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CNBC Select

Best luxury and premium credit cards of April 2020

CNBC Select reviews popular rewards credit cards to find the best options for people who want luxury perks and premium benefits.

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Luxury credit cards can provide immense value, but often come with a steep annual fee and credit score requirements. If you're looking for a card with airport lounge access, automatic gold status with travel programs or generous statement credit offers, chances are you'll have to pay a premium.

And most luxury cards require good or excellent credit (scores 670 and above) to qualify. If you meet the credit score requirements and want to open a premium credit card, you'll first want to weigh the annual fee against the benefits to ensure you get the most value.

If your calculations show that a high annual fee isn't worthwhile, consider the best credit cards with annual fees less than $100 or the best no annual fee credit cards.

Below, CNBC Select reviews popular rewards credit cards to find the best options for people who want luxury perks.

Best luxury and premium credit cards

Best for dining out and restaurants

American Express® Gold Card

American Express® Gold Card
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points when you dine at restaurants worldwide and shop at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    35,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See rates and fees

  • Balance transfer fee

    See rates and fees

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees and our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned on dining worldwide and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Up to $100 credit in airline fees, up to $120 in dining credits at participating partners and up to $100 hotel credit
  • 35,000 Membership Rewards® points welcome bonus after you spend $4,000 within first 3 months
  • Baggage insurance plan covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • No introductory APR period
  • $250 annual fee
  • This is a charge card, which means you have to pay off your balance in full each billing cycle
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $824
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,719

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? If you consider yourself a foodie, the American Express® Gold Card could be the ideal luxury card for you. This card earns a competitive 4X points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide and 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X). So if you want to dine at a trendy restaurant or cook at home, you can benefit from competitive rewards. Plus travelers can benefit from the 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on Amextravel.com.

As an added dining perk, cardholders receive dining credits of $10 every month, which can be used at at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations (one-time activation required). This monthly dining credit saves you up to $120 per year and offsets the cost of eating out. 

Travelers can take advantage of an annual $100 airline fee credit to cover the cost of in-flight food and beverages, seat upgrades and baggage fees. And, there are no foreign transaction fees, so purchases abroad come at no added cost.

The Amex Gold Card has the lowest annual fee of any card on this list at $250 (see rates and fees). It can easily be offset if you take advantage of all the added card benefits. Just using the $120 dining credit and $100 airline fee credit each year effectively reduces the fee to $30. Then, the rewards you earn help further "pay" for the card.

Gold Card holders can also benefit from Amex Offers, where you can earn statement credits or bonus Membership Rewards® points at select retailers, which may include restaurants.

Best for redemption bonus

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X points on dining at restaurants worldwide, 1X point per $1 on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.49% to 25.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit for travel purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every four years
  • Priority Pass™ Select lounge access at 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide
  • Special benefits at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • Free DashPass subscription for a minimum of a year when you activate by December 31, 2021
  • $60 DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021
  • Complimentary year of Lyft Pink membership

Cons

  • High $550 annual fee, but it can be offset by taking advantage of all the card’s perks
  • No introductory APR
  • Relatively high balance transfer fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,231
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,755

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a standout travel card with a unique rewards redemption bonus: Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel via the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 redeemed toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This perk is unmatched among competitors and a great way to maximize points.

You can also take advantage of an annual $300 travel credit, which can cover everything from airfare and hotels to parking and tolls. Cardholders earn 3X points on travel worldwide (immediately after earning your $300 annual travel credit), 3X on dining at restaurants worldwide and 1X point per $1 on all other purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees, saving you the typical 3% charge on purchases made abroad.

Foodies (particularly busy ones) will also want to consider this: The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers Lyft and DoorDash perks including 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2022 and a complimentary year of Lyft Pink membership (worth $19.99 per month). Lyft Pink includes 15% off car rides, relaxed cancellations, priority airport pickups, up to three free 30-minute bike and scooter rides per month and more. DoorDash perks include a $60 credit in 2020 and 2021, plus a free DashPass subscription when you activate by December 31, 2021.

While the Sapphire Reserve has robust rewards and perks, it doesn't come cheap: Be prepared to pay a $550 annual fee. However, all the card's added credits and benefits can help offset the cost. The $300 annual travel credit effectively reduces the annual fee to a more manageable $150. And if you take advantage of the Priority Pass™ Select membership (roughly a $429 value), as well as Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit of up to $100 every four years, you can more than recoup the fee.

Best for airlines

Citi Prestige® Card

Citi Prestige® Card
Information about the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5X points at airlines, travel agencies and restaurants, 3X points at hotels and cruise lines, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $495

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    16.99% to 23.99% variable on purchases

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Up to $250 annual travel credit
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit, up to $100 every 5 years
  • Priority Pass™ Select membership
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $495 annual fee
  • No special financing offers on new purchases
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $836
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $1,782

Rewards total incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? If you travel often and want to reduce airport stress, the Citi Prestige® Card offers a competitive rewards program for common travel expenses: Earn 5X points at airlines, travel agencies and restaurants, 3X points at hotels and cruise lines and 1X points on all other purchases.

Beyond rewards, cardholders receive an application fee credit for Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85) every five years and can access over 1,300 airport lounges with a complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership. Every year, you receive up to a $250 statement credit toward eligible travel purchases, such as airfare and hotels, which helps offset the $495 annual fee. And there is no fee on purchases made outside the U.S.

In addition to rewards, cardholders can benefit from a complimentary fourth night at a hotel of your choice after a minimum four consecutive night booking through ThankYou.com (based on your average night stay, exclusive of taxes and fees). This benefit is limited to twice a year, but it can provide a great reason to extend a trip and save money.

The Citi Prestige Card also offers a unique benefit to eligible Citigold clients who have a banking relationship with Citi. Qualifying Citigold clients can earn an annual $145 statement credit automatically on your card when you have a qualifying Citigold account and remain a cardmember. And you will receive a $25 statement credit on your card for each authorized user.

Best for business owners

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com; 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year when you book on amextravel.com

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership

  • Annual fee

    $595

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    Not applicable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Not applicable

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

Pros

  • Get 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more
  • Get 35% points back when you use points for flights
  • $200 airline fee credit for incidentals on one qualifying airline each year
  • American Express Global Lounge Collection
  • Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status and Hilton Honors Gold status
  • Up to $200 annual statement credit for Dell purchases

Cons

  • $595 annual fee
  • $300 annual fee for each additional Platinum card
  • No introductory 0% financing offers for purchases or balance transfers

Who's this for? The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is a well-rounded card offering over a dozen premium perks for business owners, such as travel rewards, lounge access, annual statement credits and complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status and Hilton Honors Gold Status.

Cardholders earn a competitive 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com and 1X points on all other purchases. Plus, you earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more. And if you redeem points for flights through Amex Travel, you get 35% points back, up to 500,000 points back per calendar year.

Luxury travel benefits that can make your business trips more affordable and smoother include: Up to a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees (every 4 or 4.5 years, respectively), access to over 1,200 airport lounges through the American Express Global Lounge Collection and an annual $200 airline fee credit for incidentals, like baggage and seat upgrades.

If you frequently purchase electronics and business supplies, you can take advantage of up to a $200 annual statement credit for Dell purchases ($100 each half of the year). Any business charges made on this card while outside the U.S. won't incur foreign transaction fees.

While the Amex Business Platinum offers a suite of benefits, it comes with a hefty $595 annual fee, which is the highest on this list (see rates and fees). You can offset the annual fee by $400, to $195, if you take full advantage of the airline fee and Dell annual statement credits.

On top of the primary account holder fee, each employee card costs $300 annually. But you do have the option to add alternative employee cards to your account for a lower fee: $200 for each additional Executive Business Card and $45 for each additional Business Gold Rewards Card. It may be hard to warrant spending $300 for multiple employee cards, so consider the low-cost options or forgo employee cards.

Learn more: Metal credit cards are a status symbol—here are 5 that you can qualify for with good credit

Best luxury and premium credit cards

Best for Dining out and restaurants Redemption bonus Airlines Business owners
Credit CardAmerican Express® Gold CardAmerican Express® Gold CardChase Sapphire Reserve®Chase Sapphire Reserve®Citi Prestige® CardCiti Prestige® CardThe Business Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Business Platinum Card® from American Express
See below for our methodology Learn MoreOn American Express's secure siteLearn MoreOn Chase's secure siteLearn MoreInformation about the Citi Prestige® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.Learn MoreOn American Express's secure site

Our methodology

To determine which cards will put the most money back in your pocket, CNBC Select evaluated popular rewards credit cards offered by major banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fees and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit score and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.

Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.

We then estimated how much the average consumer would redeem over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.

It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)

Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.

While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your travel habits.

For rates and fees of the American Express Gold® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click 
here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.