Comparing credit card colours: what’s the difference?

You might have thought that the days of credit card colour wars (yes, it was a thing) were over since the days of conspicuous consumption ended sometime back in the early noughties, but you’d only be partly right.

While the hierarchy of colours has become a bit more fluid, there’s still meaning behind those hues. You’ll have a good idea of someone’s financial clout when you see what card they brandish at the bar; you can also assume (to a reasonable degree) what benefits you’ll get with each metallic shade.

Silver and gold have become more democratised

That is, they’re not quite the big fancy players they used to be as more people qualify for them. These days, if you really want to impress, you’ll need black or diamond. Gold cards carry more prestige than the provider’s regular card, but not that much anymore.

Gold credit cards

In previous decades, you needed a large income to qualify for a gold card from any provider. Nowadays, if you’re a dab hand on the credit card comparison sites, you’ll see that you could get a gold card with an annual income of $35,000.This means you don’t have to join the high earners to reap the various rewards on offer, like free worldwide travel insurance and cashback. The Commonwealth Bank’s Low Rate Gold credit card is a good example here, with a relatively low 13.49 per cent interest rate.

You’ll probably have to pay higher annual fees on a rewards credit card, though. However, if you know you’ll be travelling a lot, those fees will be worth paying. Only you can decide this, which is why you need to scour the comparison sites before settling on your best–looking prospects.

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What’s the deal with the platinum cards?

All of Australia’s Big Four banks offer at least one platinum product each, some with relatively low rates. Many of the smaller banks also offer platinum cards and while there’s not hard and fast rules about “being” a platinum card, you’ll find that this metal differs from gold in some characteristic ways.

For starters, it’ll probably be the bank’s most prestigious card, unless it also offers a diamond or black card as well.

A platinum card will usually also be a rewards card; you can expect more generous rewards than you’ll find on gold cards, too. You may be able to save up flyer points, for example. You already know if you travel credit cards are often your best companion so it’s handy to, say, have the extra inconvenience cover for domestic flights.

You’ll most likely pay a higher interest rate, although relatively low interest credit cards are increasingly on offer in this bracket. However, the platinum card is, realistically, for people who can pay off their balance each month and so rarely face any interest.

Of course, benefits vary from card to card; there are also some downsides, as there are with any financial product.

Compare rates, fees and features of platinum and gold level credit cards from Australia’s major banks, credit unions and other credit card issuers here.

The downsides of premium credit cards

Your credit card provider isn’t offering you all these treats for nothing. You’ll face higher annual fees; at least $150 each year and with some cards this can be $400 or more. You’ll also face higher interest rates and so if you’re not 100 per cent sure of your ability to pay most or (preferably) all of your balance each month, you can end up with some steep bills.

The minimum credit limits are also a mixed blessing. Cards at the more modest end of the market may have a minimum credit limit of $500 or $1,000, but once you get into platinum territory you can be looking at five or six–figure limits.

This can be too much temptation for some people and it would serve you well to consult a credit card interest calculator before applying for a platinum card. Yes, it’s a limit not a target, but if the funds are there and you’re impulsive, it can be a bad combination.

You may also need to have a high minimum income

Your bank won’t offer you the more premium credit card services if it knows you don’t have enough disposable income to cope with the balance plus fees and interest. Most of Australia’s market offerings in this tier ask for a high annual income and even then it’s likely that you’ll bounce around the minimum credit limit.

Other cards require a much higher minimum income, so make sure you fit the bill (pun intended) before applying, so you don’t get rejected and blot your credit file.

With both gold and platinum cards, you need to weigh up the perks and potential rewards earnings to see if they exceed your spending on fees and interest each year.

The black cards

These cards are in a whole new league! Black credit cards are some of the most prestigious – and expensive – cards on the market. In fact, you can’t really say they’re on the market because very often you have to be invited to apply for one.

As you might imagine, the benefits associated with these cards are amazing. You can get exclusive and sought–after memberships to various clubs, lounges and programmes. Very often, you’ll get enhanced concierge service too, so that when you book restaurant tables, look for a holiday home or organise an event, you can access help and advice, 24 hours a day.

You also have much more flexibility with the redemption of rewards points and the rewards are pretty impressive. For example the ANZ Frequent Flyer Black card offers advance tickets to in–demand shows, amazing holidays for rock–bottom prices and deals for your house and garden with the best gadgets and furniture.

You will, however, pay handsomely for these privileges. The minimum credit limit with this card is $15,000 and you’ll pay $425 a year in fees and 19.99 per cent interest.

Even if you’re offered a black card, you should think twice before taking things any further. Just because you might be able to afford it doesn’t mean you should take it.

Do you actually need such a prestigious and expensive card?

If you really are very wealthy and you’re constantly on the move, the chances are that you just don’t need a black card. You may well be better off with a platinum offering from your bank as the rewards and perks are still pretty impressive.

Of course, you might even think about low interest, no fee credit cards now you’ve learned more about the maintenance costs!

Compare credit cards from all of Australia’s major banks, credit unions and other credit card issuers here.

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