The American Express Black Card – also referred to as the Amex Black Card or simply the Centurion Card® from American Express – is perhaps the most élitist and mysterious credit card on the market today. As much as American Express rarely releases most of the card’s details to the public, its fashionable reputation and benefits as a status symbol make it one of the most popular cards.
Before 1999, the “Black Card” was just a fairytale, rumour had it that there was this super-exclusive black card only used by a select few filthy rich clients. Back then, the rumor was not true, but American Express decided to capitalize on the mystery generated by the rumor. That is how the American Express “black card” came into being.
Its official name is the Centurion Card® from American Express, which should not be confused with the latest Mastercard® Black Card™. When imagining about this card, it is easy to conjure up images of the richest people on earth pulling it out to pay for stuff that might have cost more than you probably could earn in one year – or even a decade.
The Amex Black Card is only available to individuals who are invited to apply, however, now people can request to be considered for an invitation. Invitations are usually believed to be a preserve of millionaires and billionaires, who spend enough cash with American Express to warrant the card’s overpriced fees.
The card’s elitist nature and opulent spending thresholds have earned it popular mentions in pop culture, never mind that the card has much more to offer than just rewards and perks that come with spending. The interest elicited by the American Express Black Card is perfectly comprehensible. If the different stories going round are to be believed, the people who are fortunate enough to be invited are said to enjoy a horde of first-rate perks.
Image: Couple sitting at a table in the surf at a beach, toasting because they have the Centurion® Card from American Express, which could be the world’s most elite travel card
How Can One Get the American Express Black Card?
Mystery abounds when it comes to the American Express “Black Card.” For instance, American Express never publicizes the standards or requirements for a member to qualify for an invitation. So the requisite qualifications for the card remain shrouded in mystery as they are not publicly available. They are a well-guarded secret. However, word has it that for you to be a cardholder, you have to:
- Spend multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly on different American Express credit cards.
- Be an active Amex cardholder for at least one year
- Charge at least $250,000 annually, (though some rough approximations are in the neighbourhoods of $450,000)
- Earn a minimum income of about $1 million annually.
After meeting all the above qualifications, you still do not have an automatic guarantee that you will get the car, but you might just get an invite!
If these supposed stringent prerequisites are to be believed, then even some of the many serious spenders are unlikely to receive an invitation to apply for the card. American Express, now offers cardholders a chance to request to be considered for the card’s invitations – even though this is not by any means a guarantee of an official approval process.
What Is the Card’s Cost?
Official documents indicate that it costs a whopping $15,000 for a card member to get started with the American Express Black Card. As much as this might look like an exorbitant figure, you have to remember that the highly exclusive requirements imply that five-figure payments might seem like pocket change for most prospective and eligible cardholders.
The $15,000 is inclusive of the cost of the card’s commencement and yearly fees. After the first year, cardholders are only expected to pay the annual fee.
The American Express Black Card charges a one-off $10,000 initiation fee for opening a new account. The details of what this amount is paid for are not clear, though the amount seems enough to see to it that only serious cardholders, who are ready to use the card of several expenses, are invited to use it.
Annual Membership Fee
Cardholders are also expected to part with a $5,000 annual fee. This is quite costly compared to, for instance, the Platinum Card® from American Express whose annual is $695. However, you are entitled to get a refund of your annual fee of $5,000, if you think the card doesn’t live up to what it promises.
According to American Express, you may qualify for a refund of the annual fee, if you willingly close your account within 30 days of the closing date of the billing statement within which the card was charged.
How Much Does It Cost For One To Reopen The Card?
It is relatively affordable to reopen the card. If your card gets canceled, you can request American Express to reopen your account for $25 only. That costs less than a normal credit card late fee. Each authorized user is subjected to the same yearly fee.
Can you Get More than One?
While American Express Centurion cardholders could once allow up to 99 lawful users to share the account. Unfortunately, that is now a thing of the past. In a quest to make the card more élite, cardholders are now allowed only two authorized users for each account.
Why is the American Express Black Card So Special?
American Express gives scanty details on the special perks that come with the American Express Black Card. The issuer never puts in public the list of incentives the cardholders stand to benefit. Hence, this remains a well-guarded secret among the cardholders, which opens room for speculation and countless myths about the card.
The rumor mills are replete with stories regarding the “Black Card,” some of which are backed with research while others are mere hearsay. You’ve probably heard some wild tales regarding the power of the “Black card” and its benefits.
Perhaps the wildest of them all is an account of an American Express employee travelling by motorbike to get a handful of sand from the Dead Sea’s shores. Reason being? A cardholder‘s kid, who resided in London, required the sand for some school project.
Nevertheless, from our research, on other publications and first-hand accounts from cardholders, there is no doubt that the benefits of the American Express Black Card match its first-rate reputation.
BENEFITS OF THE BLACK CARD
- World-Class Service
The “Black Card” comes with an around-the-clock personal concierge program. To begin with, this first-class concierge service can aid cardholders to set up travel and dinner reservations. They can also get you out of messes when things don’t go as expected on a trip, for instance, if a natural disaster hits.
As a cardholder, your deluxe Centurion concierge service can secure you front row tickets to T-Swift, a rare reservation at Per Se or Nobu, or prolonged shopping hours at Gucci. There is no limit to the requests you can make when you have access to the personal concierge program. You can use it for mundane requests such as reminder calls for birthdays and anniversaries.
The “Black Card” can make your airport experience more luxurious and enjoyable. For instance, if you arrive at an airport and you need to swiftly get through the security checks, the card offers a yearly statement credit which takes care of the attendant costs.
- Exclusive Access to Certain Events
The American Express Black Card accords cardholders exclusive access to popular events such as theatre shows, concerts, major sports games and many other VIP events.
- Automatic Elite Hotel Statuses
Cardholders also enjoy several benefits from high-end hotel chains. For example, all cardholders get top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond elite status. They also benefit from elite hotel statuses like, Relais & Châteaux 5C and IHG Priority Club Rewards Platinum Elite, with bonuses like free internet and upgrades, besides a membership to the Centurion Hotel Program, which comes with perks at five luxury hotel chains: Belmond Aman, Mandarin Oriental, St. Regis and Peninsula Hotels (at $5,000 annually).
However, you only get the basic Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status. The good thing is that both privileges come with benefits such as late room checkouts and availability-based room upgrades.
- Complimentary Private Suite Membership at LAX
Cardholders get a free Private Suite membership at the Los Angeles International Airport, which ordinarily goes for $4,500 annually. However, you will still be charged $2,700 for each suite visit (for local flights) and $3,000 for any international flight.
The “Black Card” invites all its cardholders to indulge in shopping sprees (in statement credit) at Saks Fifth Avenue, using its annual offer of up to $1,000 and quarterly offer of up to $250.
- Car Rentals Elite Status
The American Express Centurion® Card comes with rental car perks too. Any cardholder will receive complimentary Hertz Platinum status, which offers airport pick-up service and car upgrades. It also comes with free access to the Avis President’s Club, which can feature car upgrades too
As a cardholder, if you rent a car using the Centurion Card, you are entitled to:
- Roadside help, including free jumpstarting and towing services
- Principal car rental insurance(so long as you drop the collision damage waiver)
The Centurion Auto program offers you access to a luxury car rental service, with pricing on glamorous first-rate cars like Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Formula One racing cars.
The “Black Card” also accords its cardholders a free Equinox membership, which lets them visit any of the company’s extravagant gyms across the globe. Ordinarily, this kind of membership would cost over $4,000 in the first year alone.
An Equinox membership gives you access to a first-rate gym chain with locations in large cities in Canada, the U.K, and the USA. However, this benefit may not be very helpful when you don’t live near any of these gyms.
- No Credit Limit (Spending Limits)
The American Express Black Card does not come with a predetermined spending cap. So, as a cardholder, you can spend as much as you wish, monthly. But, that is only if you can afford to. This card is a charge card, hence you (the cardholder) cannot carry a balance. Whatever you spend must be refunded in full, every month.
This can come quite in handy if you love indulging in impulse-buying of expensive stuff. However, you have to ensure that you have enough cash in your bank account since charges must be paid in full, besides the $5,000 annual fee.
- What is the “Black Card” APR
The Centurion Card from American Express is not your ordinary credit card. You are normally required to pay the balance in full. However, if you opt to carry a balance, you should be ready to incur interest at the Prime Rate with an additional 12.74%. This might also apply to many other American Express Cards, but the APRs may be different.
- The Card Is Metallic
The American Express Black Card is made out of titanium, a fact that makes it even more unique compared to the rest.
- Whenever cardholders swipe the “Black Card,” they earn Amex Membership Reward points, which they can use to pay for flights or hotel bookings.
- Complimentary CLEAR Membership
Cardholders are entitled to an annual statement credit for CLEAR membership, for themselves and at least three family members. CLEAR makes use of biometric security measures for rapid security screening at stadiums, airports, and other venues.
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion Status
Besides VIP treatment in hotels and high-end rental cars, cardholders also get special treatment whenever they fly Delta. They get automatic Platinum Medallion status, which comes with free upgrades as well as priority check-in and boarding. The cardholders also incur zero charges for reissuing mileage tickets.
- Automatic Access to Express Centurion Lounges
Centurion Lounges are touted as some of the best airline lounges you can ever get. These lounges come with high-quality foods, drinks and services, with a few even offering massages and spa treatments!
- Airport Meet and Services
When cardholders fly first class into any of the 32 international airports, as well as on other entitled flights, they are assigned personal guides to expedite their customs and immigration procedures.
What Cheaper Alternatives Do You Have For A Luxury Card Experience?
Have you been looking forward to an invitation from the American Express Black Card in vain? You don’t need to fret about it because many Amex cards can fit the bill as well. If you desperately need to have a “Black Card”, there are a few other alternative card issuers who offer black cards too. These other luxurious cards come with great perks, without their annual fees costing you an arm and a leg.
So, the big question is: since you can only get the American Express Black Card through a rare invitation, yet it is the most expensive card; what equivalent alternatives do you have?
You don’t have to beat yourself so much if you don’t receive the invitation to apply for the “Black Card” from American Express. There are several other alternative luxury credit cards, which can still make you feel like a member of an elite social class.
You may not enjoy all the perks that come with the Centurion Card from American express, but these cards might give you better value for your needs. These cards don’t necessarily need you to spend like a celebrity and they don’t come with any foreign transaction fees for any purchases that you make outside the USA.
Some of the best alternatives include:
Platinum Card® from American Express
This card also comes with a unique luxury American Express experience, at a much reasonable fee annually. Some of the best perks that come with this card include:
- Cardholders earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after making $6,000 worth of purchases on the Card in their first 6 months of Card Membership.
- You stand to earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for any flights that you book directly with American Express Travel or with airlines up to $500,000 on these purchases annually.
- Cardholders earn 10x points on entitled purchases on the Card at restaurants internationally and whenever they Shop Small in the U.S., to about $25,000 in collective purchases, within the first six months of membership.
- As a cardholder, you are entitled to a $200 Hotel Credit. Each year, you get $200 back in statement credits, on The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel or prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts®, when you use your Platinum Card® for payment.
- You earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on any prepaid hotel bookings that you make using American Express Travel.
- You are entitled to a $240 Digital Entertainment Credit. You receive up to $20 in statement credits monthly, once you make eligible purchases using your Platinum Card®, at any of the following providers: Audible, The New York Times, Peacock and SiriusXM. Though you need to enrol first.
- You can get a $200 Airline Fee Credit. This is in form of statement credits, annually, in baggage fees plus more at one eligible airline.
- You can enjoy the expanded Centurion® Network, which includes over 40 Centurion Studio and Lounge locations globally. This means there now are even more places where the Platinum Card® can afford you free entry and exclusive benefits.
- You can enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 of Uber savings on any rides or eats orders within the USA each calendar year. However, the Uber VIP status and Uber Cash are only available to Basic Card Members.
- You are entitled to get up to $179 back annually on your CLEAR® membership, after using your card.
- You are entitled to a $300 Equinox Credit. You can get up to $25 back monthly, on specific Equinox memberships, though enrollment is required.
- The annual fee of $695 is fair compared to what the Centurion Card from American Express charges.
Mastercard® Black Card™
If the “Black Card” name gives you goosebumps and you give it priority over everything else, then this is your best option. However, in contrast with the Centurion Card, all folks are welcome to apply for the Mastercard® Black Card™ without having to wait for an invitation. This is one of the heaviest credit cards you can get in the market today, with its weight standing at 22 grams. The Centurion only weighs 14 grams.
Formerly referred to as the Visa Black Card, this metal rewards card offers several luxurious perks, including huge credits at resorts worldwide, plus a much more affordable annual fee compared to the Centurion Card from American Express.
The Mastercard® Black Card™ comes with the following perks:
- Original black-PVD-coated metal card (22 grams)
- Around-the-clock Luxury Card Concierge®—a phone call, email or live mobile chat away. A 24/7 service to help cardholders to save time and manage tasks big and small.
- Airfare redemptions of 2% devoid of seat restrictions or blackout dates. 1.5% value for cash back redemptions. Earn a point for each dollar spent.
- Annual Airline Credit: as much as $100 statement credits dedicated to flight-related purchases including baggage fees, airline tickets upgrades and much more.
- Registration in priority Pass Select with free access to over 1300 airport lounges globally with no limit on guests. This is inclusive of credits and specific airport restaurants for you and one guest.
- Exclusive Luxury Card Travel perks entailing an average value of $500for each stay, (for instance room upgrades, resort credits, breakfast for two, free Wi-Fi and much more) at more than 3000 facilities.
- Cell phone security for entitled claims of up to $1,000 annually. This is besides extra World Elite Mastercard® perks.
- Comes with a yearly fee of 195 for every authorized user) with and all terms and conditions applying.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
If you are out to get more travel value than prestige and bragging rights, this card gives you numerous benefits and rewards flexibility. Despite all the above available alternatives, the American Express Black Card still is the most prestigious and most sought after credit card. Yet, from the look of things, this “black card” will remain shrouded in mystery for a long time to come because of the scanty information about it within the public domain.