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Your Take: Does a Gold Card Really Mean Anything?

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AMEX BlackI was watching a Frontline program, The Card Game, which talked about the recently passed CARD Act. It was broadcast in November 2009 but by then the regulations and rules that would take effect in March had already been written in stone. The first piece talks about Providian, a secured credit card company that was purchased by Washington Mutual (and then acquired by JP Morgan Chase when WaMu “failed”), and a cut of the commercial showed a consumer say – “people treat you differently when they see you have a gold card.” It was Providian’s “gold” secured card.

Does having a “gold” card really mean anything? Providian had a “gold” secured card. Secured cards are for people with poor credit looking to rebuild their credit. A gold version of that card doesn’t scream “affluence” and so I was surprised to hear that as a selling point. Then again, it’s well known that we decide on emotion and confirm with logic. Providian was appealing to the emotional side by saying a gold card told people you were a somebody and then appealing to their logical side by explaining how secured cards rebuild credit.

A gold card might have meant something many years ago but I think in today’s world, gold credit cards are no longer status symbols. The only notable exception is a black card, the American Express Black Centurion card. To get one you need to spend $250,000 a year, a one time fee of $5,000, and an annual fee of $2,500. It’s an expensive way to buy respect. :)

What do you think? Do all these gold, platinum, or black cards mean anything to you? If you’re someone who has been using credit for decades, how does today’s climate differ from, say, ten or twenty years ago?

(Photo: clemson)

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54 Responses to “Your Take: Does a Gold Card Really Mean Anything?”

  1. Big Spender says:

    I’d chew my arm off for an Amex black card, so yeah, premium cards still have weight. Just not gold, because it’s two rungs below platinum and black.

  2. billsnider says:

    Hi

    In marketing we would ask ourselves whether we were selling sizzle or the steak.

    Pretty obvious in this case.

    Bill Snider

  3. “The only notable exception is a black card, the American Express Black Centurion card. To get one you need to spend $250,000 a year, a one time fee of $5,000, and an annual fee of $2,500. It’s an expensive way to buy respect.”

    I understand that if you want to appear like a big shot in NY, this is a table stakes accessory. Investment bankers etc trying to impress their peers.

    For the rest of us – irrelevant. Regardless of my income, the thought of spending $250k with a credit card gives me the creepy crawlies…

  4. If I’m a merchant, I just care if I get paid by the issuer, right?

    I’ve had gold and platinum in the past, but don’t now – and couldn’t care less.

    A friend of mine applied for a Wells Fargo card years ago. He qualified for the Platinum – but he wanted the base card, because it featured a cool scene with a historic WF stagecoach. He plays a Wells Fargo guy in some historical re-enactments, so he thought it would be cool to have that card in his wallet.

    It took quite a bit of effort on his part to get them to downgrade his card.

  5. cdiver says:

    My understanding is that the black card is an open line of credit without limits. I am sure they have many checks and balances to limit fraud.

    • Jim says:

      A lot of AMEX cards are like this, they have no stated limit but there is still one behind the scenes. It’s also a charge card, so you have to pay off the balance each month.

      Plus, they do quite a bit of vetting before they issue one.

  6. cdiver says:

    I have held one before, they are made of medal, not sure what kind. It felt like I was holding a million dollars in cash because it could do the same thing with it, if I had been the person it was issued to.

    • Jim says:

      It’s made of GRAPHITE (supposedly), so it does have a bit of heft to it over your normal plastic card. I’ve looked at one and played with it and the extra weight, plus the extra fees, does give it an air of “something different.”

      • T says:

        I’ve handled a few of these centurion cards at my previous employment… quite a number of people actually have them, so I’m not sure how viable they are as status symbols anymore. However, they are hefty things! They have a metallic feel to them.

      • Brian says:

        Jim you are talking about the VISA Black Card, which is completely different (and very lowbrow) compared to the American Express Centurion “THE black card” which IS made of titanium. Just to clarify on this 3 yr old thread.

  7. cubiclegeoff says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if in certain situations it could make a difference. Like if you are staying at a hotel (like in Vegas) and hand over your gold or black card at check-in, maybe they’ll see you as a potential big spender and give you an upgrade. But in general, I don’t think it matters and most people don’t care.

  8. T says:

    Various places have pointed out that the services provided for the Black cards and Platinum amex users are not vastly different these days. Some people have talked about downgrading because of that. So… pay $2500 in fees vs $450? I guess there will still be those who are impressed when seeing one.

  9. I don’t think that any of those cards means anything. I get a card that has the most benefits with no fees. They provide me with a credit card I can use as well as rewards for my purchases. That’s all I’m looking for in a credit card.

    • Shirley says:

      I agree! I’m not for trying to keep up with the Joneses nor out to impress anyone. Neither am I impressed by someone’s wealth, only their actions.

  10. If the gold card was made out of gold leaf then I would getting one. Without that not so much.

    Otherwise I don’t care if the card is blue, black, red, yellow. Give me the best terms I want. Either rate or points.

  11. sdziekan says:

    I just saw an ad for the first time for a Visa Black Card! It appears to offer similar benefits as the Black AmEx.

    To me the best feature both cards offer is the 24 hour concierge service, but I’m sure that alone would be worth the cost of the annual fee.

  12. ziglet19 says:

    I agree with the other posters – I suppose in big cities and fancy resturants, having one of these cards might up your status a bit, but for everyday folks like me, I doubt the cashier at Vons would be impressed.

  13. zapeta says:

    It doesn’t mean anything to me…I don’t really care what color my card is and I wouldn’t be impressed by the color of anyone’s credit card.

  14. freeby50 says:

    I don’t think that a ‘gold’ card has meant anything for good 10-20 years. I’ve had platinum cards for years and never seen any difference in treatment. A black card might be different. But for the most part these are all status symbol based marketing tricks by the card issuers.

  15. Kembala says:

    Jim, I must agree with you that gold cards do not have the same significance that they did in the past. Because after gold came titanium, platinum and everything else.

    Plus, the transaction process is much quicker now (slide and go), so people rarely glance at your card anyway.:)

  16. eric says:

    In this particular case, I can honestly say it means absolutely nothing for me. :)

  17. govenar says:

    I don’t think gold or platinum means anything now… except maybe those cards have more benefits for the cardholder like warranty extension or travel insurance.

  18. saladdin says:

    I honestly didn’t know there was a difference between gold/platinum cards. Hell, everyone gets credit cards. No one is special.

    saladdin

  19. bloodbath says:

    I am retired, too old to be superficial. A card with low rates and no fees impresses me the most.

  20. Steve Merrill says:

    I work for Chase Credit Cards, and yes, we offer a Black Visa, but what merchants actually look at your card? They don’t even check the signatures like they are suppose to. And I can tell from the customers I get on the phone, 90% of the morons shouldn’t even have a credit card to begin with, or they wouldn’t complain when they get penalized for breaking rules they knew would happen up front!

  21. javi says:

    I don’t care what color my credit card is, it’s mostly marketing now. I just want one that has good benefits for me.

  22. BrianC says:

    I’m most impressed by a good rewards program….

  23. Glenn Lasher says:

    You forgot Titanium (usually above Platinum because they ran out of precious metals and had to use something more mundane but muy cool).

    Anyway, I think I’ll stick to my aluminum card (yes, I’m joking). As a status symbol, the “metal” of your plastic is pure marketing hype. The reason they had to go to platinum, then titanium, then black is because, in their efforts to make everyone feel that having x made them elite, they made everyone elite, and soon everyone knew it, thus devaluing the thing.

    Personally, I think the smartest move is to get rid of them entirely, if you can do so practically. I am down to one functioning credit card at this point, a very utilitarian thing, bright orange with my credit union’s logo on it, a logo they haven’t updated since the 60s. It’s ugly, it has a moderate credit limit (about 6% of my annual salary), it has no rewards program, and it costs only 12.9%. They don’t play games (they skipped the recent round of interest rate increases), and they give you payment amnesty every December (i.e. minimum payment goes to $0 for that month). Now THAT is a worthwhile credit card.

    My respect would be much higher for someone carrying one of these cards than some gold, platinum, titanium, black or other status symbol card. Those status symbol cards, in my mind, label someone as a fool.

  24. Gold means relatively nothing these days. Nor does platinum. About the only thing that will matter is the black card, mainly for its ammenities.

    • @jay_diamonds says:

      I agree, like it or not, the bar has been raised. And yes, I would get one for the amenities that one should get if they are big spenders. Nothing against those who are not, but eagles don’t flock.

  25. Amex can keep their cards that charge a fee just for the privileged of carrying. I’m interested only in one thing with credit cards— the cash back rewards. I only have two credit cards and both have cash back rewards, one being the Amex Blue card. If they stopped providing rewards, I’d switch all my transactions over to a debit card (don’t need no stinking credit). Amex sends me mail periodically trying to convince me I need their gold or platinum cards that carry a yearly fee. No thanks, don’t need or want them.


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