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Top 3 credit cards' concierge services

By Daniel Workman

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Wish you could outsource tasks to reduce stress? Instead of shelling out an average of $45 an hour for a personal assistant, have you ever thought to tap your credit card's concierge services?

Whether you need travel advice in a strange land or trying to get reservations at a new local hotspot, your credit card concierge can usually help.concierge-services

While the majority of concierge requests are travel-related, other time-saving tasks involve scheduling home services, booking medical and dental appointments, brainstorming gift ideas and comparing prices. The catch? The expenses for actual items or services received from the concierge's efforts must be charged to the credit card.

Eligible concierge benefits vary by credit card. For example, concierge services under the no-fee MBNA SmartCash World MasterCard are limited to air or land travel bookings including hotels. Other premium cards like the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card feature luxury hotel and dining privileges.

Below are three top Canadian credit cards with the most competitive concierge benefits.

1st place: American Express Platinum Card
According to American Express Canada's website, Platinum Card customers can ask for concierge help at any hour, from virtually anywhere in the world via toll-free or collect phone call.

The Platinum Card entitles cardholders to personalized travel arrangements. These concierge services include trip planning, hotel reservations, automobile rentals, entertainment booking and leisure activity scheduling. In addition, cardholders can even contact their card's concierge service to arrange doctor telephone consultations and house calls.

Platinum Cardholders also enjoy a wide range of concierge gift-buying services. After you provide a list of recipients, their mailing addresses and gift preferences, a concierge will research options, ship the selected items with a greeting note and verify that your gifts arrive on time.

While the Platinum Card has no preset maximum, American Express requires that cardholders repay their full balances monthly.

The American Express Platinum Card's annual fee is $399, with a 30 per cent APR. Beyond the complimentary concierge services, the Platinum Card automatically provides other upscale travel benefits such as a free full-fare ticket for a travelling companion, seat upgrades and special discounted airfares that can compensate for the annual fee. Platinum cardholders also earn 1.25 reward points for every dollar spent.

2nd place: ScotiaGold Passport Visa Card
ScotiaGold Passport Visa cardholders have 24/7 access to a worldwide network of concierge specialists.

Complimentary services include:

  • Buying sports and entertainment tickets.
  • Making restaurant recommendations and reservations.
  • Arranging floral deliveries.
  • Booking private ski or tennis lessons.
  • Coordinating household service providers, from plumbers to babysitters.

ScotiaGold Passport Visa Card provides slightly fewer free travel benefits than the American Express Platinum product. ScotiaGold's travel perks include rental car insurance, trip cancellation and interruption coverage, as well as travel emergency medical protection (for travellers under age 65).

ScotiaGold Passport Visa generates 5 per cent cash back for airline tickets, pre-package tours and cruises bought with the card

ScotiaGold Passport Visa's annual fee is $110, with 19.99 per cent interest on outstanding balances.

3rd place: RBC Visa Infinite Avion
Concierge services under the RBC Visa Infinite Avion card include reserving restaurant seats, booking plane tickets and researching gifts.

RBC Visa Infinite Avion comes with an adequate set of free travel benefits, but lacks trip cancellation insurance, lost baggage coverage, and the household assistance--benefits that are provided under the American Express Platinum and ScotiaGold Passport Visa cards.

RBC Visa Infinite Avion cardholders earn 1.25 reward points for every $1 spent on travel-related purchases such as flights, hotels and car rentals. But, to qualify for the Infinite Avion card, applicants must have a minimum $60,000 annual income.

RBC Visa Infinite Avion's annual fee is $120, with 19.99 per cent interest on outstanding balances

The Final Verdict
Which card with free concierge services is right for you? Remember: "free" concierge services do come at a price: all three top premium cards charge an annual fee. So consider the amount of time you expect to save and stress you could alleviate through a concierge service-it could be worth it.

See related: Credit cards can help resolve luggage mishaps; Editor's Choice: The best air travel rewards

Published: April 13, 2012