High-End Cards With Snob Appeal

Credit-card issuers sweeten rewards with access to bigwigs.

Airline miles? Cash rewards? Soooo 20th century. Elite credit-card holders hanker for elitist experiences -- a gymnastics clinic with Olympic gold medalist Paul Hamm, for example, or a zero-gravity session with former astronaut Buzz Aldrin. At least that's the hope of credit-card companies targeting the "newly affluent" (once referred to as nouveau riche). Visa's Signature and MasterCard's World and World Elite cardholders gain entree to spas, golf, cultural performances, and high-end shopping and dining, as well as concierge and travel services that satisfy almost any request. Visa's Super Bowl package, for example, includes two tickets to the game, hotel accommodations and exclusive NFL party invites. Cool -- but worth $6,250?

Not to be outdone, Bank of America has its own high-end card, the Bank of America Accolades American Express card, for customers with accounts of $100,000 or more. Cardholders get concierge and other services, plus an annual charitable-contributions match of up to $2,500. For now, the bank has the decency to rebate the card's $295 annual fee. American Express also offers Platinum and Centurian card members a host of hoity-toity events. For $1,300 you can enjoy cocktails and a seven-course meal, including wines, with famed chef Thomas Keller. Or you can eat in and read What $1,000 Can Do, from our August issue.

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Senior Reporter, Kiplinger's Personal Finance