is hunting for the same audience as the AmEx's Centurion card. It also carries a $495 annual fee, which is rich-folk pocket lint compared to the $2,500 annual fee the Centurion card requires.
Visa's Web site says only 1 percent of U.S. residents will qualify its black card. But with almost every issuer offering their version of a black card, I wouldn't be surprised if a bum like me could get one.
See related: Designer Cavalli launches credit card, Diamond-inlaid credit card to be released in Kazakhstan, The real dirt on celebrity credit cards
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