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The American Express Centurion Black Card – Infographic

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When we think of the once-mythical American Express black card, we tend to conjure images of the most fabulously wealthy people in the world plunking one down on the counter to pay for items that cost more than most Americans earn in a year – or possibly even in a decade. The American Express "black" card is actually called the American Express Centurion card (not to be confused with the more recent Visa Black Card) and that image is not a terribly far cry from reality.

The Centurion card is "once-mythical" because prior to 1999 it really was just a myth. Doug Smith, director of American Express Europe, told Snopes.com that "there had been rumors going around that we had this ultra-exclusive black card for elite customers. It wasn't true, but we decided to capitalize on the idea anyway." And thus the Centurion card was born.

How to get one

You will not find an application for this card online, although the terms and conditions may be viewed here. Rather, American Express will extend an invitation to customers who meet certain criteria. American Express will not confirm the requirements, but it is generally believed that successful applicants already have and use other American Express cards, and have been active cardholders for at least one year. Also, the applicant must have significant assets and charge at least $250,000 per year.

Start Your Journey Here
While the American Express Centurion card is rumored to have lofty annual spend requirements, the American Express Green Card charge card with a low annual fee is a solid first step to begin your journey to a Centurion card invitation.

What it costs

If you are one of the chosen few who receive an invitation to apply, you'll have to pay a one-time initiation fee of $7,500 plus an annual fee of $2,500. There is no interest rate because it's not a credit card. Rather, it's a charge card and the balance must be paid in full each month.

[Related: Should I choose a credit card over a charge card?]

What you get

The Centurion offers special services and benefits to its members. American Express is secretive about most of the details, except to say they include "rare" travel, food and entertainment experiences. That may mean a coveted ticket to New York's fashion week or a private box at the Superbowl. Benefits also include a luxury car rental service, with preferred pricing on exotic high-end vehicles like Lamborghinis, Bentleys and even Formula One racing cars. Without a doubt, hotel and airline travel upgrades are standard, as is access to private airport lounges worldwide. But many cardholders are likely to be the kind of people who typically travel by private jet, so these "perks" may not be seen as such.

[Related: Credit card benefits – are you getting the most out of your card?]

The real value of membership may be in the form of personal services offered by the concierge, such as reminder calls prior to anniversaries and birthdays, personal shoppers, or tickets to sold-out events.

Wild tales of the power of this card and the service it offers are common. Snopes relates several, including one of an American Express employee who traveled by motorcycle to retrieve a handful of sand from the shores of the Dead Sea for the school project of a cardholder's child in London. Presumably, most cardholders should not expect that level of service. Indeed, cardholders in China are already complaining that the service is lacking and does not warrant the hefty annual fee.

The American Express Centurion Card, or "Black Card" Infographic:

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  • Fred Pilon

    Titanium does not anodize black.

    • ryan8236

      Fred – This comment piqued my interest so I did some investigating. I’m a Mechanical Engineer working on corrosion resistance for military systems and I deal with plating companies quite often. Although some low voltage runs will produce a dark bronze/purple color, I agree that it’s definitely not the shade of black on the Centurion card.

      I called a friend at American Express and confirmed that their official claim is that the card is made from anodized titanium. I think that the card is actually hard coated with Titanium Aluminum Nitride, a common coating for tools requiring a thicker and harder surface than traditional Anodizing, which can offer the rich black coating that’s seen on the card. Although similar in appearance, the coating is actually applied with a physical vapor deposition process rather than electrolyte solution like anodizing.

      If Amex’s target clientele were the engineering community, they could advertise that the card is made from PVD hard coated titanium for superior wear resistance.

      • Abhi

        ryan8236 – you know this knowledge shower is not going to get you an invite, right?

  • Richard Sandridge

    IT’S LIKE JERRY SEINFELD, NEVER GOES AWAY! Til he’s a bad memory, in your pocket. He should sell out, TO DISCOVER/NOVVUS! :D

  • Dr. Septimus Pretorius

    I prefer my Costco American Express Platinum Cash Rebate Card. No fee.

  • ishy

    amex concierge is the same as the regular credit cards.. i know a person who work in a concierge company that runs both amex, visa black card and citi bank.

    • imageWIS

      Not exactly, you might get the same person on the phone, but the Centurion Card member will get priority over everyone else, every time.

      • Brian

        I work for AMEX, Centurion gets a dedication travel agent, and a dedicated concierge. AMEX out sources many services for Green, Blue, Open cards etc, but not for Platinum and Centurion. Think about it, would you really want some 3rd party agent handling your clients who bring you in the bulk of your money??

        • deank

          just curious seeing that you work for amex, but iv noticed that some of the centurion cards have gold writing and graphics and some have silver, is the a reason or meaning to that?
          thank you

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  • deank

    Iv noticed that some centurion cards have gold writing and graphics and some have silver, just curious what the difference or meaning to that is if any one knows.