Have you seen the ad for the new Visa Black Card? The spot aired at least twice during the Celtics-Lakers game on Christmas Day. It caught my attention because 1) I actually need a Visa card, and 2) after all the silver, gold, and platinum out there, a carbon graphite black credit card sounds very cool.

But then I looked at the fine print. Who’s going to spend $495/year for a credit card? That’s when I realized that this card must be targeted to the wannabe rich. Because the truly rich didn’t get that way by spending foolishly for exclusivity. Just ask Warren Buffett.

Which brings me to the business question: why is Barclays Bank introducing a high-end credit card during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? I’m not sure who their target customer is. More than that, however, it seems a little unseemly to be plugging exclusivity when most people are struggling to keep afloat.

So what is Barclays trying to say? And what do you think? Is this smart niche marketing or an over-the-top conspicuous assumption?

Photo by rightbraining (Flickr).