The Good Life

Splurge on

Invitation-only cards are serving the elite's 'money can buy' moments

“There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard.” With the popular tagline becoming the norm, we have long graduated from the time when having a credit card was a class in itself. Today, luxury calls for the possession of invitation-only cards.

No wonder then that a range of premium cards are on offer, keeping an eye on the affluent and high-end customers. With names such as Ultima, Infinia, Burgundy and Centurion, these cards come with an array of lifestyle, travel, dining and personalised services.

The American Express Centurion Card, also known as the Black Card, caters to people with a personal net asset above Rs.10 crore. “The Centurion card is one of the most elite cards globally, with a niche clientele. The membership is ‘invitation’ only,” says Manoj Adlakha, vice president and general manager - consumer and merchant services and CEO, American Express Banking Corp, India. Besides the Centurion, the bank also offers the American Express Platinum Card, Platinum Reserve Credit Card and Jet Airways American Express Platinum Credit Card in the country.

The Platinum Card “is designed to add value to every facet of life — be it travel, leisure or golf  —  and services go beyond merely booking flights and making hotel reservations,” adds Adlakha. Besides, the Platinum Concierge Services offer medical assistance and legal aid, help with purchases, organise tickets to exclusive events and restaurant reservations. With benefits across 900 fine hotels and resorts, the bank provides complimentary membership to the Shangri-La Golden Circle’s Jade tier, Taj InnerCircle, Taj Epicure Plus, Club ITC Culinaire, Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Programme, Club Carlson Gold Elite status and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.

Similarly, Citibank’s Citi Ultima is currently offered in five countries in Asia. Besides India, the ‘invitation only’ card is available in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China. “Each Ultima card client is provided a dedicated lifestyle manager, who ensures personalised services,” explains Arjun Chowdhry, head of credit cards and unsecured lending, Citibank India. 

HDFC’s Infinia is broadly built on offerings that range from travel and lifestyle and even financial benefits. Interestingly, cardholders also get a Rs.3 crore air accident cover, an overseas medical insurance cover of Rs.50 lakh and credit shield of Rs.9 lakh.

Axis, on the other hand, has the Burgundy card for the elite lot. There is also the travel-oriented Miles & More co-branded card and the privilege card. “Our offerings are based on consumer research and insights that are largely centered on service levels, customisation and exclusivity,” says Rajiv Anand, executive director, retail banking, Axis Bank. The Privilege card focuses on travel, Miles & More is an exclusive co-branded card with Lufthansa while Burgundy focuses on lifestyle. 

On similar lines, while Citi Ultima provides a highly personalised service approach, Citi Prestige card supports the global lifestyles of the rich. “It is designed to capture the spends of the affluent across key categories that include travel  —  airlines and hotels, fine dining, golf and lifestyle experiences,” adds Chowdhry.

But how much do these personalised services cost? The annual fee for the American Express Platinum is Rs.50,000, while for Citi Prestige it is Rs.20,000. HDFC Infinia comes with a joining fee of Rs.30,000 and annual fee of Rs.10,000. Without revealing much, these banks say that the services are limited to ultra-high net worth individuals, who spend over 40% of their monthly income on luxury brands.

As the economy booms and earning rise, “This section of consumers is going to witness a steady growth in numbers. This makes premium credit card segment highly lucrative in the coming days,” adds Adlakha. Little wonder then that banks are going beyond their own set of customers. “Till now the strategy for Axis Bank was to invite only internal customers to apply for cards, however, the company’s fresh suite of premium cards will now cater to premium customers outside our banking circle as well,” shares Anand.

With no set spending limits, go ahead and swipe these cards for those "money can buy" moments.