Centurion® Card review: The elite, mysterious American Express black card

Couple sitting at a table in the surf at a beach, toasting because they have the Centurion® Card from American Express, which could be the world’s most elite travel card Image: Couple sitting at a table in the surf at a beach, toasting because they have the Centurion® Card from American Express, which could be the world’s most elite travel card

In a Nutshell

The Centurion® Card from American Express — known informally as the American Express black card — is an invitation-only travel rewards card reserved solely for Amex’s biggest spenders. If you make the cut, you’ll enjoy some of the credit card world’s most-elite benefits and perks. But the American Express black card isn’t for everyone — in fact, most don’t even get the chance to apply.

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Pros Cons
Elite perks and benefits Invitation-only application
Access to a vast network of airport lounges, including the American Express Centurion® Lounge network Astronomical annual fee
Status symbol Unimpressive rewards rate

You won’t find details about the Centurion® Card on the Amex website.

The company keeps details about the near-mythical American Express black card under wraps, although many have leaked out over the years. Based on what we’ve heard from cardholders privy to its secrets, here’s what you need to know about the Centurion® Card.

What you need to know about the Centurion® Card from American Express

Benji Stawski, an avid traveler and frequent contributor to The Points Guy, a travel advice blog, has done a lot of reading up on the Centurion® Card and says it comes with amazing benefits for frequent travelers. Here’s a list of our favorites among those Stawski calls out.

Platinum Medallion status with Delta

“This, in my opinion, is the most valuable benefit,” Stawski says, “as you get unlimited complimentary first-class upgrades (with relatively high priority on the list), complimentary Comfort+ upgrades and more.”

Access to Centurion® Lounge and more

Many top-end travel cards offer some kind of airport lounge access, but only a few stack up to the American Express Centurion® Card. The Centurion® Card grants access to the Delta Sky Club (usually $545 per year), the American Express Centurion Lounge network and Priority Pass lounges. 

This puts the Centurion® Card on par with the Platinum Card® from American Express, which also grants access to Centurion lounges, the International American Express Lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges and Priority Pass Select lounges. Both cards offer superior lounge access to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which only grants access to Priority Pass Select lounges. 

$200 annual qualifying airline rebate

This can be applied toward baggage fees, in-flight food and drinks, and more.

What else you need to know about the black card

First, you’ll have to figure out how to actually get a card. People can’t apply for this card; they must be invited, and word on the street is invitations are reserved only for those who do some serious spending on their American Express cards and have substantial net worth.

Though existing Amex customers may be able to request to be considered for an invitation, as Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, attests to in a Travel and Leisure article.

You should also consider your points-earning potential. Kelly says you only earn one point per $1 on all purchases, although others have reported a slightly different number. Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics, says in an Entrepreneur article that he receives 1.5 points on all purchases over $5,000.

Finally, even if you manage to get an invitation, the astronomical initiation and annual fees may dissuade you from applying — you’ll pay a $7,500 initiation fee and an annual membership fee of $2,500 per card.

“This is a hefty fee for a credit card,” Stawski says, “and unlike just about every other credit card on the market, there is no sign-up bonus.”

Is the black card really worth it?

If that elusive black-card invitation shows up at your door, should you fork over $10,000 in fees?

Stawski says he doesn’t recommend it, “unless you can maximize the rewards you get from Platinum Medallion status with Delta and really want bragging rights from having the black card.”

Many elite travel and airline rewards cards come with much-lower annual fees and offer several of the same benefits.

“To get the most out of the card,” Stawski says, “you really need to travel often, specifically with Delta, and make sure you activate all of your elite status memberships.”

Stawski also says the business version of the Centurion® Card is better than the personal version, as it offers a 50% points rebate on all or part of eligible airfare booked with points.

So if you simply must have the American Express black card in your wallet and you own a business, consider the business version of the card as opposed to a personal one.

Not sure this is the card for you? Consider these alternatives.