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

Updated Sep 09, 2021 | Published Jun 07, 20187 min read

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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. Or you can request an invite to apply for this card, and see what fate brings.

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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.

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.

However, in a recent development that sped through the world of credit cards at the speed of light, you can now request to be considered for an invitation to apply for the Centurion card. You’ll just need to be an Amex cardholder.

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.

Get Your Black Metal Card Fix with a Mastercard Black Card

In stark contrast to the Centurion card, anyone can apply for the Mastercard® Black Card™ (Review) without a special invitiation.

It’s is one of the heaviest credit cards you can get, weighing in at 22 grams (compared to the Centurion’s weight of only 14g).

This metal rewards credit card, formerly known as the Visa Black Card, comes with several high-end travel benefits, like huge credits at resorts around the world, and a much lower annual fee than the Centurion card.

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Mastercard® Black Card™
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  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$495
  • Purchase APR14.99% Variable

Other High-End Metal Cards

Read more about these alternatives further down the page, or browse our full page dedicated to metal credit cards you can get right now, which includes some with no annual fee.

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 not your typical credit card. You’ll typically need to pay the balance in full, but if you choose to carry a balance you’ll incur interest at a rate of: Prime Rate + 12.74%.

This is true for several other American Express cards as well, although the APRs may differ.

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. But keep in mind you can get a number of different cards with a concierge benefit.

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. (Nowadays, lots of cards come with a complementary Priority Pass Select membership or other types of airport lounge access)
  • Global Entry fee credit: Get a $100 statement credit to cover your Global Entry (which includes TSA PreCheck) application fee. (Several cards now include an application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck)
  • 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 Preset Spending Limits

Perhaps the best-known perk of the Centurion card is the fact it has no preset 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.

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:

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The Platinum Card® from American Express
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  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$695
  • Purchase APRSee Pay Over Time APR

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, $200 in Uber credits, and elite status at certain hotel chains. Plus, if you are approved for the Platinum card, you’ll get 100,000 bonus points for spending $6,000 in the first 6 months; 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months.

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Mastercard® Black Card™
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  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$495
  • Purchase APR14.99% Variable

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
  • Min. credit levelGood
  • Annual Fee$495
  • Purchase APR16.99%–23.99% Variable

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

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.

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Chase Sapphire Reserve®
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  • Min. credit levelExcellent
  • Annual Fee$550
  • Purchase APR16.99% - 23.99% Variable

Points, points, points! If you get approved for this metal card, you’ll receive a nice intro bonus: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 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!

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

Written by

Brendan Harkness

Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high-quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.

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