United VIP Credit Union

A stark black envelope for this credit card pitch has the words “By Limited Invitation” printed in silver on the back flap.

The trappings of swanky lifestyle dot the flier that talks of VIP treatment at hotels and villas, free luxury gifts, access to VIP airport lounges and 25, 000 bonus points when you spend $1, 500 on eligible purchases within 90 days of opening the account.

The Visa Black Card, issued by Barclays, is made of stainless steel and has a $495 annual fee to match that luxury look. Plus you could pay $195 each year for each authorized user.

Just seeing a high-end credit card promotion hit area mailboxes should be a clue that we’re no longer talking about the Great Recession. Credit-card issuers are making pitches in time for summer vacations, back-to-school sales and holiday spending.

During the first three months of 2014, about 992 million credit card offers were mailed to consumers, up about 7 percent from the same time last year, according to Mintel Group in Chicago.

We’re seeing more than twice the number of card offers hitting mailboxes than we did five years ago during the meltdown. In the first three months of 2009, Mintel reported that 456 million credit card offers were mailed to consumers.

Lately, mailings are pitching credit cards that offer travel-related rewards, and yes, some high-end annual fees that many consumers would have deemed absolutely nuts when times were crazy-tight.

“A $495 annual fee a couple of years ago would have screamed ‘Don’t take me, ’ ” said John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for CreditSesame.com in Atlanta.

For consumers who watch every penny, such a high annual fee still shouts: “Don’t take me.”

But the Visa Black Card isn’t the only premium card with a stratospheric annual fee.

The American Airlines Admirals Club card’s annual fee varies with one’s frequent flier status and can range from $400 to $500 a year for the first year of membership. The American Express Platinum Card has a $450 annual fee, too. The United Club Card from Chase has a $395 annual fee.

Related posts: