Tough economic times are not dogging JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s upscale credit card customers, if the issuer's growing array of pricey credit cards is any indication.
Chase on March 27 introduced the elite-level United MileagePlus Club Visa card, providing travelers a smattering of special perks plus complimentary access to some 50 airport lounges.
The new card carries a $395 annual fee, putting it near the top of Chase's most-expensive rewards cards and not far below American Express Co.'s Platinum card, which costs $450 per year. Chase's only other card in that price range is its $595-per-year J.P. Morgan Palladium card for private-banking clients.
As with its more basic United MileagePlus Explorer $95-per-year credit card, the United MileagePlus Club card enables cardholders to earn double miles on United Airlines purchases. MileagePlus Club cardholders may earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all other purchases compared with one mile for the more basic version of the card.
MileagePlus Club cardholders also receive membership in United Club's airport lounges, "special treatment" at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts as well as room upgrades, and free breakfast at many luxury hotels, including certain Fairmont Hotels & Resorts locations.
As with most of Chase's annual fee-based rewards credit cards, the new card has no foreign transaction fees. And cardholders can check their first and second bags for free when they use the card to purchase tickets on United.
A corporate version of the card with similar features also is available, a Chase spokesperson tells PaymentsSource.
At least one analyst is not wowed by Chase's latest upscale card offering.
"That's a lot to pay for access to just one airline's airport lounges," Brian Riley, senior research director at TowerGroup, tells PaymentsSource.
Amex's Platinum card offers complimentary access to some 600 airport lounges worldwide and $450 worth of complimentary benefits at 700 luxury hotels worldwide.
Barclays US's Black Card, at $495 per year, provides access to 350 airport lounges worldwide, along with other perks.
Amex's Centurion, also known as the Black Card, which costs $2,500 annually plus a $5,000 signup fee and carries deep and customized travel and shopping perks, presumably gets cardholders in almost anywhere, Riley notes.
But unless the cardholder lives in Chicago or another United hub and uses airport lounges heavily, "you're not really getting a ton of benefits" for such a steep annual fee with the new United MileagePlus Club card, Riley says.
"Chase has a lot of travel cards and a lot of great rewards cards, including Sapphire, which lets you earn more points in a variety of different categories,” he says. “That's interesting and different, but this new MileagePlus Club card doesn't really break any new ground or provide any compelling reason to spend so much to have it."
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