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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.
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.
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:
And that’s just to maybe get an invite!
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.
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.
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.
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:
When you swipe this card, you’ll earn Amex Membership Rewards Points, which you can use toward flights or hotel stays.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you rent a car with your Centurion card, you’ll get:
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.
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.
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:
There are many perks unrelated to travel as well, including complimentary ShopRunner membership and a variety of shopping protections.
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.
Each year you’ll get $1,000 in statement credits for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue: $250 per quarter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 12 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!
Kimberly Rotter contributed to this post.
For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
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.
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