The VISA Black Card: A Smart Strategy in Trying Times

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.

The Visa Black Card comes with an Exclusive Rewards Program. Apply Now!

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.

Become a VISA Black Card member today and enjoy its many benefits. Apply Now!

  • howard chase

    Actually you need to spend $250,000 in a rolling 12 month period to qualify, not the $150,000 you mention (this is a pre 2006 requirement), see

  • Drea

    Howard, thanks for pointing that out. My source was out of date. I fixed the number.

  • Lacie Logan

    ‘More banks should be thinking like you.’? Are you kidding? Barclays is probably the least fashionable bank in the UK, and their ‘Black Card’ is a cheap knock off

  • hchase


    Definitely agree, check out the hands on photos these guys have, the card even feels cheap:

  • I recently saw an advertisement on the back of a magazine for this card, and immediately thought they were looking to tread on the toes of AmEx. I think it’s a good idea, but then I thought that the ad would take away from this card’s exclusivity.
    However, that may be a great way to get high-net worth individuals to spend on high-ticket items allowing them to collect high fees. We’ll just have to see how well it does.

  • Sounds like it isn’t a head-to-head, exactly.

    btw, the ads on this page with auto-play audio are atrocious!

  • I had a customer tell me he had to spend $42,000 by the end of the day. He wondered if he could put a $40K lighting control system on his AMEX. Of course he could! I came to find out that he has a Black Card and he was $42K shy of his yearly spending requirement. Sadly, all my customers aren’t like this.

  • Howie

    AMEX has no year-to-year 250k spending requirements, only initiation requirement of 250k spent and paid off in a rolling 12 month period, it is incorrect to suggest otherwise —

    Here’s a comparison of the Visa Black Card against the Centurion Card (they don’t really compare):

  • I have to disagree completely; the black card is utterly removed from reality. The real benefit is a concierge service? I just visited a mall in Glendale, CA that offers concierge services to ANYBODY walking the grounds. It’s a vapid, nutty strategy…

  • Dwight Shrdue

    They can’t get 12 Arabian horses for my daughters wedding. Nor can they get Brown Bears in Army Gear.

  • Widow

    I am not only curious about what criteria are used to determine who will be the 1%, but even more so, how perspective members are found, for promotion by mail. I have a high credit rating and several credit and charge cards,in good standing,(with much better deals than this one), and I was not solicited for this Black Card. However, my late husband received a large, black envelope, with an application to apply. He’s been dead for 7 years and is listed as deceased with all matters of credit and banking. I thought it was a funny coincidence, for a deceased person to receive an ad for a BLACK card, in this funereal design, and when I saw that it’s only for 1%, I wondered if one of the criteria is being deceased? lol But seriously, it shows poor research technique, in marketing.

  • RP

    Jesus Christ!!! What a bunch of whiners… All Barclays is trying to do is market something new and different which quite honestly will probably appeal to many people. Everyone is so quick to criticize then for trying to be innovative. Obviously as a head-to-head comparison to the Centurion card it doesn’t stand a chance. But then again you’re not paying an initiation fee of 5K and $2500 a year for the Black Card neither. Ok so I’m not poor but I sure as hell am not in the top 1% of the US but earlier this year I received the Visa B/C in the mail without applying for it and I decided to keep it for at least a year. I want to see how much I’ll benefit from the perks and I’m really curious to see just how many high end gifts I’ll get thru the year. Yes, the B/C looks a bit on the cheap side but in its defense I have an Armani suit that cost me $1800 and it “looks” cheaper then one of my Hart Schaffner suits that cost $490. So can we really judge it by what it looks like, “I’m not quite sure how hchase who left a previous comment was able to FEEL the card by looking at the photos”. It’s lighter then a regular C/C so maybe that’s what carbon graphite is suppose to feel like, not sure. Point is that this card like all other cards isn’t going to appeal to everyone so if you don’t want it then don’t get it.

  • BM

    Barclay’s must be really desperate to offer me a Visa Black Card, and I am nowhere near 1% of US population that the brochure claims is the target customer for this card. As a matter of fact I have not even used a credit card in the last 3-4 years and have no debt other than the mortgage.
    At the same time, the brochure is very impressive in it’s packaging, print design and well wriiten to give it an exclusive feel and for a moment I was tempted to get the card untill I saw that there was an annual fee of $495.

  • mhn

    if you need this card, you’re an idiot. best of luck to you helpless people! in fact, i’m having my concierge finish the typing.

  • jaustinite

    My household also received an invitiation for this card. I don’t actually think they’re trying to go head to head with the Centurion Black Card. I think they’re trying to get current Amex Platinum cardholders (or anyone else who doesn’t qualify for an Amex Black Card) to defect to this new Visa Black Card. The Barclays card appears to offer almost the exact same perks as my Platinum Amex – although I suspect Barclays falls short because they don’t say which airlines’ lounges you can use, and I don’t think they offer as many travel benefits and deals. But it costs $50 more per month presumably because it’s black, not platinum.

    I can’t imagine why anyone would switch to a card with a higher fee and vague benefits that may or may not stack up to Amex’s Platinum Card benefits (which btw are almost identical to the Centurion Card benefits) for the “prestige” of having a black card that lets anyone apply and is obviously not exclusive. I bet the Amex Platinum Card is harder to get than this one. It feels gimmicky to me; like Lacie Logan said above, it’s seems like a knock off. And nobody who’s looking for prestige wants a knock off.

  • jaustinite

    Oops, I meant that it’s $50 more per YEAR (not month).

  • John Palmer

    The Visa black card is really great, I got mine with Public Savings Bank

    What a difference it made, saving a lot of money!

  • Chase

    I agree with everything jaustinite said. I too have a Plat. AmEx and was solicited for the VISA Blk Card, prob. for that reason, and the only benifit that the VISA seems to have over the AmEx is the ability to carry a balance from one month to the next…if you consider that a benifit.

  • mgk

    The Visa Black card is a fraud from my perspective. Your priority pass lounge access is limited to 2 visits and then you are charged $27 per visit. Any consumer can buy an unlimited priority pass for $300 – why pay Visa Black’s $495 fee to get two visits to an airport lounge? Because, of the points you say – it takes 30,000 points to get $500 in airfare at full fare rates, and your points are capped at 60,000 in any given year. Good luck flying anywhere despite no blackout dates. I got my card and called to ask about these limitations – the ’24/7′ concierge transfered me to customer service who then transferred me to the rewards department who closed at 5pm est and whose automated operator then hung up on me. A second call resulted in confirmation of the loung limitation by the concierge, confirmation of the points limits by customer service. But, when I asked for a supervisor and stated I thought they had falsely advertised their offers, the supervisor ‘could not confirm any record’ of these limitations of knowledge of their ads or offers in the invitation. You can do better with your own unlimited priority pass and any airline or rewards card with $80-$100 annual fees. Shame on you ‘Black Card’ – your offer is fraudulent and your service is far from ‘elite’. I’ve cancelled mine!

  • MEL

    I just received and application for the Visa Black Card in the mail just the other day. I was uncertain if I should apply. After reading all of your responses, I am even more uncertain.

    I guess the perk is this, having a little more of a perk, for a lot more money (available and annual fee), while gaining somewhat of an prestige status compared to the ‘average Joe or Jane’.

    For that I guess the question is, Is it worth it? I guess it depends on who is your audience. For the perks that you get, the verdict is still out!

  • Hookers don’t thak the Black Card, so it’s useless junk.

  • DanTe

    Visa Signature is the top Visa offering. The Visa “Black Card” is a make believe top card. Much like make believe Rolex’s, it doesn’t work quite as well as the real thing. Compare the Visa Black with a Visa Platinum Plus and you will find amazing similarities. If you really want a knock-off black card and is not afraid to be laughed at by those who knows better, don’t pay the $495 per year for this junk. Just sign up for a Capital One card that you can design yourself, and just pick a black back ground. And if you really want to bling it up for the imbeciles, have the words “BLACK CARD” printed on it too. It’s cheaper.

  • Sam

    We got an invitation in the mail for this card. We’re not an ‘uber-rich’ family or high-end at all. We’re an upper-middle class family at most. We don’t spend very much at all…in fact, we’re rather thrifty, if I may say so myself. Yes, we have excellent credit, but only because we are careful with our spending and don’t shell out tons of money left and right. The most we spend on is for education – one kid going to private middle school, and one to college. I really don’t think that this card is exclusive at all, seeing as we got an invitation. :P It’s just hyped up, that’s all.

  • Joe

    I received this offer in the mail and my wife thought that there must have been a mistake. I am 29 years old and have an income of $75,000. I have a great credit score in the upper 700’s…but I definitely would not call myself “elite”
    This card seems like something to flash around to make the owner feel rich, but in reality it is just a normal credit card with high fees and credit limits.

  • Are you kidding me? This thing is $495 a year down the toilet.

  • Ms. Gleeson

    I received this in the mail and I am a second grade teacher. Elitist indeed.

  • Krishna

    If limiting to 1% of US population is “exclusive”, somebody at Barclay’s must have gone crazy. If the “uber-rich” can do the math right (I know some of them can’t), that would be 3 million people to whom this card will be “limited”. To achieve that number is probably Barclay’s dream. And yes, like most others who have posted here, I’ve received an offer too, with the promise of benefits that are not even listed (on their website as well).

  • zeitgeist

    I just received one of these about a week ago. I must say, I was initially intrigued. But then I read on. I’ve never paid a yearly fee and just about choked when I read “$495”.

    I have a credit score in the low 800’s, but am I in the top 1% of the nation? No way.

    I make a decent amount of money, but not enough to play with the big boys and girls.

    Joe summed it up beautifully. “.. something to flash around to make the owner feel rich”.

  • Fred Flintstone

    This card is limited to 1% of the population because only 1% are stupid or pretentious enough to accept the terms. Duh…….. If you are spending 250k or better a year they should be paying you a $495.00 fee plus rewards to use their card. Yeah, I got the invite……sorry Barclay’s, you want me to carry your card then pay me. Send an invite to Kanye West, that fool will go for it.

  • spencer

    Honestly the $495 annual fee turned me off. Reading further I find that they will extend “a minimum of $250 line of credit to qualified applicants”. Yes, $250… but be prepared to shell out $39 if you go over your limit and remember the $495 is included in your first statement. This card is marketed to suckers, rich and poor.

  • scott

    Have a credit score around 825 and make 250k a year. Received a credit limit from the black card of $7500. That is the lowest credit limit I have out of the 12 credit cards I own.

  • Scott,

    Why would you pay $495 for a crappy card like this?

  • steelytim

    I received an invitation and I’m in debt up to my eyeballs. The reason Barclay’s doesn’t advertize membership criteria is that it’s no more strict than any other card, only that they cap membership to 1% of US population. Let me figure this, 1% US population is roughly 3 million, times that by the $495 yearly fee and Barclays makes… 1.5 BILLION FREAKING DOLLARS just in annual fees??? Holy cow, somebody double check my math.

  • Only an idiot would pay 500 dollars a year for a flipping credit card.
    The Visa Black Card is for middle income earners that want to pretend they are wealthy.
    Like the dolts that live in their mom’s basement and go out on Friday night to buy “bottle service” at some stupid club..

  • chris

    I received an offer as well. The shredder enjoyed yet another meal..

  • Jim

    People need to read and understand properly before posting.

    To the people that have received an advertisement to apply for the card – it does NOT say that it is only for the “top” 1% of the US population. It says that it will be offered to only 1% of the US population.

    As other posters have commented, 1% of 300M people (US population) is 3M people. They are only saying that they will only allow 3 million people to have this card – those 3 million people will come from all different backgrounds with various incomes, jobs, etc. It is NOT for the “TOP” 1% of the US.

    This is nothing more than marketing. Multiply 3,000,000 x $495. How much does that come to? Go on…add it up and don’t get confused by all of the zeros. It is a way for Barclays to try to get $1.5 BILLION dollars in ANNUAL fees from SUCKERS. Suckers who will be part of an “elite” membership, only available to 1% of the US popluation.

    Basically, Barclays is saying they will only screw 1% of the population with this BS card. They do not care who – as long as you will pay the annual fee and generally qualify for a credit card. I doubt the “qualifications” will be any different than applying for a Gold or Platinum card with them.

    Wow – thos suckers will really impress the 16 year old check out girls at Blockbuster when they pull out this card. Well..maybe not. Most dopes just swipe the card really quick and give it back to you. It is not like the old days where they had to enter it in manually to process the transaction. In other instances there are self check out machines where the customer swipes it themselves so the check out person never even sees or touches your card.

    What a waste of money for such bullsh*t “benefits” and making you feel like you are part of the “elite” crowd.

    Anyone who gets this card is a fool.

  • on the way up

    You guys have been so entertaining and informative. I now know if ever I make it to the “elite” crowd I will be designing my own one of a kind card that won’t be through any pre-existing credit card company. It will truly be even less than 1% of the population of the WORLD. . . me. :-) I am proud to say that I may start a new trend, but it won’t be geared to any “suckers” as I am not a sucker myself. I mean if you’re really that rich why would you want to pay interest just because you have good credit?? Well, if that’s a “benefit” of having good credit then I’m quite glad mine is mediocre at best. Couldn’t you just have a reloadable one of a kind card that your bank can clear at the end of each day, week, month without charging such outrageous fees and interest?? We might have just figured out how the rich can become “the broke”. . .

  • jim

    I received this offer, i own a debit card and I like it because its my own money and I like to use it wisely, which probably makes me part of the US 1% who dont believe in debt and or credit cards. screw you blacky.

  • dsv

    FWIV, the invitation simply says “limited to 1% of US residents”. My take on that is “we will keep sending this invitation until 1% of the US population accepts it”! Since I got it, I am assuming that not many people are taking up this offer, and they have trickled their way all the way down to me :)

  • RP

    Interesting comments from everyone. I’m still trying to understand you everyone is so angry over this card. I have to admit, $495 is a bit high but I also pay $450 for my Amex Platinum Card. As for everyone here saying “why would the elite pay for a credit card”, they do it all the time for the Amex Centurion card, 5k initiation and $2500 yearly. So I don’t really see how the black card would be any different. The plus side to the Black card is the free gifts, now I’ll be the first to admit I thought I was going to get more thru the year, but some is better then none. Last year I received the Cross pen with my name engraved which I think all members received as a welcome gift and I got a Swiss Army watch. Also, just yesterday I got home and saw a package from BC and to my surprise it was a pair of Ray Ban aviator sunglasses. So far so good……

  • Marisa

    All these black/centurion cards are just another status symbol so the rich and well to do can flash how look were not only rich but were connected to something EXCLUSIVE, we are and your not

  • RP

    and what’s wrong with having something exclusive?

  • Julie in CA

    Just got my Visa Black Card today. I’m FURIOUS with this ripoff. I’ve been an AMEX platinum card holder for a few years. I thought about canceling my AMEX platinum when they dropped their companion ticket benefit. I justified the cost of the card ($450 annual) with the free companion tickets. The main reason I got it was for access to airport lounges, but that benefit was imperfect — I have status on United, and United seems to be the only airline that the Amex Platinum card doesn’t get you access to. And since San Francisco is my home airport, it just didn’t make sense to leave United.

    So when I was invited to get the Visa Black Card, I was thrilled to learn that I could get access to United’s airport lounges. I even called customer service to confirm this. Today I got my new card, activated it, signed up for the airport club access and ONLY THEN discovered that it isn’t really included as a card benefit. The first four visits are free, but after that they charge you $27 per person per visit. This, in my mind, is BS — and false advertising. I can’t find any fine print anywhere that explains this, and had I known I would have kept my Amex Platinum card.

    For $495 per year Visa Black dares to play tricks on your customers AFTER we’ve been hit with a credit check that could dampen my perfect credit score? I’ve been a customer for less than 1 hour, I’m furious, and I’m canceling this card and ranting about it every chance I get. Barclays, shame on you.

  • mary

    Haha! I am a 32 year old dialysis technician who makes $35K a year. I recently moved back in with my parents (albeit temporary) to pay off some serious debt left over from a failed relationship. I’m so poor I can’t even afford to pay rent yet I’m considered elite enough for this prestigious card?! Riiiiiight. That’s just funny.

  • Burt

    If you ask me, the “prestige” of this card falls a little flat. I am 27 years old, have what I believe to be excellent credit and make about $70k a year. Apparently I fit the mold for a Visa Black Card, as I have received a solicitation from them. I guess the “status” thing worked right away, as my girlfriend was a little perturbed that I would get an invite while she spends more and doesn’t get one.

    I’d have to get a lot of perks to spend $500 on an annual fee for a card. This card doesn’t seem to offer much more than my current Amex. Personally, I prefer cash back to points and really value cards for purchase protection, rental car insurance, and the extended warranty. In this respect, my regular Amex does just fine.

    I see one guy said he got a pair of Ray Ban aviators. Well $500 will buy me a few pairs of aviators on my Amex.

  • mikey

    im literally a bum, a criminal, and a jobless f*cker and i just received this invitation in the mail…..i mean i do ok and pay all my bills on time…but im just a hustler squeezing dollars out of stones…i felt good when i got this but the more i ponder it, the more it’s a big hustle just like me…i have to say one thing though, it has made me research the amex centurion and now i am seriously considering getting that card as that is the real deal when it comes to high end materialistic sh*t….that card is no joke when it comes time to plop it down on a table to fill the bill

    ps imagine going into a high end store and plopping the thing on a sexy cashier while letting her see you adjust your groin area, all while making eye contact with her…that could create quite a weird yet interesting vibe!!

  • dan

    yeah stick with the centurion! amex black is the classy way!

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  • Daniel

    I just got a Visa Signature Credit Card in the mail with no annual fee from Bank of America. The card comes with a complimentary Concierge and I was able to get a lot of information in just 45 minutes. There are other benefits as well.

    Now why would I need a Black Visa Card with add on fees when I can get a good credit card with no annual fee?