"My yachts were, I suppose, outstanding status symbols." 
-- J. Paul Getty 

If you want to impress people, you could buy a multimillion-dollar house or a fancy sports car. Or you could pay $500 or $2,000 a year -- or more -- and carry one of the most exclusive credit cards. Such a card, often black or metallic, tends to feature high annual fees, and it may be especially beneficial when traveling.

hand moving a red velvet rope aside to permit entry

Image source: Getty Images.

Most, if not all, of the major credit card issuers, such as American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank, offer at least one extra-prestigious card. You can often identify them by their name, which might include words such as "elite," "prestige," or "reserve," -- or some fancy metal, such as titanium, platinum, palladium, or just gold. Their appearance can also give them away, as they tend to come in eye-catching colors such as black or gold or white, and feature gold trim -- and, in at least one case, actual gold and a tiny diamond.

Many of the best cards around require you to have an excellent credit score if you want to be a cardholder. For these exclusive cards, it also helps if you're wealthy, spending a lot regularly. In fact, many of the card issuers don't even expect you to apply -- their cards are invitation-only and they'll let you know if you seem made of the right stuff.

The most exclusive credit cards

Here's a closer look at some of the most exclusive credit cards, including what they cost you and what they offer.

Credit Card

Annual Fees

American Express Centurion® Card (The Black Card)

$7,000 activation fee, and a $2,500 annual fee (plus $2,500 annually per additional user)

MasterCard® Gold Card

$995 plus $295 per additional user

MasterCard® Black Card

$495 plus $195 per additional user

Coutts World Silk Card

None 

Bank of Dubai First Royale MasterCard

"Available upon request"

Data source: cardrates.com, plus each card's webpage.

Why might you want any of these cards? Here's a brief review of the cards above and just some of the benefits they offer:

  • American Express Centurion® Card (The Black Card): This card is one you can't apply for -- it's invitation only. According to Forbes, qualification criteria include spending at least $100,000 to $450,000 per year, earning at least $1 million annually, having a hefty net worth, and having owned an American Express credit card for at least a year. What do you get, along with the little rectangle for your wallet? Well, benefits include a $200 credit toward air travel spending, access to gobs of airport lounges, and access to hard-to-get entertainment tickets such as Broadway plays, too.

  • MasterCard® Gold Card: This card sets users back about a thousand dollars each year. In exchange for that, they get a 24-carat gold-plated card, access to a luxury card concierge, a "members-only luxury magazine," double points when redeeming for airfare, "luxury gifts," and 2% of the value they charge returned to them as cash back. They also get a $200 annual credit toward air travel and access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world.

  • MasterCard® Black Card: If the card above is out of your reach, you might consider this more modest one. It's similar to the Gold Card, but offers just 1.5% cash back and only $100 annually in air travel credit. You also get some other Gold Card benefits, such as access to a concierge, the luxury magazine.

  • Coutts World Silk Card: You may not have heard of Coutts, but it's a private bank and it has been around since 1692. What, then, is its Silk Card? The bank's website explains: "A charge card with a high monthly spending limit, Silk opens doors to a world of privileges and benefits. Silk can be tailored to your lifestyle, offering the ability to order additional cards with tailored spending limits and varying benefits." It goes on to say that the card is available to Coutts clients only, and: "Your credit limit will depend on our credit assessment of you. The actual APR you will receive will depend on your circumstances." It also sports "no annual fees." Reportedly, being a cardholder gets you concierge service that can secure a wide range of entertainment tickets and reservations for you and can fulfill many requests. Cardholders also reportedly receive luxury gifts.

  • Dubai First Royale MasterCard: It's hard to gather much information on this invitation-only card, but the bank that issues it describes it as "desired by many but attainable by only a select few..." It features no pre-set spending limit and gives you access to a dedicated "Royale Lifestyle Management" specialist, which may be something like a concierge who tries to fulfill your wishes. The card itself features a small diamond chip embedded in it. It might help to live in Dubai to get invited into this card's circle.
a hand holding a golden credit card

Image source: Getty Images.

Qualifying for exclusive credit cards

In order to make the cut for some of the most exclusive credit cards, you'll probably want to be rich. If you're not wealthy, it can be hard to justify spending many hundreds or thousands of dollars on annual fees -- not to mention initial activation fees. You'll also probably need a strong credit score.

Some good news, though, is that even if you're not wealthy, you can build and have a high credit score, and that can qualify you for lots of other excellent credit cards with much more reasonable annual fees. Some might actually charge a few hundred dollars, but that can be worth it if they deliver even more in value. Here's what a great credit score looks like, according to the folks behind the FICO score:

FICO Score Range

Rating

800 and higher

Exceptional

740-799

Very good

670-739

Good

580-669

Fair

579 and lower

Poor

Data source: MyFICO.com. 

As you go about your financial life, find and use the credit cards that make the most sense for you -- offering you help in paying down debt or offering generous rewards.

Selena Maranjian owns shares of American Express and JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.