Choosing the premium credit card that's right for you

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Choosing the right premium credit cardSo American Express hasn't invited you to apply for its fabled premium Centurion card -- aka "black card" -- but you're a big spender who wants access to some extra perks for all the dollars you're dropping. What's an aspiring Daddy Warbucks to do?

The first thing you need to know is that while many cards carry annual fees, sometimes even high ones, this doesn't make them "premium" cards, though they may come with perks, such as the chance to earn rewards at a higher rate or travel-related benefits like insurance.

Although all issuers like to describe it just a bit differently, premium cards can generally be defined as those that offer higher spending limits, better rewards -- which often includes access to airport lounges and hotel executive floors -- and enhanced customer service, which can sometimes include personal concierge service for travel and entertainment booking.

We got in touch with two card experts - Curtis Arnold, founder of the website CardRatings.com, and Doug Miller, senior analyst at research firm Corporate Insight - to get the skinny on these rich cards. So send Jeeves to fetch you a drink while you pull up a chair and read about WalletPop's best premium card picks.

American Express Platinum Card.
With a $450 annual fee, this card's not cheap (although it's a relative bargain compared to the Centurion's rumored $2,500 annual fee), but that's not the idea. Both Arnold and Miller say this card offers a host of travel-related perks, including 24-hour concierge service, access to airport lounges, and travel accident insurance, plus on-site benefits and bonuses when you're at a hotel or on a cruise. Most premium cards include concierge service; this one is no exception. Users can also get hard-to-score restaurant seats, event tickets and reservations. One note: Like many AmEx offerings, this is a charge card rather than a credit card.

American Express Gold Card.
Not feeling flush enough to go platinum? Maybe the Gold Card -- also a charge card -- is your best bet. Both our experts like it for its similar degree of customer service and wide array of perks (albeit at a lower level than the Platinum version) that cover travel, entertainment and ordinary purchase protection. The annual fee is $125, but AmEx waives that for your first year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa. With an $85 annual fee that Chase waives for the first year, this card gives you access to many of the same travel perks as higher-end premium cards, such as being able to call a concierge and having your rebooking fees covered if your plans change. The card also gives you access to the Sapphire Ultimate Rewards program. Doug Miller calls this program a "good resource"; since the site is integrated with Amazon.com, users looking to spend their rewards points have an almost endless array of options.

Both of our experts did note that many of these upper-crust perks can be found with lower-end cards, so if there's just one particular benefit, like purchase protection or concierge service, that you're looking for, shelling out for a triple-digit annual fee could mean overpaying for the service you really want.
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