Gold card becomes the new designer accessory

There is always one in any crowd. The woman who took the plunge and finally bought brown, just as the others went for charcoal grey. The guy who got into flares, when everyone switched to straight-leg trousers, and back again.

American Express, the world's largest card company, yesterday performed a similar stunt in the financial services world, as it finally launched a gold credit card - years after the opposition cleaned up in the same market.

The new launch comes four years after an explosion in the gold sector, with the number of cards tripling from 800,000 in 1993 to well over 2.5 million today.

Saturation levels in the standard card market have led many banks to launch gold options with the aim of capitalising on higher spenders - who deliver greater profits to their issuers.

Among the 20-plus issuers to have stolen a march on American Express in the past few years is the tiny Leek United Building Society.

Pauline Roessler, marketing manager at the Leek, 26th in the league table of UK societies, said: "We have always argued that small is beautiful. When we want a decision we don't need to go to 700 separate committees to get it."

Ms Roessler declined to give an actual number of Leek United Gold Cards issued, but said they were a "reasonable" proportion of the society's 75,000 members.

Overshadowing the epic commercial tussle between Leek United and American Express is the more significant question of whether gold cards, once the preserve of an exclusive elite, are now the vulgar playthings of a far wider segment of the population.

An American Express spokeswoman yesterday denied any such suggestion: "Our research shows that holding a gold card is rated on a par with owning a sports car or over and above having a fax machine or even going on a skiing holiday.

"Only one in 10 people have a gold card even today and you will find that these people still see them as aspirational things to have."

The card company's seeming reluctance to enter the gold market was based on the fact that although Amex is famous for its charge cards - where you must settle your bill each month - it only launched its first standard credit card two years ago.

However, the spokeswoman added: "What people are looking for is the right brand. When people were asked what card issuer they associate with gold, they immediately said American Express."

Richard Spencer, manager of the plastic cards department at Datamonitor, the research company, said: "Over the last few years, the market for gold cards has changed from a high prestige upper-class thing to something aimed simply at higher spenders. "Some people may feel that there has been a bit of tarnishing of the exclusivity tag. But the card issuers themselves, who stand to make a lot of money from gold cards, won't really care."

Seekers of the ultimate credit card to impress friends and family may not feel the same way. The new metal to aim for - you got it here first - is platinum.

Going for Gold -

The Long Weekend, p21

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you familiar with the sayin...

Recruitment Genius: Hospitality Assistant

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most