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

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Blog

Jun 07, 2018 | Updated Mar 15, 2019

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 to 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!

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 It Costs to Get an American Express “Black Card”

If you’re one of the few invited to apply for a 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: $5,000–$7,500
  • Annual Fee: $2,500

Can you believe it? More than $5,000 just to get a card? But hey, there are no foreign transaction fees! (Most of the best travel credit cards 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.

Based on the cardholder agreement, however, it appears that some Centurion cardholders take advantage of a “Pay Over Time” feature. (Which probably comes in handy when you’re spending $250K a year!)

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.

Automatic Hotel Elite Status

Centurion cardholders get automatic Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status, which translates to perks like free 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.

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 car rentals, 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 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 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.
  • Free in-flight WiFi: Want to get work done on the plane? You’re in luck: This card comes with complimentary Boingo and Gogo WiFi access.
  • Global Entry fee credit: Every four years, you’ll receive a $100 statement credit to cover your Global Entry application fee.
  • $200 travel credit: On an airline of your choice, you’ll receive up to $200 in annual statement credits to cover fees like checked bags and in-flight food and beverage purchases.
  • International arrival services: When you fly first class into one of 32 international airports, you’ll be assigned a personal guide to speed up your immigration and customs process.

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

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.

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.

Get Your Metal Card Fix with a Mastercard® Black Card™

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

This metal rewards 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™
Apply Now

Mastercard® Black Card™

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $495
  • Interest Rate: 17.24% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Stainless Steel – Patented Card Design
  • Luxury Card Rewards Program
  • 2% Value for Airfare Redemptions
  • 1.5% Value for Cash Back Redemptions
  • Complimentary, automatic Priority Pass Select membership offers unlimited lounge access for cardholder, authorized users, and guests
  • 24/7 Luxury Card ConciergeTM
  • Exclusive Luxury Card Travel Benefits
  • $100 Annual Airline Credit Toward Qualifying Purchases
  • $100 Global Entry Application Fee Credit
  • Luxury Gifts
  • Members-Only LUXURY MAGAZINE
  • Annual Fee: $495 ($195 for each Authorized User)
  • 0% Introductory APR on balance transfers made in the first 45 days after account opening (then 17.24%)

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.

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

 

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, when you sign up for the Platinum card, you’ll get a 60,000-point introductory bonus for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.

 

As noted above, this card offers points that equate to 2% back for airfare and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases. Other perks 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.

 

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 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 13 hotel and airline partners. Other perks 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

Kimberly Rotter contributed to this post.

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