There’s no other credit card product more mysterious and high-class than the Amex Black. Here’s what we know about it.
Credit cards can come with plenty of useful benefits – cash back, travel rewards, access to luxury lounges, various types of primary and secondary coverage and much more. But there’s one benefit that only a few cards can offer, and that’s status.
When it comes to credit cards that provide you with the feeling that you’re royalty, the American Express Centurion Card, also known as the Amex Black, is the most popular example. Having this card can be compared to being part of a secret elite: You have to be invited to become a member, and only members know the terms.As a result, the Amex Black benefits and fees are veiled in mystery. The issuer prefers to sustain the mystery too. When we reached out to inquire about what the card offers and how to get it, an American Express representative told us the following: “Centurion Membership is personalized and unique to each individual, and therefore we do not share the specific details about the card benefits.”
Without a doubt, such a response can only make one more curious.
Read on to see what we’ve learned about the legendary Black Amex from our research and chats with people who’ve gotten a chance to get close to the legend.
What is the American Express Centurion Card?
The American Express Centurion Card is an exclusive luxury card from American Express that you can only apply for if you’re invited. You can, however, request to be considered for the invitation.
Who gets considered?
Linda Chavez, founder and CEO at Seniors Life Insurance Finder, told us about some experiences her clients with the Amex Black had had.
“It actually takes spending an average of $500,000 for several years consecutively,” she said. “The threshold varies between a cardmember who hasn’t had a Platinum card for 15 years and spends only $100,000 annually and just asks Amex for it… [and] the cardmember who has had a Platinum card for three years but has spent at least $1,000,000 annually, with a history of good credit and a strong portfolio and likelihood to keep spending high dollar amounts.”
As you can see, this product is designed for big spenders. But besides needing to spend a lot on Amex cards to be even considered, Centurion cardholders also pay incredibly high fees for the right to be a cardholder.
What are the fees of the Black Card?
There are some pricey credit cards out there – for instance, The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Chase Sapphire Reserve charge $550 in annual fees. But nothing comes close to the fees charged by the Amex Black Card.
As with everything about this card, reports differ on how much it costs to have the Centurion. For example, according to Forbes, the card charges a $10,000 initiation fee and $5,000 in annual fees, but Business Insider reports the initiation fee is $7,500.
One way or another, it’s clear that this card targets a specific slice of the consumer market.
You might be wondering, for this kind of price, what benefits does the Amex Black offer? Many of the perks that come with the card aim to offer luxury experiences rather than rewards.
“Free Equinox membership, and hotels will often put you in a better room when you show it,” shares Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit who has had the Amex Black since 2008.
“Also, the airlines will push your status higher – [especially] Delta gives automatic elite status, and you can get into Delta lounges free. The Centurion Club Lounges at airports are a great escape from the bustle of the airport as well.”
While it’s possible that benefits are tailored to each cardholder, here’s the information we’ve gathered on what the card may offer.
The Centurion card comes with automatic elite statuses in select rewards programs to offer the highest level of luxury wherever cardholders travel.
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold – Elite members with this status can upgrade their room at check-in and request late checkout when available. They also get a welcome amenity at participating properties and a 25% points bonus on their stays.
- Hilton Honors Diamond – With this status, members get room upgrades when available, premium internet free of charge, 48-hour room guarantees, the fifth reward night free and a 100% bonus on all Hilton Honors base points earned.
- IHG Platinum Elite –With this status, you can get priority check-in, room upgrades, guaranteed room availability, late checkout and a 50% bonus on base points you earn during your stays.
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion – This Delta elite status comes with complimentary upgrades, priority wait-listing, check-in and boarding, a 4-points-per-dollar bonus and other benefits.
American Express also has two hotel programs that offer their own sets of benefits.
- Centurion Hotel Program – Centurion cardmembers can enjoy exclusive benefits at Aman, Belmond, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula Hotels, Rosewood, Waldorf Astoria, Oetker Collection and St. Regis. These benefits include noon check-in, room upgrades at booking and in-room Wi-Fi (all subject to availability). Cardholders also receive daily breakfast for two people, 4 p.m. checkout, special amenities and up to $200 in credits on eligible hotel incidentals.
- Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts – Cardmembers can also take advantage of special benefits on eligible properties with the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program, including noon check-in and room upgrades (depending on availability), as well as daily breakfast for two people, 4 p.m. checkout, special amenities and up to $200 in credits on eligible hotel incidentals.
Amex Black cardholders travel in luxury. They can skip the airport’s security line with Global Entry or TSA Precheck Priority screening – cardmembers get a $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 for TSA Precheck application every four years. Further, they can receive an annual statement credit for a CLEAR membership.
When waiting to board, cardmembers can escape the hustle and bustle with access to Centurion Lounges and a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership – which can get them into hundreds of airport lounges over the world. If they travel to or from Los Angeles, they also can enjoy an annual membership to The Private Suite at LAX (although there are additional charges of up to $3,000 each time they use the service).
When they fly business or first class on international flights, a personal guide from Centurion International Arrival Services meets them and up to eight of their companions at the airport to expedite them through customs and immigration. The service can also organize ground transportation and provide baggage porters for a fee where available.
Centurion cardmembers can save while enjoying all this luxury too. For instance, they can receive a 50% airline bonus and get half of their Membership Rewards back as a statement credit when redeeming them for a flight booked through Amex or Centurion Travel.
The International Airline Program also allows Amex Black cardholders to save when purchasing a qualifying first or business class ticket for international travel or upgrading from business to first class.
Finally, they can save on more than flights. Centurion cardmembers may be entitled to credits on eligible cruise bookings of five nights or more, as well as additional amenities and bonus points.
For added comfort and convenience when traveling, the Centurion card offers a few car rental benefits.
- Centurion Auto Program – Besides premium car purchasing, this program offers luxury car rentals and driving experiences.
- Avis President’s Club – This program guarantees a car rental at corporate locations (even when you don’t have a reservation) and offers complimentary domestic upgrades and opportunities to save on rates.
- Hertz Platinum – With this program, Centurion cardmembers can count on car upgrades, car pickup and delivery to select private planes free of charge, first priority for car availability and other perks.
It’s not fine living if it doesn’t include fine dining and wining experiences. If you’re an Amex Black cardmember, the card can offer plenty when it comes to lifestyle perks.
Besides providing access to exclusive sales and events (think the Grand Prix de Monaco and VIP tickets to Coachella), Amex Black cardmembers can rest assured there’s a table held for them at 1,000 of the world’s top restaurants with the Centurion Dining Program.
Wine lovers can also get a lot of value from the Centurion. The card can take them on a wine tour through Centurion Wine that offers private tastings in Napa, Tuscany Tours or Napa Tours. They can also find special wine-buying offers on Centurion.com, complimentary consultations with a wine-collecting specialist, complimentary one-year subscription to CellarTracker.com and more.
Centurion cardholders who love fitness can work out in luxury wherever they go with a complimentary Equinox destination access membership that provides access to over 100 Equinox fitness clubs around the world.
Shopping with Centurion
Last but not least, the Amex Black card can take your shopping to the next level. The card reportedly comes with up to $250 in quarterly Saks Fifth Avenue credits and offers access to Saks stores outside of normal business hours.
Additionally, cardholders can use the Centurion Shopping Program to receive exclusive offers from luxury brands and InCircle that earn extra rewards for shopping at Last Call, Bergdorf Goodman, Cusp, Horchow Neiman Marcus. On top of that, cardmembers get access to personal shoppers with NET-A-PORTER and MR PORTER shopping services.
Luxury card alternatives
As you can see, the card is packed with attractive perks and benefits. However, you don’t need to be a millionaire to get an elite credit card product that offers outstanding value and benefits and makes you feel like a million dollars.
For example, the American Express Platinum might not get you a personal guide to meet you at an airport or open a boutique’s doors after hours for you, but it actually shares quite a few benefits with the Centurion, like Centurion airport lounge access, Priority Pass Select and access to the Centurion Dining Program among others. Not to mention, it’s a metal card that looks (and feels) luxurious – all for $550 per year.
And if it’s the luxury feel of the card that you’re after, there are even more affordable options from the issuer. The American Express® Gold Card is a gorgeous metal card now available in two colors – classic gold and elegant rose gold.
The card doesn’t offer as many luxurious travel benefits but can provide a lot of value to foodies, earning 4 points per dollar at restaurants (including Uber Eats purchases) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar), 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. The annual fee is only $250 per year, and the card almost pays for itself, thanks to an annual $120 dining credit ($10 per month at qualifying locations) and up to $120 in Uber cash ($10 per month) each year.
You should also consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve, another premium card with excellent travel perks and valuable rewards. Besides earning points on travel and dining, it comes with a generous $300 annual travel credit and attractive benefits such as up to $100 in Global Entry/TSA Precheck credits, a Priority Pass membership and more. Like the Amex Platinum, this card will cost you $550 per year.
The American Express Black Card is an exclusive credit card product filled to the brim with elite benefits and perfect for showcasing status. Most of us won’t even get a chance to ponder whether we want the card, thanks to mysterious and steep eligibility requirements, but don’t fret. There are plenty of premium credit cards to choose from – just as beautiful and full of value.