NEW YORK – Two new premium credit cards targeted at Mercedes-Benz owners and enthusiasts debut today.

The American Express Mercedes-Benz credit card and Platinum Card offer numerous benefits to the German auto maker's customers, including $500-$1,000 certificates good toward buying or leasing a Mercedes in the U.S.

“We're upping our game in every single facet of the game,” says Steve Cannon, vice president- marketing for MBUSA. “We're incredibly selective with who we partner.”

American Express says it is the first time the company has linked up with an auto maker in issuing exclusive credit cards.

The entry-level card costs $95 annually and offers holders a $500 certificate toward the purchase or lease of a Mercedes, after spending $5,000.

An annual $475 platinum card also is available and comes with a $1,000 certificate, which also can be used for purchasing or leasing a Mercedes, after spending $5,000.

Both cards offer a 5-times multiplier in accumulating points that can be redeemed for various items.

That means a customer earns five points for every dollar spent at a Mercedes dealership. He gets three points for every dollar spent on gasoline and one point on all other charged goods.

The Mercedes cards only are available in the U.S.

Among a host of benefits, perhaps the most attractive is that platinum card holders who lease cars get a 2,000-mile (3,219-km) excess waiver when returning their vehicles. Holders of the less-expensive card get a 1,000-mile (1,609-km) excess waiver.

“The cards make our relationships with customers even stickier,” Cannon says.

Geoff Robinson, vice president-marketing for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services, says, “We’re offering Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts what they value most – premium rewards that benefit their lifestyle and their vehicle.”

A high percentage of Mercedes owners already have American Express credit cards, but that would not prevent them from taking on a second card or switching to the Mercedes card, says Gunther T. Bright, American Express senior president of co-brand partnerships.