The Centurion: the Black American Express Card

Have you heard of this? My first encounter with the black American Express card was at a Christmas Party last year.

 

Someone had used the box it comes in (a bulk wooden thing with velvet trim inside) to house their present for the gift exchange. Would have just been nice if the card WAS the gift you know?? After the gift exchange was finished, I guess not enough people recognized what the wooden box represented so the gifter whipped out his black American Express and started showing it off to everyone. You know, not to point out he had one but just because it was made out of metal and that’s “so cool”. I had no idea what the card represented (or should I say what the cardholder wanted it to represent), but the overwhelming awkwardness of flashing your credit card around a party made me go home and google it. Here’s the lowdown:

The card requires a one-time fee of $5,000 followed by an annual fee of $2,500

The income requirement is not publicly disclosed, but it seems to be around $100,000/yr (personally I felt this was a little low for such an “exclusive” card)

The net worth requirement is not publicly disclosed, but is rumored to be around $250,000

The spending requirement is also not publicly disclosed, but looks like you need to blow $250,000 on your American Express Platinum card the year prior (baffling if you’re only brining in $100K/yr)

On average, Centurion card holders are 49-yro males with net worth over $1 million dollars and perfect credit scores who love to use their Black American Express card to buy clothes for women.

So why would you even want any of that?

Well, the first perk that caught my eye was complimentary companion airline ticket on international flights with the purchase of one full-fare ticket. Wow! Assuming you buy first class (and why wouldn’t you? You have a black card!), the complimentary plane ticket for your travel buddy would justify the annual fee and then some! I’ve checked: first class fights to Europe from Canada run in the neighbourhood of $5,000 — that’s twice the annual fee. Imagine being able to get that for FREE for a friend or spouse? I feel like it would be a lot easier to convince people to travel with me if I could offer them a free first class ticket ;)

Upon your arrival at your international destination, why not check in to a Mandarin Hotel? You get one complimentary night as a black card holder. You’re also complimentarily enrolled in Hertz and Avis rental car programs.

Furthermore, you can whip your titanium credit card out of your wallet at parties to let everyone know how rich you are. Who can put a price tag on that?

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Comments

  1. I have yet to see one in person, but I have seen the new JP Morgan Palladium card. That thing is sick. It is actually made of Palladium (about $600/oz). From what the gentleman said, it doesn’t have quite the perks that the Black card does, but the fee is much less and they are adding new perks to lure customers over to Chase. He did say that you probably had to have a private banker at Chase to even be considered for the card, so who knows if their strategy will work.

  2. I work at a swanky restaurant, so I first started seeing these a few months ago, and the first time I rang one through I was all, what the hell why is this card so heavy. They look really neat, and I guess it does make sense for the savings you’d get if you travel a lot. It just seems like so much money !! How do you charge $250K to your credit card in a year? My student debt seems measly next to those numbers.

    • I have noooo idea. Assuming these guys are business owners I could see charging $250,000 to your card for a medium to large business but when I googled about the card it says the most common charge was clothes for women =\ haha

      • no. the American Express Centurion card a.k.a. “Black Card” discussed in the article is a personal card. I believe there is a business card version as well, but the terms and requirements are different. A medium sized corporation in the United States is usually defined by a market capitalization of between 2 and 10 Billion. There are millions of small businesses which spend 250,000 a year, just so you know.

  3. I have a metal card (Chase Sapphire Preferred), so I get the cashier questions without the big baller status. The rewards are worth it, but it does create unneeded conversations. That’s a bit of a sad picture, someone passing their credit card around at a party, but hey, might as well flaunt it I guess.

  4. I know you don’t like hip hop, but this post requires me to quote Jay-Z:

    “Now I got black cards, good credit and such, baby boy now I’m all grown up…” :)

  5. Wow, those requirements are steep. It’s actually kind of cool that the requirements look at net worth, because I usually see credit cards as a tool that can actively reduce your net worth. I think it’s a great goal to get that card. Might motivate some people to get out of the hole, get a better job and earn the status. Or maybe not, because metal credit cards aren’t really motivation to achieve those goals….or maybe they are….just not to me.

    • Goal? Really?

      I think it’d be a great goal to QUALIFY for the card, but I don’t really see what there is to gain by getting it. Actually in most of the forums I found when I was researching it, they said many people are switching back to the next-best card because it’s the same perks with lower fees!

      • By the “next-best card” I am assuming you mean American Express Platinum. Unfortunately, you are incorrect in saying, “it’s the same perks with lower fees.” The perks of the centurion far exceed those of the platinum card, for a larger fee, and minimum spending requirements.

        • Melissa says:

          Yeah..Amex Centurion recently revamped their perks for the Platinum card. So, if you read recent reviews, a lot have been complaining about the perks, not as exclusive anymore. I am waiting to see the Visa Black Card (partnered with Barclays) to top off the perks/benefits of the Centurion.

  6. I’ve seen many of the Amex black cards given the environment I work in. They are shockingly heavy, but from what I’ve learned about these cards, the avg monthly spend is about $40,000. And it being an Amex, interest rates are already higher than other Visa or MC (at least they used to be) and require a healthy monthly payment. I think it’s save to say that these cardholders maker well over $100,000 a year, I would add at least another 0 and likely change the first number. However, none of them whip it out at the party and flaunt it.

    • ouch… $40K per month.

      I would expect the earnings to be over $100K per year — I was surprised the rumored minimum was so low but I guess if they’re keeping a secret we’ll never really know!

      It was super awkward having it passed around the party.. especially since I didn’t know what it was, but more so because no one else was oohing & ahhing. Granted the party I was at was full of high-earners anyway so they probably had their own black cards, I’m not really sure why this guy felt the need to tell us he was all part of the club =\ it was pretty sad!

      • I am speaking from personal experience. There is no minimum earning requirement for the Amex centurion. The requirements are simple. Have a American Express Platinum Card that you spend 250,000 USD on per year, and then pay for the initiation fee and annual fees. At some points in its history, it has been invitation only, disregarding the spending requirement.

    • Amexerican Express cards in the US are charge cards, meaning they do not charge interest but you do have to pay the card in full every statement period. This card is by solicitation only so you can not apply for it you have to upgrade to it. For people who dont spend that much there are gold or platinum charge cards that are great also.

  7. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    LOL, I found your post amusing.

    “Furthermore, you can whip your titanium credit card out of your wallet at parties to let everyone know how rich you are. Who can put a price tag on that?” – hehehe.

  8. Dang….that’s a lot of $$$.

  9. That card looks so cool. I want one now :D. Too bad I don’t meet the minimum requirements though. I wonder what the interest rates on these kinds of exclusive cards are and how many people keep balances on them.

    • The people who are able to afford these cards, have probably never had an outstanding balance on a credit card in their lives.

  10. C The Writer says:

    “who love to use their Black American Express card to buy clothes for women.”

    Oh, I could use some new clothes. I should find one of those guys.

    I kid, I kid.

  11. The only way I can see the 100k minimum making sense for this card would be to accomodate a drug dealer, or anyone whose primary source of income isn’t on the books/legal. Which isn’t surprising considering its incessant reference in rap songs. ;)

    • Why? It’s not hard to break into $100,000 legally. Physicians, lawyers and executives cross this barrier all the time. I also know plenty of nurses, engineers and even teachers that can see six-figures in a year — all of these are legitimate, legal, socially-acceptable professions. I expect to earn $100,000/yr in my lifetime, possibly even in the next few years.

      It’s not unattainable.

      • Let’s have a friendly race between me and you. First one to reach $100,000/yr treats the other person to brunch or something ^_^

      • C The Writer says:

        Plenty of people make over 100k a year in legitimate professions. Just not any I’ve ever had. :p

        • I think I phrased that wrong. Making over 100K a year is of course attainable. But I don’t see why that would be the minimum income for this card when it hardly seems like enough cash to necessitate having one… unless that wasn’t your actual income.

          But anyway! Great post as usual. You’re too funny.

          • Agreed! I couldn’t believe the minimum was $100,000 but you’re expected to spend $250,000 the year prior. It’s bizarre but these stats might be wrong since American Express doesn’t publish what the real criteria is.

  12. I think I need two of these to show the Joneses up… funny to see what some “wealthy” people value!

  13. There’s a ton of perks to these cards. My friend borrowed his boss’s card last time he was in Vegas and pretended he was the cardholder (not for purchases of course). He called some number and said he wanted into a club that had a huge line. They said they’d take care of it. Then he walked to the front of the line at the club and the staff called him by name and invited him and his friends into the club. Sounds pretty sweet to me.

  14. Really? $2500?? Really? When you call on the phone, do you have a personal concierge?

    This is a very informative post. But I can’t wrap my head around this card. Maybe all this stuff is useful if you’re some kind of mega traveler. But doesn’t it just seem like this is a big spending trap? I’ll keep my Fidelity American Express ….

    • You DO have a personal concierge!

      It does seem like a big spending trap. The annual fee just makes me sick.. that’s over $200/mo just to have the card. totally unreasonable.

      • You don’t really have a personal concierge. There are a team of call centre agents and they just pick up the first call that comes through. Occasionally you get a good agent and you try to ask for them for your next request – in Australia, the same team that looks after the Platinum cardholders also looks after the Centurion cardholders. So not the most bling-bling of benefits.

        What Amex is recently bringing in is personal account managers – so you might get a couple of phone calls from them each year to see how you’re going. The last time our account manager called us was to advise that the fee was increasing from $4300 to $5k, and “if you cancel and want to rejoin you have to pay the joining fee”.

        But your other posters are right – it’s a status symbol, like a country club membership is to Americans (lol). Hardly worth the money.

  15. At least it is easy for fraudsters to target….

  16. Those are some pretty good perks. Although I’d like to qualify for the card, I definitely will not be putting 250k on it every year. That’s just crazy.

  17. I have a black amex and wrote a run down of the card on my blog (see below link) – though my experiences are Australian-centric rather than international. We pay $5000/yr and the joining fee is $5000.

    http://flymefunky.com/2012/06/centurion-the-black-amex/

    Just a note on your comment on the the complimentary tickets… this isn’t so true these days, but centurion have access to discounts on airfares with partner airlines. For example, last year my partner and I flew to London in business class with Etihad and the cost was $1000 less than retail, so whilst you don’t get a free ticket you can get some good savings.

  18. It’s a status symbol basically. And a stupid one at that in my opinion.
    Even with the perks, if you had money, you could choose and buy whatever you wanted without restrictions from American Express. If I wanted to show off my wealth, I’d rather buy a fancy car to show off my fortune… More fun to play with. More showcase-y. :D

  19. Conspicuous consumption is not my thing: at the least it’s tacky and at the worst it’s setting yourself up to be a target.

  20. Very interesting. I had never heard of this card. I suppose it makes sense if you are a business owner.

  21. HermesBOYToy says:

    My folks have this card. Between both of them they blow up to $500k a year using this cards. Talk about amazing perks. I will give examples. My mom and I was shopping in Hawaii at the Hermes. Mother was looking to purchase yet another BIRKIN bag to her COLLECTION. a sticker price staring at $10k and up. We all know how elusive and exclusive that bag is. Of course they did not have the bag she wanted so she would some jewelry and scarves. When it came to purchase she pulled out her amex black card. The sales asst stop and called the store manager. The manager had told us. “Madam we don’t offer everyone this but. If your interested I can open the store for you tomorrow morning for an hour before the store actually opens and show you what we have in the back room.” We agreed! Hermes had open the store one hour before the general public with only the manager and another SA. The manager had asked us what is our budget and pulled out a Hermes Birkin 35cm Ultra Violet Crocodile with Gold Hardware a sticker price of $56,000. So my mother bought it. Mind you she already spent $15k the night before. Buying Hermes birkin and kelly bags 3 to 4 times a year adds up. The perks are amazing we’ve experience this all the time. The minute people find out you have this cards you get a whole new level of customer services.

  22. Mayesforaustin says:

    Can I get a sponsor? And so of you on this thread sound a bit jealous. Just saying…

  23. Who cares is that happiness ? See you when you check in at the asylum

  24. You guys are what the general public call “haters”… I bet most of you are in the low to mid class income earners. This card is intended for the upper echelon, the elite and most prestige of all classes.

    I’m first generation American who was raised on welfare and food stamps and I am now a multi business owner. I’m currently an Amex platinum card holder with the goals of reaching The Centurion Card one day. Just because you don’t have ambition, drive and pursuit of wealth to feed the generations after you doesn’t mean you should be so bitter at the people who do. Some are content with a 9-5 and others are willing to work harder (and smarter) to obtain the luxuries of life!

    If you haven’t worked for it or experienced it then you shouldn’t comment like you know what it’s like on the other side of the fence because at the end of the day, you’re just looking through the peep hole… Btw, WHEN I do achieve Black Card status, I wouldn’t be flaunting it around at a Christmas party, that’s just tacky… Children’s birthdays? Nowwww you’re talking!!!

  25. You’re way off. The net worth requirement for the invitation is about $16.5 million in assets and an avg yearly income of $1.5 million. Plus the spending of at least $250,000 per year on the card. So no, the requirements aren’t low, you’re just way off.

    • Not sure about that, I interviewed someone with the card recently and they got it when they only had about $2 million in assets.

      • Joe zircon iris. says:

        Not so! I have a Centurion Card,and have no where those numbers in assets, income, or spending. My understanding is that decisions are case by case, and membership longevity is an important factor.

  26. i sent over 500k on my platium amx last year and 400k the year before i still dont have one

  27. bizowner says:

    I wonder if Amex also considers what the purchases are spent on. This year I’ll spend close to $1M on my amex costco card on Endicia postage for a few websites. I doubt amex wants to offer a centurion card for this type of spending. Personally I prefer my amex costco card over a Centurion card if they ever offered it to me anyway. This August, when my rebate check comes in, I’ll go to the bank of Costco and collect my rebate in cold hard cash (more than $10k). I have to call management ahead of time to make sure they have enough cash on hand, and that someone will be there to access the safe. I plan to use the cash for bonuses and employee motivation, I wouldn’t have an opportunity to collect on a payout like this without my staff anyway. I’d feel guilty if I blew $7500 for a “fee” so I could flash a black card in my employee’s faces while cutting their bonuses short.

  28. When I worked at a fancy smancy restaurant in Toronto I swiped a Black Amex on a weekly basis. It’s kind of awesome. It even feels more weighty in the palm. I think you hit the nail on the head in regards to its value: “Furthermore, you can whip your titanium credit card out of your wallet at parties to let everyone know how rich you are. Who can put a price tag on that?”. One of the ultimate status symbols.

  29. matsonjones says:

    Hi:

    I’ve had a Centurion card for about ten years. I was never asked to offer either income verification and certainly never asked about my assets. I had, however, been with AmEx about ten years (gold, then platinum level) prior to requesting the Centurion card. They only did two things – confirmed that I had spent a quarter million dollars in the previous 12 month period (not calendar year), and they did check my credit report. And that was it. I’m also grandfathered in at the annual $2,500/year fee level.

    As to bizowners April 4 comment above, I think they are correct as it applies to them. Instead of the 1% cash back that bizowner enjoys (and that’s a terrific perk to be sure!), the Centurion perks are different and useful in my case. Someone above noted free first class companion tickets. I flew to Singapore twice last year on Singapore Air (first class) for business, and was able to take my girlfriend for free. A comparable first class ticket for purchase on Singapore would have been approximately $13,000. So two trips = total savings of $26,000 (+/-). In addition, someone above noted that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (and others as well) offer free nights to Centurion members, and our room rate was about $800/night, so that saved another couple thousand dollars. In addition, there are many other freebies and benefits. So in reality my savings are significantly more than the $10,000 cash back bizowner elected. But to each their own as it works best for them.

    The real value of the Centurion card is if you travel a great deal. In that case all the perks and savings related to travel more than make up for the cost of the card, and exceed any monetary reward that any other card offers by far.

  30. I am 21 years old young lady in my last year of Law School (Law with Business Finance) and I am also a (gilt) bond investor in the U.K. I own an AmEx Black Card and I don’t have problems keeping up with it :-)

  31. My goal is to qualify for the Centurion Card, receive an invitation, try to negotiate down the initiation fee, then reject it. I’ll continue to use my Costco American Express Platinum Cash Rebate card (no fee) instead.

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