Annual fees on prestige cards comes up to Dh3,000 and generally require a minimum monthly salary of Dh20,000 Image Credit: Shutterstock
There are many signs you have made it. And one of them is being eligible to apply for a prestige credit card. But they don’t come free.
Anyone with the means should ask themselves whether it’s worth it before applying for these cards, which come with annual fees of up to Dh3,000 and generally require a minimum monthly salary of Dh20,000. 
The perks
“The main reason to get the premium cards is the perks they offer,” says Ambareen Musa, Founder and CEO of financial products comparison site Souqalmal.com.
“Despite paying a big sum towards the annual fees, you enjoy exceptional value from the benefits offered. Important benefits that make these cards worth the cost include concierge services, golf privileges and miles programmes among others. Whether or not they are worth the cost depends on your needs. For example, if you are into golf, having a credit card that offers discounts on green fees or complimentary rounds every month may be of great use to you. This will eventually help you recover the annual [card] fees by saving on golf expenses.”
Mashreq’s Solitaire credit card, which has an annual fee of Dh1,500 and requires a minimum monthly salary of Dh50,000, offers unlimited golf rounds at two golf courses in the UAE, Al Badia in Dubai and Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, in addition to benefits in travel, insurance and fine dining discounts. 
“To give a quick comparison, in a season like this, for example, the green fee to pay at Al Badia Golf Club ranges between Dh600 and Dh800 per time you play,” says Pankaj Kundra, Head of Payments at Mashreq.
“So even if a customer is able to enjoy 20 rounds of golf, there is a huge benefit in terms of value. The customer also gets 25 per cent discount in the restaurants and spas at these golf courses.” 
Air miles
In addition to lifestyle benefits, some cards also offer accelerated air miles programmes. HSBC’s Black card, which has an annual fee of Dh2,000 and is only available to HSBC Premier account holders, offers a bonus of 250,000 miles, which can be exchanged for return flights from Dubai to London, Paris, Rome or the Maldives on any airline at anytime. 
Then there are the so-called flash value premium cards such as Mashreq’s Solitaire, which has a diamond embedded in the card and comes in a plush box with a certificate of the diamond size.  
But experts say the key to working out whether the annual fee is worth it lies in asking yourself how much you will make use of the benefits. “If the consumer fully utilises the benefits attached to their card, the fees essentially get paid back very quickly,” says Sonja Stephen, Editor at Compareit4me.com.
“However, paying for benefits not used, [for example] paying a fee for a card that offers airport lounge access when the consumer doesn’t travel frequently, is a waste.” There is also a vast range in annual fees for premium cards, from Dh175 to Dh3,000. And some of the cheaper ones offer similar benefits to more expensive cards. 
The Emirates NBD Platinum credit card, which requires a minimum monthly salary of Dh18,000 and costs Dh700 a year, offers complimentary golf rounds throughout the year at Tower Links Golf Club in Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), plus special offers at Al Hamra Golf Club in RAK, the Meydan Golf Club in Dubai and the Els Club Dubai. In addition, there is a range of other benefits such as dining discounts of up to 30 per cent at more than 1,500 restaurants in the UAE. 
For the FGB Abu Dhabi Platinum card, you need to earn a minimum Dh15,000 a month. It costs Dh550 a year, but offers up to 50 per cent reduced green fees at 2,400 golf resorts, 14 of which are in the UAE, in addition to free access six times a year to global VIP airport lounges. 
However, there are plenty of cards out there that offer rewards and come with no annual fee. ADIB Visa Platinum Rewards cardholders, for example, can claim up to 25 per cent off at select dining outlets across the UAE and redeem points that can be exchanged for free flights and shopping vouchers. 
Linked to spend
The benefits that come with the premium cards are often linked to spend. And it can be significant. “To enjoy all benefits, the cardholder should spend around Dh30,000 to Dh40,000 a month,” says Preeti H. Bhambri, Founder and Managing Director of Moneycamel.com. 
And as Bhambri also points out, premium cards usually come with high credit limits, which can lead to a lot of debt if the cardholder is not careful. 
“It’s important the user stays on top of repayments. Missing a payment or failing to pay the due amount in full every month can lead to added fees and interest, which can quickly outweigh any financial gain that could be made from the benefits.”