Obama’s Credit Card: Is It the Best?
The Chase Palladium card actually contains gold — and it’s most valuable for the very top tier of travelers
In On Points, Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, shares his strategies for getting the most out of your points and miles.
There are gold credit cards … and there is the credit card that’s actually made of gold.
The very exclusive (and heavy) Chase Palladium card is the Chase equivalent of the invitation-only American Express Centurion “black” card. The Palladium is only available to Chase Private Banking clients — those with at least $250,000 in assets with Chase retail bank, though I know people with far less who have been bestowed the card. And it promises a world of special perks.
But is it worth it? I recently put the Black Card through its paces, to see if its huge membership fees actually pay off for travelers, and was curious about how the Palladium compared. Chase puts hardly put any information online about the card, so I went into a branch to try to get one.
When you apply for the Palladium, you sign a form that’s used to laser-engrave your signature on the back of the card, which is actually made from palladium and gold. Cool, though hardly worth the $595 annual fee. Still, President Obama has the card, so it has to be the best, right?
Well, not exactly. There are no “best” credit cards, because everyone’s spending levels and goals are different. Here’s why the Palladium is worth it — but only if you’re a big spender who’s dedicated to one specific airline.
The Palladium’s most valuable benefit is unlimited access to United Airlines’ United Club. If purchased directly from United, it costs $550 a year, plus a $50 initiation fee — basically the same as the Palladium card. But the Chase United Club Card also provides access, and sometimes you can get the $450 annual fee waived for the first year. The Club Card earns 1.5 United miles per dollar spent on all purchases, versus the 1 Ultimate Reward point on all purchases (2x on travel) on the Palladium. But Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to United and 10 other travel partners, so they’re inherently more valuable.
The Palladium also also offers a 35,000-point bonus when you spend $100,000 a year. I value Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.1 cents each, because they can be extremely valuable when transferred to partners like United. For example, I just redeemed 80,000 United miles and $40 for a one-way business-class flight from Auckland to Los Angeles; it would cost $3,000 to purchase. So the bonus points are worth $735.
The card also gives two points per dollar on all travel purchases. Sadly, there are no bonus points on dining, whereas the $95-a-year Chase Sapphire Preferred offers double points. If you spent that $100,000 on travel, which includes everything from airlines to bridge tolls, you’d end up with 235,000 Ultimate Rewards points, which I value at $4,935. That’s nearly 5% back on spend, which is hard to beat.
If you’d like help getting access to hot dining reservations and show tickets, the card comes with a concierge service. I’ve used mine several times, and find it to be similar to the Centurion’s offering. I need to test them both more before deciding which offers better service.
Finally, the Palladium card also comes with a Global Entry rebate, which is worth $100. Global Entry comes with TSA Pre-check, which can save you hours a year.
The Down Sides
There is no sign-up bonus for the Palladium, which is disappointing for a card with a $595 annual fee— especially since the Sapphire Preferred is $95 a year, with the first year waived, and gives customers 50,000 points when they spend $4,000 in three months (plus 5,000 points for adding an authorized user). That value proposition is hard to beat, especially when you throw in the double points on all travel and dining.
The $595 annual fee is “industry leading” and you really need to be a big spender in travel categories to get that value back. For everyone else, cards like the Sapphire Preferred and United Club Card are much better options.