American Express Centurion Black Card: The American Express Black Card’s requirements are rumored to include being an Amex cardholder for at least a year. Spending over $100,000 annually on American Express credit cards, and annual income of at least $1 million. You’ll probably need to have an excellent credit score, too.
Known simply as the “Black Card,” you need an invitation to get Amex Centurion. And only the super-rich and famous can expect to get the call. As it’s rumored that you must charge at least $1 million per year to an American Express credit card to even qualify. Another handy benefit of the Centurion card is that if you book your cruises via Amex Travel. And have a booking of 5 nights or more, you will receive $100 to $500 in credits per stateroom. As well as 1 extra Membership Rewards point per $1 spent on these bookings.
Millionaires use credit cards like the Centurion® Card from American Express. The J.P. Morgan Reserve Credit Card, and The Platinum Card® from American Express. These high-end credit cards are available only to people who receive an invitation to apply. Which millionaires have the best chance of getting.
About Centurion Black Card
The American Express Centurion Card, known informally as the Amex Black Card, is an invitation-only charge card issued by American Express. An invitation is extended to Platinum Cardholders after they meet certain criteria. The Centurion Card comes in personal and business variants. During the filming of a backstage interview at the 2007 BRIT Awards, Noel Gallagher held his Centurion card up to the camera and said “You have to earn a ridiculous amount of money per year to own one of those.”
In a 2009 interview with talkSPORT, Gallagher said, “I do own a black Amex card that has unlimited credit and cannot be denied anywhere. I could walk into a showroom selling Boeing 747s and, regardless of whether I could afford it, they’d have to accept the card.”
Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson wrote in a 2004 article for The Times of London newspaper. That he lied about his salary to obtain a Centurion card after reading “an interview with some chap who’d got a fist full of cards in his pocket. And claimed that the more shiny examples, specifically the much-coveted black American Express. Gave him certain privileges.” Clarkson ultimately decided to cancel the card after being unimpressed with its benefits.
Benefits Centurion Black Card
The card, available for personal and business use, offers services such as a dedicated concierge and travel agent; complimentary companion airline tickets on international flights on selected airlines with the purchase of a full-fare ticket; personal shoppers at retailers such as Gucci, Escada, and Saks Fifth Avenue; access to airport clubs; first-class flight upgrades; membership in Sony’s Cierge personal shopping program and dozens of other elite club memberships.
Hotel benefits include one free night, when at least one paid night is booked during the same stay, in every Mandarin Oriental hotel worldwide once a year (except for the New York City property), and privileges at hotel chains like Ritz-Carlton, Leading Hotels of the World, and Amanresorts. The card also features complimentary enrollment in Easirent Car Hire Platinum Service and the Avis Rent a Car President’s Club.
Centurion Cardmembers, like Platinum Cardmembers, get complimentary access to the American Express Centurion Lounges at several US airports. They also get unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges around the world, plus additional lounge privileges based on the country their card is registered in. For example, Centurion cardholders in Canada also receive full access to Maple Leaf Lounges, a lounge network provided by Air Canada.
At busy times, Centurion members have access to areas reserved for them. There are also drink options at the bar that are exclusive to Centurion members. As of 2015, they have a Champagne option of Veuve Clicquot and a single malt scotch by Balvenie. US cardholders earn 1 rewards point per dollar on all eligible purchases and 1.5 rewards points per dollar on purchases over US$5,000.
American Express Centurion Black Card
The Washington Post used to have a slogan that’s apropos for the Centurion Card: If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. The Centurion Card has a lot of downsides: a large initiation fee, annual fees that rival a luxury car lease, and a distinct lack of category spending bonuses.
That said, for the biggest of big spenders, the Centurion Card can be worth every one of the million pennies that cover just the initiation fee. The upsides, which include bend-over-backward customer service, elite travel statuses, memberships, credits to luxury outlets, and lucrative points redemption options can easily offset the costs. However, the credits and perks only have value if they are of use to you.
Exclusivity is the main draw of the Centurion Card, and it’s expressed in many ways. Access to a 24/7 concierge service is a big draw if you are interested in delegating your travel planning, reservation getting, and gift-giving tasks. Events including celebrities of the entertainment, culinary, and sports arenas are offered solely to cardholders.
The criteria used to determine if you’re worthy to even apply are nebulous, but it’s safe to say if you’re not on a first-name basis with your American Express rep, the Centurion Card is probably not in your wheelhouse. Minimum spending estimates vary from $250,000 per year up into the millions. That said, you can request consideration online if you want to give it a shot.
Something to keep in mind: the Centurion offers a personal card and a business card. If you are given a choice, the business card offers more valuable benefits, most notably the airfare rebate.
At a Glance
- Invitation only, but you can request consideration
- $10,000 initiation fee
- $5,000 annual fee, which also must be paid for each Authorized User
- Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent on all purchases under $5,000 each
- Earn 1.5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on purchases over $5,000, up to 1 million extra points per year
- 50% bonus on Membership Rewards redemptions for paid airfare (Business version only)
- Earning Rewards
The Centurion® Card from American Express* offers 1.5 points per dollar on purchases over $5,000 (up to 1 million additional points per calendar year) and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
- Redeeming Rewards
The most interesting perk of the business version of the Centurion Card is a generous 50% rebate on airfares purchased with Membership Rewards points. This gives an effective two-cent-per-dollar return rate, which is more than any other American Express card offers on unlimited spending in every category. Points earned on transactions over $5,000 are worth an effective 3% back when redeemed in this manner. This bonus does not exist on the personal version of the card.
American Express Membership Rewards points
American Express Membership Rewards points are valuable because they are flexible. They can be transferred to any one of 17 travel partners, most at a 1:1 ratio. In addition, American Express offers frequent transfer bonuses, allowing you to get even more value from your points. Among the most commonly used airline transfer partners are Delta (for SkyTeam airlines), British Airways and Iberia Avios (Oneworld), and Air Canada Aeroplan (Star Alliance).
You can also redeem your points for a wide variety of gift cards in travel, retail, and restaurant categories. Rates vary depending on the vendor and fluctuate between 0.5 cents and one cent per Membership Reward point. You may also pay with points at a number of vendors (most notably Amazon) at 0.8 cents per Membership Reward point. As you can see, you’ll be better off using Membership Rewards for travel than redeeming points for gift cards.
Because the American Express Centurion Card’s profile is not geared toward point earning and because spending varies so widely, it makes more sense to discuss the value of the additional benefits.
- Equinox All Access Gym Membership: $3,120 per year, provided you live or travel near one of Equinox’s 300 locations and value a gym membership.
- Saks Fifth Avenue Credit: $1,000 per year, awarded as $250 per quarter.
- CLEAR membership for the cardholder and family: $179 plus $50 per family member.
The card also comes with travel benefits that become more valuable the more they are used:
- Delta Platinum Medallion Status: Benefits include upgrades cleared up to five days before departure, waived redeposit and change fees for awards, baggage allowance, and enhanced earnings on miles flown.
- Hertz Platinum Status: Invite-only status includes VIP drop-off and pickup service and upgrades to the best standard (and occasionally luxury) cars available at the time.
- Hilton Diamond Status: The highest level of Hilton status, it earns suite upgrades, late checkout, breakfast benefits, and enhanced earnings on paid stays. The card also offers mid-tier status with Marriott and IHG.
Other Card Benefits
- Unique Card Designs: Stand out even more from the crowd with unique card designs including a wearable card designed by Prada.
- VIP Airport Arrival Services at 32 Major Airports: Save time by letting Amex handle your arrival details.
- Various Hotel Statuses: Marriott Bonvoy Gold and IHG Platinum benefits include increased earnings on stays, late checkout, and more.
- Airport Lounge Access: With the expansion of the Centurion Lounge network (and the well-documented overcrowding issues), skipping the line could save hours and make layovers more productive. Centurion cardholders also have access to a dedicated space in the lounge.
American Express Concierge
The concierge benefit offered with the Centurion® Card from American Express* deserves special mention. Many cards offer concierge service, but the level of service provided to Centurion cardholders is a step above the rest.
From spending hours tracking down a sold-out Christmas present to managing an evacuation in the midst of a volcanic eruption the concierge staff at this level will provide you with the best of the best. If it’s legal, chances are you can ask a Centurion concierge to get or do it for you.
- Regular APR: See Terms
- Purchase Intro APR: N/A
- Balance Transfer Intro APR: N/A
- Annual Fee: $5,000
- Balance Transfer Fee: –
- Foreign Purchase Transaction Fee: None
How The Card Stacks Up
It’s not feasible to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the Centurion Card to other cards. As it caters to such a small segment of the market and offers unique benefits. That said, the American Express Business Platinum and The Platinum Card from American Express offer a slice of what the Centurion does for a fraction of the annual fee.
Centurion® Card from American Express* vs. The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express costs $695 per year (Terms apply. See rates and fees), which seems like a bargain only when compared to the Centurion’s $5,000.
Some benefits, such as airport lounge access (albeit without a dedicated section in the Centurion Clubs) and hotel and car rental statuses, are the same with both cards. However, the Centurion offers Hilton Diamond, Delta Executive Platinum, and Hertz Platinum, which the Platinum does not.
While the Centurion may offer much in the way of statuses, the American Express Platinum grants a significantly higher 5 Membership Rewards® points per dollar on flights and prepaid hotels through American Express Travel, Earn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers, and software & cloud system providers.
And shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else. On up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year. Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases. That said, the Centurion will likely allow for much larger monthly spending than the Platinum will.
When it comes time to redeem, the transfer partners for the two cards are identical. The Centurion Business Card does offer a higher pay-with-points rebate at 50% versus the Platinum Business Card’s 35%. Another point in the Centurion Card’s favor: the rebate applies to any flight on any airline, not just business, and first-class, and not just for a designated airline.
Centurion® Card from American Express* vs. The Platinum Card® from American Express
If the Amex Business Platinum is not an option for you, some of the Amex Black Card benefits are also available on the Amex Platinum for a much lower fee of $695. (Terms apply. See rates and fees.) Like the Business Platinum the card earns 5 membership rewards points per dollar for flights booked. Directly with airlines or with American Express Travel on up to $500,000 per calendar year.
5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases. Unlike the Business Platinum card, it lacks the airfare points rebate. Which could add up for those who use it strategically.
Instead, the Amex Platinum piles on the consumer benefits, although at a junior level from its Centurion cousin. The card offers up to $100 annually to Saks Fifth Avenue (vs. $1,000). And a $30/month rebate on Equinox Gym memberships (vs. a full membership with the Centurion card). (Enrollment is required.)
However, if there is anything you think we are missing. Don’t hesitate to inform us by dropping your advice in the comment section.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below!
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