Understanding Platinum Credit Cards

platinum credit card

What's in a name? When it comes to platinum credit cards, the name is meant to indicate exclusivity and high-income living. When these cards were introduced, they were available only to the highest earners in the United States. Over time, however, competition extended their availability.

What Is a Platinum Credit Card?

Historically, a platinum credit card offered superior benefits and was available only to high-income cardholders. The metal-coded naming scheme was introduced by American Express, which introduced a Gold Card in 1966 for high-spending customers.

Historical Perspective

In 1985, American Express released the Platinum Card for even higher-level customers, essentially separating their client base into regular (green), middle class (gold), and upper class (platinum) levels.

Other credit cards saw how well the exclusivity and prestige worked in winning patrons for American express, so they followed suit in the late 1990s by introducing metal-themed cards to their higher-income customers as well.

The special features of a platinum card generally included higher credit limits, lower annual percentage rates (APRs), and benefits such as extended warranties on purchases and travel interruption insurance.

Current Status

In the 21st century, competition among credit card companies increased substantially. To capture more market share, all credit card issuers except American Express began to offer platinum credit cards to large portions of their customer base.

Today, platinum credit cards are no longer exclusive to high-income earners. In fact, there are platinum-named cards that exist at every level of credit, from subprime to excellent.

Examples of Platinum Credit Cards

platinum card terms and conditions

Different cards offer different benefits, so it's vital to look carefully at each account's terms and conditions, regardless of whether the name includes the word platinum.

Platinum Card from American Express

The American Express Platinum card is a premium-level card that offers significant benefits to frequent travelers. They are charge cards (not credit cards), so they have to be paid in full each month. There is no spending limit.

With the Platinum Card from American Express, you'll automatically receive gold status in the Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest programs. As a result, you'll enjoy points, upgrades, and bonuses for staying at those hotel brands. You also get an annual $200 airline credit and free access to several types of airport lounges.

These benefits come at a price - there is a $450 annual fee. This card can be a great option if you travel frequently and will consistently pay your balance in full each month.

Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Card

The Wells Fargo Platinum Visa is aimed at those with good, but not necessarily excellent, credit ratings. The card features no annual fee and a 0% interest rate for 15 months on both balance transfers and new purchases.

You can choose the date your payment will be due each month, which can be very helpful. After the 15-month introductory APR, the APR goes to a variable rate between 15.40% to 25.24%, depending on your credit rating. There is a late fee of $37 if you are late on a payment or your payment is returned.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

For those with fair credit who are looking to improve, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card can be a great choice. This account boasts no annual fee, and you have an opportunity to have your credit limit increased after you make on-time payments the first five months you have the account.

You get to decide what day of the month your payment will be due, and a variety of online payment options are available. The interest rate is a variable 24.99%, with a late payment fee of up to $35.

Comparing Platinum Credit Cards

Platinum credit cards vary based on their target market. A table can be helpful in understanding how they rank against each other.

Card Name Credit Needed Interest Rate Fees Bonuses
American Express Platinum Excellent N/A - Pay in full each month Annual Fee $450 Automatic Gold status at Hilton and Starwood hotels, travel rewards
Wells Fargo Platinum Visa Good

Variable 15.40% - 25.24%

No annual fee, $37 late payment fee 0% Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
Capital One Platinum Credit Card Fair

Variable 24.99%

Late payment fee of up to $35 Can have credit raised after paying first five monthly payments on time

Wide Variation in Platinum Accounts

A platinum credit card no longer denotes elite credit and a life of luxury. Today, a platinum credit card is available to almost everyone. When you're looking for the best credit card for you, look beyond the 'shiny' name - the real value varies.

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Understanding Platinum Credit Cards