For many people, gold cards represent the literal "gold standard" of credit cards. But what benefits come with gold membership, and are they worthwhile?
The Psychology of Gold
The idea of a gold-themed credit card is first and foremost a psychological tactic to attract cardholders. Gold evokes luxury, wealth, and prestige, and when credit cards were more exclusive, gold membership implied exactly those things. While membership with gold premium cards is less meaningful today, these types of cards do still offer benefits and perks above standard cards.
A Note About Platinum
Platinum credit cards are similar to their gold cousins: they offer exclusive benefits for qualifying members with the image of a precious, expensive metal as the "face" of the card. Both gold and platinum cards, however, often offer similar benefits; though if a company offers both variations the platinum card is generally even more exclusive than the gold version.
Benefits of Gold Cards
Gone are the days when a credit card simply offered customers a credit extension for merchandise purchases. Even today's standard cards attempt to lure patrons with a variety of rewards and benefits.
But gold cards are generally more exclusive and offer more substantial perks. While the exact terms and conditions offered by different gold programs vary depending on the credit card company and financing bank, typical benefits for gold members often include:
- Travel protection coverage, including rental car insurance and lost luggage protection.
- Larger lines of credit with lower APRs than standard cards.
- Purchase insurance in case recent purchases are lost or stolen.
- Emergency cash and card replacement services.
- Members only discounts and sales at preferred merchant partners.
- Exclusive ticket purchase opportunities for concerts, sports, and other special events, including sales before tickets may be available to the general public.
- Better reward terms allowing members to accumulate points, cash back, or other benefits more quickly.
While these may be enticing benefits, what many eager applicants fail to realize is that gold does not come without a price.
While premium cards offer substantial benefits, there are associated fees that can quickly outweigh those perks. For example, the lower APR and higher credit limit may be paired with steeper fees and penalties for overspending or missing payments. Many protection coverage programs, while generally less expensive than independently purchasing such protection, still have regular annual or monthly fees, even for gold members. Before opting for gold membership, cardholders should carefully consider whether the added costs of those benefits are worthwhile.
Is Gold Right for Me?
To decide whether gold cards are suitable credit lines, consumers should evaluate the cards' different characteristics in relation to their spending needs. For example, someone who travels frequently can easily benefit from the various travel-related perks, or someone who uses one card frequently may prefer the higher reward incentives of gold membership. Cardholders with fewer spending needs, however, may find that the fees of premium cards actually make the exclusive membership more of a burden than standard cards.
At the same time, it is important for interested consumers to carefully study the basic terms and restrictions of the gold or platinum card just as they would for any new credit line. Question to ask include:
- What is the APR?
- Are there monthly or annual fees?
- What types of fraud protection are provided?
- When are payments due and what grace periods are offered?
- How will a new card impact my credit history?
Many times, new members are lured by the benefits of gold, but without properly evaluating all the features of the card, they may end up with a poor addition to their wallet, regardless of the color of the card.
Applying for Gold Cards
Once you have determined that gold membership is right for you, applying is simple. Current standard cardholders can usually contact the customer service department (the phone number is listed on the back of their credit card) and request an upgrade to gold membership. New members may be able to apply directly to the gold program.
Gold applications may require an additional step or two in addition to the standard credit history reviews that all credit card companies use when processing new applications. Because the cards offer higher credit limits, a higher income level is generally required for membership. Similarly, good to excellent credit may be required for the best interest rate with gold membership, simply to prove that the cardholder is a worthwhile risk with the higher spending limit.
Watch the Terms and Conditions
Gold cards can be a blessing and a curse for cardholders. While they do offer impressive benefits not usually available to standard cardholders, they may also come with stiffer fees and penalties. By carefully evaluating each card's standard terms and associated gold benefits, interested consumers can decide whether the luxury and prestige of gold is right for them.