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The American Express “Black” Card: Everything You Need to Know

7 min read
Brendan Harkness By Brendan Harkness Jun 07, 2018 | Updated Jun 23, 2020

Drool Over the American Express Black Card — and Then Apply for These Instead

When you think of the American Express black card, you may conjure up images of the wealthiest people in the world plunking one down to pay for items that cost more than most Americans earn in a year — or possibly a decade.

The official name of the Amex “black card” is the Centurion® Card from American Express (not to be confused with the more recent Mastercard® Black Card™).

Before 1999, the Centurion card was just a myth. “There had been rumors going around that we had this ultra-exclusive black card for elite customers,” Doug Smith, director of American Express Europe, told Snopes. “It wasn’t true, but we decided to capitalize on the idea anyway.”

And thus the American Express “black card,” subject of many a rap song and gold digger fantasy, was born.

Drool Over the American Express Black Card

How Do I Get an American Express “Black Card”?

Though you can read its terms and conditions, you won’t find an application for this card online. That’s because this exclusive piece of plastic, er, metal, is available by invite only.

The requirements to get a “black card” aren’t publicly available either, but based on other users’ reports, you should probably:

  1. Use other Amex cards
  2. Be an active cardholder for at least a year
  3. Charge at least $250,000 per year (though some estimates are as high as $450,000)

And that’s just to maybe get an invite!

Insider tip

Looking for a card made of metal like the “black card”? Check out this post about metal credit cards.


Drool Over the American Express Black Card — and Apply for These Instead

What Does It Cost to Get an American Express “Black Card”?

If you’re one of the few invited to apply for an Amex Centurion card, the buck won’t stop there. You’ll have to pay a hefty initiation/application fee, as well as an annual fee, for the privilege of using this card.

  • Initiation Fee: $10,000
  • Annual Fee: $5,000

Can you believe it? More than $10,000 just to get a card? But hey, there are no foreign transaction fees! (Most of the best travel credit card offers can get you that)

We guess if that price shocks you (like it does us!), you’re probably not ready for the Centurion. Instead, focus on building your credit responsibly with the slew of other offers out there.

Drool Over the American Express Black Card, and Then Apply for These Instead

You’ll have to prove that you are worthy.

What’s the “Black Card” APR?

The Centurion card is a charge card — not a credit card — which means you must pay your balance in full each month.

This is true for several other American Express cards as well.

What Are the American Express “Black Card” Benefits?

The benefits of the American Express Centurion card match its world class reputation.

If you ask around, you’ll probably hear wild tales of the power of this card and its services. Snopes relates several, including one where an American Express employee traveled by motorcycle to retrieve a handful of sand from the shores of the Dead Sea. The reason? A Centurion cardholder’s child, who lived in London, needed it for a school project.

In addition to Dead Sea sand, here’s what else this card offers.

Membership Rewards Points

When you swipe this card, you’ll earn Amex Membership Rewards Points, which you can use toward flights or hotel stays.

24/7 Personal Concierge Program

Need front row tickets to T-Swift? How about extended shopping hours at Gucci? Or a tough-to-secure reservation at Nobu or Per Se?

No request is unreasonable when it comes to the deluxe Centurion concierge service, which you can also use for simpler requests like reminder calls for anniversaries and birthdays.

And as of November 2019, this service is rumored to be even better, providing cardholders with 24/7 personalized service.

Complimentary CLEAR Membership

Get an annual statement credit for a CLEAR membership, for yourself and three family members. CLEAR uses biometric security measures for fast security screening at certain airports, stadiums, and venues.

Complimentary Private Suite Membership at LAX

Get a free Private Suite membership at the Los Angeles International Airport, which normally costs $4,500 per year. But each Suite visit will still cost $2,700 for domestic flights, or $3,000 for international flights.

Automatic Elite Hotel Statuses

Centurion cardholders get automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, which translates to perks like free room upgrades and late check-outs.

You’ll also get elite hotel statuses like Hilton Honors Diamond, IHG Priority Club Rewards Platinum Elite and Relais & Châteaux 5C, with perks like complimentary internet and upgrades, as well as membership to the Centurion Hotel Program, which includes benefits at five luxury hotel chains: Aman, Belmond, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula Hotels and St. Regis (at an annual fee of $5,000).

Automatic Car Rental Elite Status

When you rent a car with your Centurion card, you’ll get:

  • Primary car rental insurance (as long as you decline the collision damage waiver).
  • Roadside assistance, including free towing and jumpstarting.
  • Elite status with car rental companies like Hertz and Avis.

Through the Centurion Auto program, you’ll have access to a luxury car rental service, with preferred pricing on exotic high-end vehicles like Lamborghinis, Bentleys and even Formula One racing cars.

Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion Status

In addition to hotels and rental cars, you’ll get to feel special when you fly Delta.

You’ll receive automatic Platinum Medallion status, which means complimentary upgrades and priority check-in and boarding — and no charges for reissuing mileage tickets.

Other Travel Perks

If it’s not obvious yet, the American Express Centurion card offers some serious perks for travelers.

Though there are more card benefits than we can list here — including for cruises, restaurants, stores and other events — here are a few more you should know about:

  • Access to American Express Centurion Lounges: Known as some of the best airline lounges around, Centurion Lounges have high-caliber food, drinks and services, with some even offering spa treatments and massages!
  • Priority Pass Select membership: As a Priority Pass member, you’ll gain access to hundreds of airport lounges around the country. Priority Pass membership through this card excludes non-lounge experiences.
  • Global Entry fee credit: Get a $100 statement credit to cover your Global Entry (which includes TSA PreCheck) application fee.
  • Airport Meet & Greet services: When you fly first class into one of 32 international airports, and on other eligible flights, you’ll be assigned a personal guide to speed up your immigration and customs process.
  • Personalized events: Exclusive invitations to private events and experiences.

There are many perks unrelated to travel as well, including complimentary ShopRunner membership and a variety of shopping protections.

Equinox Destination Access Program

A complimentary Destination Access membership to Equinox, a high-end gym chain with locations in big cities in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. This perk might not be too useful if you don’t live near a gym.

$1,000 Annual Saks Credit

Each year you’ll get $1,000 in statement credits for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue: $250 per quarter.

No Pre-Set Spending Limits

Perhaps the best-known perk of the Centurion card is the fact it has no pre-set spending limit (also known as a credit limit).

This can come in handy if you want to impulse-buy something expensive, like a $36 million tea cup. Just make sure you’ve got enough money in the bank, as charges must be paid in full each month (along with an annual fee of $5,000).

Can I Get More Than One?

Though American Express “black card” holders could once have up to 99 authorized users share their account, those golden days are over. In a bid to make the card more exclusive, cardholders are now limited to two authorized users per account. Each authorized user will have the same annual fee.

Get Your Metal Card Fix with a Mastercard Black Card

In stark contrast to the Centurion card, anyone can apply for the Mastercard® Black Card™ (Review) (formerly known as the Visa Black card).

This metal rewards credit card comes with several high-end travel benefits and a much lower annual fee than the Centurion card. Unlike the Amex card, it also offers the point equivalent of 1.5% cash back on every purchase, except for 2% back on airfare redemptions.

However, we don’t recommend this card because it doesn’t offer much value for the high $495 annual fee.

Mastercard® Black Card™

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$495
Regular APR14.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Patented black PVD metal card—weighing 22 grams.
  • 2% value for airfare redemptions with no blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • 1.5% value for cash back redemptions.
  • 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge®—available by phone, email and live mobile chat.
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel® benefits (e.g., amenities, room upgrades and complimentary food and beverages).
  • Up to $100 annual airline credit and $100 Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check application fee credit.
  • Cell Phone Protection, Lyft credits, Postmates discounts, Fandango perks and more.
  • Annual fee: $495 ($195 for each Authorized User).
  • Terms and conditions apply.

What Are Some Alternatives to the American Express “Black Card”?

Haven’t received your invitation to the Centurion yet? There are a number of other luxury credit cards that are exclusive.

Don’t fret: Other Amex cards might fit the bill, and other credit card issuers offer black-colored cards, too. Many even come with excellent travel perks and elite status — without the hefty annual fee. See some of those premium travel rewards credit cards.

Best of all? These travel rewards cards don’t require you to spend like a celebrity, and they have no foreign transaction fees for purchases made outside the U.S. Some of our favorites are:

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$550
Regular APRN/A
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

This American Express card has a lot of the features that make the Centurion so attractive. It comes with airport lounge access, a $200 airline fee credit, $200 in Uber credits and elite status at certain hotel chains. Plus, if you are approved for the Platinum card, you’ll get 60,000 bonus points for spending $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.

Mastercard® Black Card™

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$495
Regular APR14.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Patented black PVD metal card—weighing 22 grams.
  • 2% value for airfare redemptions with no blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • 1.5% value for cash back redemptions.
  • 24/7 Luxury Card Concierge®—available by phone, email and live mobile chat.
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel® benefits (e.g., amenities, room upgrades and complimentary food and beverages).
  • Up to $100 annual airline credit and $100 Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check application fee credit.
  • Cell Phone Protection, Lyft credits, Postmates discounts, Fandango perks and more.
  • Annual fee: $495 ($195 for each Authorized User).
  • Terms and conditions apply.

As noted above, this card offers points that equate to 2% back for airfare and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. The benefits include a $100 airline fee credit, a $100 Global Entry application credit, a 24-hour concierge, and occasional luxury gifts. The card is made of stainless steel and has a $495 annual fee.

Citi Prestige® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$495
Regular APR17.99%–24.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • 5X ThankYou points on Air travel and Restaurants
  • 3X ThankYou points on Hotels and Cruise Lines
  • No limit to the amount of points you can earn
  • Rewards never expire
  • $250 travel credit
  • Complimentary 4th night free on eligible hotel stays, capped at twice per year
  • Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ Application Fee Credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $495 annual fee

The information related to Citi Prestige® Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

If hotel stays are on the menu, the Prestige has got your back — you’ll get your fourth hotel night free when you book four or more nights through ThankYou.com. This perk is capped at twice per year, but it could lead to some hefty savings if you have a fancy for fancy hotels.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$550
Regular APR16.99%-23.99% Variable

Points, points, points! If you get approved for this metal card, you’ll receive 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. You’ll also earn 10X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides, 3X points per dollar spent on travel (after using the whole $300 travel credit) and dining, and 1X point per dollar on everything else. When you’re ready to travel, you can redeem points at a 1:1 ratio with 12 hotel and airline partners. Other goodies include Priority Pass membership and a $100 Global Entry application credit.

As you can see, you don’t need to sit around and pine for the American Express “black card” if you want some serious perks.

Apply for one of the cards above — or any of the best credit cards on the market — and you can write your own ticket to the high life!

Did You Know?

Drool Over the American Express Black Card — & Then Apply for These Instead

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For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

At a glance

You can only get the American Express Centurion card by invitation, and it’s expensive, but now there are other high-end cards that have great benefits without the astronomical annual fee.

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.

The information related to Citi Prestige® Card and Centurion® Card from American Express have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

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