First it was American Express’ Centurion, a rare and mysterious card that the super-wealthy considered to be the ultimate status symbol. Its ridiculous perks—a credit limit high enough to buy a small island, and a reputation strong enough to get holders into the most elite of establishments–are outweighed by equally ridiculous requirements, namely, invite-only applications to people who spend more than $250,000 annually on their other American Express cards, and an annual fee of $2,500.
Now Barclays Bank has caught on. The VISA Black card, a carbon graphite edifice of spending power, was recently released to butt gold-plated heads with the Centurion. The annual fee is a piddling $495, meaning that the card may attract more lowbrow aspects of the 1% of the US population that is its market.
According to AdSavvy, the card’s real perk lies in its concierge service:
For the ultra-rich, buying whatever you want can get boring; they need the ability to actually do something that other people can’t. A good concierge can do that. You need 12 Arabian horses for your daughters wedding? Call up the concierge, he’ll have them flown in from Dubai…The ability to get difficult things done is what sets these cards apart from just a card with a very high limit. Just the knowledge that cardholders have that ability, 24-hours a day, keeps them happy.
Barclays is moving away from the water-from-turnips paradigm that other issuers have been using to stay afloat during the crunch. As in, give average Joes, with average credit limits, a lower limit in order to lessen risk. Raise late fees and rates. Hope that this combination of factors lessens risk and increases profit potential.
Targeting the uber-rich, as Barclays is doing, is a much smarter move. These lucky few hold as much money as millions of average Joes. They value status and ease over fees. By issuing a card that makes the very wealthy feel secure and elite enough to use on a regular basis, Barclays exposes itself to big profits from higher merchant fees as a percentage of purchase. That sure beats reducing risk and crossing your fingers—the average Joe strategy.
Good move, Barclays. More banks should be thinking like you.