Finally, a credit card for those for whom commonplace cash-back rewards and travel miles just don't cut the mustard (Grey Poupon, of course.)
This summer, Sotheby's
The high-dollar auctioneer will release two cards as part of the Mastercard
Rich rewards for rich people
With it, you'll get complimentary museum admission for yourself and three guests at participating museums across the country, as well as invitations to special events. It also promises an array of "luxurious privileges," including travel benefits, preferential restaurant reservations, and more.
If you're lucky enough to be among those invited to hold the more exclusive elite MasterCard, you'll have no pre-set spending limit. It seems no one's worried that the select few, who must earn $250,000 to be invited to hold a card, will not be able to pay their balances.
If you accumulate enough points on a Sotheby's MasterCard, a Rewards Concierge will help you choose among your many benefits. Would you like to have a Sotheby's auctioneer assist in your private charity event or provide advice about stocking your wine cellar? Would you rather hold a trunk show for you and your girlfriends to try on Sotheby's diamonds? How about a visit to a contemporary artist's studio?
If none of those diversions strikes your fancy, you'll also have access to a "vast range of luxury opportunities," according to Sotheby's promotional material. Cruise the Mediterranean on a chartered yacht, rent a villa in the South of France, charter a private jet, or play a round of golf with a PGA star.
Oh, and I forgot to mention -- you can also choose from a selection of paintings by artists such as Claude Monet, Rene Magritte, or Frida Kahlo to adorn the plastic in your wallet.
There's one extra benefit, by the way. Although the renowned auction house used to frown on the practice, Sotheby's says it will accept its own card at auctions "under certain conditions."
Is it Foolish?
Returning to our more humble and Foolish roots for a moment, one must ask whether this card (like all rewards cards) makes financial sense for its users. Any art lover who makes regular donations to a favorite museum can be potentially even more generous by converting rewards points into philanthropic gestures. Unlike gifts of plain cash or stock, however, there would be no tax deduction for such philanthropy.
The cards also have a decidedly un-Foolish feature -- an annual fee. Users will pay $85 a year for the privilege of holding the basic card and $395 a year for the luxury of being invited to hold the elite card. (You'll never pay an annual fee with our Foolish credit cards.)
Then, potential applicants must ask, do these cards give you access to something valuable you couldn't already get? I know the average quarter-of-a-million-dollar salary doesn't stretch as far as it used to, but I imagine some of the travel perks can be had without a Sotheby's card in hand.
If the cards become popular on Park Avenue, it may ultimately show that the other half wants the same things from a credit card as everyone else -- free stuff (or gratis rewards, if you prefer to be more refined about it). Whether the perks will be worth the terms of the agreement may remain to be seen.
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Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple isn't holding her breath for an invitation to join the elite cardholders, nor does she own stock in any company mentioned in this article. She welcomes your feedback. The Motley Fool has a very classy disclosure policy.