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This card's perks get you chauffeur, Maui villa

 
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March 6, 2014
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Love your credit card's free rental car insurance? Think cash back on gasoline rocks?

Well, those perks are for lesser beings.

With the new Barneys New York Influencer credit card tier, you don't need insurance, gas or even a car — that's because you get discounts on chauffeur services. And that's only the beginning: A resort hotel stay, a VIP reservation phone line to the Barneys flagship's restaurant, VIP shopping advice and other goodies come your way as an Influencer.

Here's how it works:

Put a mere $25,000 on this Barneys card in a year — you can practically cover that charge with one Moreau Croc Bregancon Tote — and you are automatically upgraded to the program's Influencer tier. (Of course, if you want to keep getting those preferred reservations at the flagship's restaurant, Fred's, you'll have to spend that much every year.)

The perks

In addition to preferred rates  on chauffeured Mercedes, BMWs, Rolls Royces or other high-end cars (never again suffer a taxi ride with the little people), you'll get a free three-night stay in one of Exclusive Resorts' 300-plus swanky residences. Your biggest challenge with this perk is choosing between the 3,150-square-foot villa in Maui or the three-bedroom spread (with private courtyard) in Rome.

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Launched in September, the card upgrade provides a free one-year Unlimited Leaders Club membership, which normally costs $1,200. It gets you such bennies as free room upgrades and free breakfasts from a long list of posh hotels, as well as a gift from the hotel at check-in. Also, access more than 600 VIP airport lounges, and shower in Paris or snack your way through Seoul instead of standing in line at the Mystery Meat Diner in Terminal A.

You'll also get your own VIP shopping phone line to Barneys, in case you need an official opinion on whether those pants make your rear end look big. And if you want to dine at Fred's, dessert is on the house. Want a blowout at the blow bar while the seamstress does the alterations on your new pants? No problem: Both services are covered.

The quirks

Before you devise ways to buy everything you'll ever want from Barneys so that you can hit the $25,000 threshold, remember — this is still a credit card. Alliance Data Retail Services, a provider of branded credit card programs, issues the card through Comenity Capital Bank, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. The interest rate in the cardholder agreement filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a steep 23.99 percent — well over double what you can get from other issuers if you shop around (check out our Weekly Rate Report).

Barneys, with 37 stores nationwide, says its credit card program will give you 4 percent cash back if your purchases are over $25,000 (5 percent if they're over $50,000), but you'd better pay that bill on time. At 23.99 percent, one day's worth of interest on a $25,000 credit card balance is about $16 — and that's before the $25 late fee (if you've been late on a payment in the previous six months, the late fee goes up to $35). Compounded daily, that amounts to about $3,367 in interest for a year. Ouch.

The takeaway

The new Barneys New York Influencer card program is clearly positioned as an elite card program, and to get a $25,000 credit line at a department store, you'll need to have a high credit score and income. Interestingly, the card doesn't have an annual fee (unlike many elite card programs), but what it loses in fee revenue it clearly makes up for in interest. So if you're one of the lucky few who regularly shops for The Elder Statesman striped cashmere socks ($350) at Barneys, this card might be an option.


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