American Express Black Card: Inside the exclusive benefits

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 cardImage: 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 — also known as the Amex Black Card — is one of the most exclusive and secretive credit cards on the market. While American Express doesn’t release most details of the card to the public, its exclusive benefits and reputation as a status symbol make it a sought-after card.
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The Centurion® Card from American Express is as much a status symbol as a credit card.

The Centurion Card® from American Express — better known as the American Express “Black Card,” or simply the Amex “Black Card” — is available only to those who are invited to apply (although you can now request consideration for an invitation, too).

Invitations are typically believed to be reserved for millionaires and billionaires who already spend enough money with American Express to justify the card’s enormous fees. The card’s exclusivity and high spending thresholds have made it a common reference in pop culture — although this card is much more than just a way to get perks and rewards while you spend.

The interest in the Centurion Card® from American Express is understandable, too. If various reports are true, those invited can enjoy a bevy of world-class benefits.



How can you get the card?

The “Black Card” may seem like a black box.

American Express doesn’t publicize its requirements or standards for extending invitations to members. So the exact requirements to qualify for the Centurion® Card from American Express are a closely guarded secret.

But rumor has it cardholders need to …

  • Spend several hundred thousand dollars annually on another American Express credit card
  • Earn an income of at least $1 million each year

Because of these rumored steep qualification requirements, even serious spenders might not be invited to apply for the card. American Express offers current cardholders the option to request consideration for the card — but that comes with no guarantee of a formal approval process.

How much does the card cost?

Official documents show that it costs a total of $15,000 for cardmembers to get started with the Centurion Card® from American Express. While that might seem costly, keep in mind that the selective requirements mean that five figures might seem like a small price to pay for most prospective cardholders.

That $15,000 includes the price of the card’s initiation fee and annual fee. But cardholders pay only the annual fee after the first year.

Initiation fee

The Centurion® Card from American Express charges a one-time $10,000 initiation fee to open the account. It’s not clear what this cost is applied to, but it seems like enough to ensure that cardholders will be serious about using the card for numerous expenses.

Annual membership fee

Cardholders also pay a $5,000 annual fee each year. By comparison, the Platinum Card® from American Express charges a $695 annual fee.

But you might be able to get that $5,000 annual fee back if you decide the card isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. American Express says you might be eligible for a refund on the annual fee if you voluntarily close your account within 30 days of the closing date of the billing statement in which it was charged.

Reopening the card is relatively affordable

If your card is canceled, you can ask American Express to reopen the account for only $25. That’s less than the cost of a typical credit card late fee.

What makes the card so special?

The issuer is tight-lipped about the benefits of the Centurion® Card from American Express. American Express doesn’t publicize a list of the card’s benefits, so many of them are known only to cardholders.

But we were able to learn about the card from research and rumors. While we were unable to confirm the information below with American Express, here are a few of the benefits described by other publications and firsthand accounts from cardholders.

World-class service

The Centurion® Card from American Express features a world-class concierge service.

For starters, the personal concierge can help cardholders set up travel and dinner reservations. They can also help people get out of jams when something goes wrong on a trip, like a natural disaster.

Exclusive access to certain events

The Centurion® Card from American Express gives cardholders exclusive access to popular events like sports games, concerts, theater shows and other VIP events.

Airlines

The Centurion® Card from American Express can make the airport experience more enjoyable and luxurious.

When you arrive at the airport and need to get through security more quickly, the Centurion® Card offers an annual statement credit to cover the cost of your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee or Clear membership. And while you wait for your flight, you can enjoy American Express’ Global Lounge Collection, which includes the luxurious Centurion Lounge access. If that’s not enough, you can also get access to Priority Pass lounges.

If you’re flying with Delta, you can use the card’s complimentary Delta Platinum Medallion elite status to request a free seat upgrade to first-class when available.

And if you’re flying internationally, the Centurion International Arrival Service helps you brisk through customs when you arrive.

Hotels

The Centurion® Card from American Express also comes with several perks from top hotel chains.

Cardholders receive top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond elite status — but only the basic Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status. The good news is both of them come with perks such as availability-based room upgrades and late checkouts.

Car rental

The Centurion® Card from American Express also features rental car benefits.

Cardholders receive complimentary Hertz Platinum status, which comes with car upgrades and an airport-pickup service. It also includes access to the Avis President’s Club, which can include complimentary car upgrades.

Shopping

The Centurion® Card from American Express invites cardholders to go on a shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue with its offer of up to $1,000 each year (up to $250 per quarter) in statement credits at the store.

Fitness

The Centurion® Card from American Express gives cardholders a complimentary Equinox membership that allows them to visit any of the company’s luxury gyms around the world.

Normally, this membership is estimated to cost more than $4,000 in the first year.

There’s no credit limit

The American Express Black Card doesn’t have a pre-set spending limit, so cardholders can spend as much as they want every month.

But that’s only the case if they can afford it. The Centurion® Card from American Express is a charge card, so cardholders can’t carry a balance. Whatever they spend must be paid back in full each month.

It’s a metal card

The Centurion® Card from American Express is constructed from titanium, which might make it stand out even more for some.

More-attainable alternatives for a luxury card experience

Even if you never receive an invitation to apply for the Centurion® Card from American Express, there are plenty of other, more practical luxury credit cards that could still make you feel like a member of the social elite. You won’t get all the benefits of this ultra-exclusive card, but you might find these cards are a better value for your needs.


About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.