The American Express Centurion Card, known informally as the Black Card, is an invitation-only charge card issued by American Express to platinum card holders after they meet certain criteria. There are two different issues of the Centurion Card, personal and business.
American Express introduced the Centurion Card in 1999 to cater to a more affluent customer segment. The card was initially available only to selected users of the company's Platinum Card. To become a Centurion cardholder, one must meet American Express' eligibility criteria. Cardholders are required to pay an annual fee, and in some countries also an initiation fee (In the United States, the first-year initiation fee is $7,500 plus a $2,500 yearly fee, followed by $2,500 each year thereafter). In addition to a variety of exclusive benefits, the card itself is made of anodized titanium with the information and numbers stamped into the metal (It should be noted that in some markets, the plastic version of the card is still issued, with or without the titanium card.) American Express created the card line amid rumors and urban legends in the 1980s that it produced an ultra-exclusive black card for elite users who could purchase anything with it.
Availability and fees
The Centurion Card is invitation-only after an appropriate net worth, credit and spending criteria are met. American Express does not publicly disclose the requirements necessary for getting a card except that the cardholder has a substantial net worth and they are a former platinum card holder. For reference, the average Centurion cardholder has $16.3 million in assets and an annual household income of $1.3 million.
|United States||US$2,500 ($2,500 for each additional card member) plus one-time fee of $7,500|
|United Kingdom||£1,800 (unlimited) plus one-time joining fee of £2,500|
|Canada||CA$2,500 plus one-time fee of $5,000 CAD|
|India||INR₹200,000 plus one time fees of INR₹250,000|
|France, Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden||€3,000 ($4,000)|
|Germany, Austria||€2,000 plus one-time fee of €4,000|
|Switzerland||CHF 4,200 (unlimited)|
|Australia||A$4,300 (increase to A$5,000 from July 11, 2012) plus one-time fee of A$5,000 (from July 11, 2012) ($5,000)|
|Japan||JPY￥365,000($4,550)(increase to JPY197,000 from Jan 1st, 2008)|
|Hong Kong||HK$38,800 plus one time fee of HK$38,800 (Increase from HK$19,800 from May 30, 2013)|
|China (People's Republic of China)||RMB￥18,000 ($2,950), issued by China Merchants Bank(CMB) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China(ICBC) pursuant to a license from AMEX.|
|Mexico||About 56,000 pesos ($4,000)|
|Brazil||R$ 4.250,00 ($2,000)|
|Argentina||About 20,000 pesos ($4,000)|
|Saudi Arabia||SAR 11,250 (unlimited)|
|International Dollar Currency Card (IDC)||US$4,000 plus one-time fee of US$4,000|
|International Euro Currency Card (IEC)||€4,000 plus one-time fee of €4,000|
|Russia||100,000 rubles (~ US$3,500)|
|Taiwan||TWD$160,000 (~US$5,450) plus one-time fee of TWD$160,000|
|United Arab Emirates||US$3,000|
The card, available for personal and business use, offers services such as a dedicated concierge and travel agent; complimentary companion airline tickets on international flights on selected airlines with the purchase of a full-fare ticket; personal shoppers at retailers such as Gucci, Escada, and Saks Fifth Avenue; access to airport clubs; first-class flight upgrades; membership in Sony's Cierge personal shopping program and dozens of other elite club memberships. Hotel benefits include one free night, when at least one paid night is booked during the same stay, in every Mandarin Oriental hotel worldwide once a year (except for the New York City property), and privileges at hotel chains like Ritz-Carlton, Leading Hotels of the World, and Amanresorts. All of the benefits mentioned above are for United States-issued cards. American Express Centurion Cards issued in other countries may include different benefits. The card has recently added new amenities, including access into the Gulfstream Aerospace Private Flyers Club, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold, as well as US Airways Platinum Preferred and Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status. In 2007, American Airlines Admirals Club access was added to the list of amenities. As of 2010, the card provided unlimited access to all US Airways Clubs regardless which carrier the cardmember is traveling on (unlike Delta, and American). The card also features complimentary enrollment in Hertz Rent-A-Car #1 Club Gold and the Avis Rent-A-Car President's Club.
Initially it came with an extensive travel insurance all year round no matter how the trip was paid for but since 2012 this insurance is limited to trips which are paid with the card only.
The titanium-crafted "Centurion" card was first issued as an upgrade for all plastic U.S. "Centurion" cards in the first half of 2006, with the titanium version being rolled out to certain other countries as well.
Some Centurion customers have purchased automobiles using the card or made purchases exceeding €1 million. The card has no preset limit in theory. In practice the authorization is decided upon past payment and spending patterns ; the largest purchase supposedly ever made on one exceeded $52 million for a private jet by Victor Shvetsky. However, many retailers object to the high commission charges and prefer to offer a cash discount. The card is used for refueling superyachts and private aircraft where the bills can frequently exceed $100,000.
Several original Centurion program benefits have been discontinued, including:
- Continental Airlines benefits ceased in October 2011
- Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum elite benefits downgraded to Gold (from January 2006, same as Platinum card)
- Hyatt Diamond Elite benefits removed
Since the inception of the card, members have received a copy of Departures, which is also sent to all Platinum Card cardholders. However, in 2004, American Express Centurion members in the US began receiving an exclusive "no name" magazine, which was not available by any other means. Starting with the Spring 2007 edition, this magazine was officially titled Black Ink. The magazine is available only to individual Centurion cardholders, not to the business-edition customers. European, Asian, and Australian Centurion members receive quarterly the Centurion magazine, published by Journal International GmbH (Munich, Germany). In June 2011, the Centurion magazine website was launched, offering daily updates for Centurion Card members.
According to Journal International, the average age of a Centurion reader from Europe or the Middle East is 49 years. Ninety-four percent of primary cardholders are male and they have an average of 3.3 properties. Their average household income is €653,000 and their average total net worth is €4.5million. They have an average disposable monthly income of €8,800. Centurion has been published since 2001 and has a circulation in Europe and the Middle East of 44,100, in Asia of 13,900, and in Australia of 6,000.
The Centurion Card is part of an elite credit card segment created for a very small and exclusive range of clients around the world. Other such cards include:
- Visa Black Card
- HSBC Premier World Card
- Palladium Card
- Top 5 Elite cards ( Business Insider Article, July 2013)
- Sullivan, Paul, "American Express’s New Service for Its Wealthiest Cardholders", The New York Times, January 24, 2011
- Lent, Robert; Selling Luxury: Connect with Affluent Customers, Create Unique Experiences Through Impeccable Service, and Close the Sale, ISBN 0470457996
- pe.pdf American Express Centurion/Departures - Media Kit, Europe & Middle East 2010
- "Black American Express Card". Snopes.com. December 6, 2006. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
- American Express page about hotel benefits
- Press release on Admirals Club access
- Official American Express Centurion Card Interactive Tour
- "About Us". Centurion. Retrieved 19 October 2013.