Blog

Is the MasterCard Black Card Worth the $495 Fee?

By: Bryce Conway – Founding Editor of 10xTravel.com

Disclosure: This post may contain references to products from our advertisers. We may receive compensation from products we link to. We appreciate your support.

Hi Travel Junkies,

Today, we’re going to answer a few questions about a relatively new credit card on the market that is generating quite a bit of buzz, the MasterCard Black Card.

We have been getting a ton of questions about this card over the past couple weeks, probably due to the extensive marketing they have done lately.

So, is the MasterCard Black Card a good option for you?

Let’s start by taking a quick look at the offer details:

  • Earn 1 point for every $1 you spend
  • Points are worth 2 cents each when redeemed for airfare, 1.5% for cash back
  • Annual $100 airline credit (includes airline tickets, baggage fees, etc.)
  • $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • Luxury Card Concierge access 24/7
  • Primary cardholders receive membership to Priority Pass
  • $495 annual fee, not waived ($195 fee per additional users)

To put it bluntly, The MasterCard Black Card is basically the equivalent of taking a $7 bottle of gas station vodka, dumping it in to an empty Grey Goose bottle, then strutting around a nightclub like you own the place.

It’s buying a $50 Timex watch, scratching off the “Tim”, writing “Rol” with a fine-point sharpie, and then showing off your brand new “Rolex” to all your friends.

It’s taking a Capital One Venture Card, spray painting it black, writing “Black Card” on the front, and posting a picture to Instagram with the #HatersWillSayItsPhotoshopped (this one is way more accurate than you think. More on that in a bit).

Are these metaphors over the top? Perhaps.

I could be a little more generic and spend the rest of this review telling you how the MasterCard Black Card “doesn’t quite stack up” to other premium cards and that “it might not be for everyone”.

Or I can tell you the truth, which is that I think this card is an overpriced mediocre product that was designed to appeal to the style-over-substance crowd by mimicking the legendary American Express Centurion Card—the real Black Card.

One of the great things about the world of points and miles is that almost everything can be backed up with numbers and analysis. So, let’s do some analysis to see how the MasterCard Black Card stacks up against some of the other more popular credit card offers.

And because the MasterCard Black Card compares itself to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and American Express Platinum Card on their own website, I will be using those cards for my analysis.

image1

This is laughably deceptive – Photo courtesy of Luxurycard.com

Earning and Redeeming Points

The MasterCard Black Card earns 1 point per $1 on everything you buy, which is neither good nor bad until you know what the points are worth.

A common mistake made in the world of points and miles is to assume that 2 is always greater than 1.

Points earned from the MasterCard Black Card can be redeemed to book airfare on any airline at a value of 2 cents per point, redeemed for cash back at a value of 1.5 cents per point, or used to book hotels or rental cars at a value of 1 cent per point.

The MasterCard Black Card

RedemptionValue per Point
Airfare2 cents
Cash Back1.5 cents
Hotels + Rental Cars1 cent

Which leads one to ask, why the hell would you ever redeem points to book a hotel or rental car when you could just take cash back at a 50% higher rate and use said cash to book a hotel or rental car?

Anyway, moving on.

One positive aspect of points earned with the MasterCard Black Card is that there are no restrictions on which airline, hotel or rental car company you book with. Cardholders can simply call the number on the back of the card or visit the card’s website to book any travel they like. Points can offset some or all of the cost of the travel.

The same can be said about points earned from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Platinum Card from American Express, and the Citi Prestige Card. However Chase Sapphire Reserve, Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige also have the option to transfer points to a number of different travel partners, which can provide much better value.

And let’s not forget the sign-up bonus, perhaps the best feature of any credit card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum generally have sign-up bonuses of 50,000 and 60,000 points, respectively. Citi Prestige does not have a bonus at the moment but has regularly offered bonuses of 40,000 to 70,000 points in the past. The MasterCard Black card has no bonus and as far as I can tell and never has.

MasterCard Black CardChase Sapphire ReservePlatinum Card from American ExpressCiti Prestige Card
Sign-up Bonus (as of publishing date)None50,000 points after $4,000 spend in 3 months60,000 points after $5,000 spend in 3 monthsNone

(But has offered as high as 75,000 in the past)

Annual Fee$495$450$550$450
Bonus

Categories

1 point per $1 spent on everything.3x points on dining and travel.

1x point on everything else

5x points on flights and hotels booked with American Express Travel

1x points on everything else

3x on air travel and hotels

2x on dining and entertainment

1x on everything else

Point ValuePoints are worth 2 cents each on any airfare, 1.5 cents each for cash back, 1  cent each for hotels and rental carsPoints are worth 1.5 cents each to book any travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards*

Points also transfer to a variety of airline and hotel programs

Points are worth 1 cent each to book airfare through Amex Travel*

Points also transfer to a variety of airline and hotel programs

Points are worth 1.25 cents each to book airfare through the Citi Travel Center*

Points also transfer to a variety of airline and hotel programs

*There are a variety of other redemption options such as cash back and gift cards, but their value is generally lower and somewhat irrelevant to this comparison

Bottom Line – Earning and Redeeming:

You can debate all day about the winner between the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Amex Platinum and Citi Prestige, but you cannot debate the fact that the MasterCard Black Card is inferior to any of these 3 cards when it comes to earning and redeeming points.

The MasterCard Black touts the fact that their points are worth “2%” vs 1.5%, 1.25%, and 1% for Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and Amex Platinum respectively. While this is technically true, it completely disregards the fact that the MasterCard Black earns just 1 point per dollar (vs as many as 3-5x on certain categories offered by its peers) and the 2% redemption applies to airfare only.

The MasterCard Black Card also has no ability to transfer your points to airline and hotel partners (the other 3 cards do), which is typically where points and miles enthusiasts get the most value out of their points.

Take me for example. I’ve been into points and miles for 5+ years now, earning millions of miles across each of these rewards programs. I have never, in my entire life, redeemed a single Chase Ultimate Rewards point, Amex Membership Rewards point or Citi ThankYou Point via their respective travel portals. All of my miles have been redeemed by transferring them to airline (and occasionally) hotel partners.

Travel Benefits

The MasterCard Black Card offers a $100 airline credit each calendar year that is valid for the purchase of airfare, baggage fees and most in-flight purchases. This credit is issued automatically and is not restricted to any particular airline.

Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 3x that amount ($300) annually and the credit works for any type of travel, not just airfare.

The Amex Platinum offers an annual $200 airline incidental credit (does not cover the purchase of airline tickets) and they are restricted to one single airline of your choosing.

The Citi Prestige offers $250 annually that works on paid airfare and other airline related expenses.

MasterCard Black CardChase Sapphire ReservePlatinum Card from American ExpressCiti Prestige
Travel Benefits*$100 annual airline credit

$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit

Priority Pass Select Membership

Baggage delay insurance

Trip interruption insurance

$300 in travel credits every year

$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit

Primary car rental insurance + other trip insurance coverage

Priority Pass Select Membership

Baggage delay insurance

Trip interruption insurance

Primary rental car insurance

$200 airline incidental credit each year

$15 monthly Uber credit ($20 in December)

$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit

Access to the Amex Global Lounge Collection

Baggage delay insurance

$250 annual airline credit, woks on paid airfare on any airline

Complimentary 4th night free on any hotel stay booked through the Citi Thank You program

$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit

Priority Pass Select Membership

Baggage delay insurance

Trip interruption insurance

*Travel benefits list does not include all card benefits. Once again, only showing the relevant ones here.

Bottom Line – Travel Benefits:

This one is an easy comparison, as every travel benefit feature offered by the MasterCard Black Card is also offered by its 3 competitors. With each of the other 3 offering additional benefits not matched by the MasterCard Black Card.

As with the earning and redeeming, there is much debate in the points and miles world as to whether Chase Sapphire Reserve, Amex Platinum or Citi Prestige offer the best travel benefits of the bunch.

However, once again, The MasterCard Black Card is not even on the same playing field as its self-proclaimed peers.

Other Card Benefits

MasterCard Black CardChase Sapphire ReservePlatinum Card from American ExpressCiti Prestige
Other Card Benefits*Made of metal

24/7 Concierge Services

No foreign transaction fees

Global luggage delivery and chauffer services

VIP Travel Program, giving you travel perks at 3,000+ hotels worldwide

Access to “curated, once in a lifetime events”

Members only Luxury Magazine Subscription

Made of metal

24/7 Concierge Services

No foreign transaction fees

Made of metal

24/7 Concierge Services

No foreign transaction fees

$15 monthly Uber credit ($20 in December)

Made of metal

24/7 Concierge Services

No foreign transaction fees

Bottom Line – Other Card Benefits:

This is where things can get a little blurry because it is difficult to value many of these other card benefits.

First, let me clarify that MasterCard Black includes benefits such as global luggage delivery and chauffer services but these benefits are not free. By that logic, I could claim that 10xTravel also includes “chauffer service”, simply email me and I will forward your request to a company that offers these services.

But I’m not ignorant to the fact that there is a value to the convenience of having someone handle these things for you.

So, I am happy to concede that MasterCard Black Card is on the same playing field as the other premium cards when it comes to other card benefits, if not a half-step better. I’ll even concede that the visual appeal of the MasterCard Black Card is on par with the others, assuming it is being viewed by someone who doesn’t immediately recognize that it is intended to look like an Amex Centurion Card (Black Card).

MasterCard Black Card’s Real Peer

The closest comparison to MasterCard Black Card, in my opinion, is the Venture from Capital One. They both play the same “2 is greater than 1” game, with the Capital One Venture Card earning 2x points on everything that are worth 1 cent per point and MasterCard Black Card earning 1 point on everything that are worth 2 cents each.

At least from a spending and redeeming standpoint they are identical products.

MasterCard Black CardVenture from Capital One
Signup BonusNone50,000 points after $3,000 spend in 3 months
Annual Fee$495$95
Spending Rewards1 point per $1 spent on everything.2 points per $1 spent on everything.
Point ValuePoints are worth 2 cents each on any airfare, 1.5 cents each for cash back, 1  cent each for hotels and rental carsPoints are worth 1 cent each toward any type of travel redemption
Travel Benefits*$100 annual airline credit

$100 TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit

Priority Pass Select Membership

Baggage delay insurance

Trip interruption insurance

Visa Signature Benefits
Other Card Benefits*Made of metal

24/7 Concierge Services

No foreign transaction fees

Global luggage delivery and chauffer services

VIP Travel Program, giving you travel perks at 3,000+ hotels worldwide

Access to “curated, once in a lifetime events”

Made of metal

24/7 Concierge Services

No foreign transaction fees

So, like I said earlier, take the Capital One Venture Card, paint it black, write “Black Card” on the front, remove the sign-up bonus, add $400 to the annual fee, and add a few “luxury benefits” (yes, I am using the quotation marks to indicate that I am saying that sarcastically) and you have the MasterCard Black Card.

Bottom Line

So, is the MasterCard Black Card worth the $495 fee?

In a word, no.

In two words, hell no.

If you happen to have this card at the moment and disagree with my analysis, or would like suggestions on better options, feel free to email me. I read every email I receive.

Happy Travels,

Bryce

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like