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. Cardholders are among the wealthiest individuals. There are two different issues of the Centurion Card: personal and business.
In 1999, American Express introduced the Centurion Card 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's eligibility criteria. Cardholders are required to pay an annual fee, and in some countries also an initiation fee. (In the United States, the initiation fee is $7,500 in addition to the $2,500 annual fee from each cardholder). In addition to a variety of exclusive benefits, the card itself is made of anodized titanium with the information and numbers laser etched 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.) The plastic card and 2014 and earlier Centurion cards include embossed information on the card. The Centurion 2015 Card introduced laser etching. In some locations, such as Israel, EMV "chip" plastic cards which also include the ExpressPay contactless payment technology are issued. 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 appropriate net worth, credit and spending criteria are met. American Express does not publicly disclose the requirements necessary for getting or keeping a card except that the cardholder has a substantial net worth and is a former Platinum card holder.
While the eligibility criteria are subject to speculation, most reliable sources agree that Centurion Card holders have historically spent $250,000 or more per year on lower-level American Express cards, and have annual household incomes of around $1.3 million and net worths of $16 million.
|United States||US$2,500 (US$2,500 for each additional card member) plus one-time joining fee of US$7,500|
|United Kingdom||£2,200 (US$3,361) (unlimited) plus one-time joining fee of £2,500|
|Canada||C$2,500 (US$1,955) plus one-time fee of C$5,000 (US$3,909)|
|India||₹200,000 (US$3,118) plus one time fees of ₹250,000 (US$3,897)|
|France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark||€3,000 (US$3,390) plus one time fee €3,000 (Italy)|
|Germany, Austria||€2,000 (US$2,260) plus one-time fee of €4,000 (US$4,520)|
|Switzerland||CHF 4,200 (US$4,364) (unlimited)|
|Australia||A$5,000 (US$3,756) (increased from A$4,300 (US$3,230) from July 11, 2012) plus one-time fee of A$5,000 (US$3,756) from July 11, 2012|
|Japan||¥365,000 (US$3,015) (increased from ¥197,000 (US$1,628) from Jan 1st, 2008)|
|Hong Kong||HK$38,800 (US$5,005) plus one time fee of 5005 (increase from HK$19,800 (US$2,554) from May 30, 2013)|
|China (People's Republic of China)||CN¥ 18,000 (US$2,890) issued by China Merchants Bank (CMB) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) pursuant to a license from American Express|
|Singapore||S$7,490 (US$5,448) (unlimited) plus one-time joining fee of S$7,490 (US$5,448)|
|Kuwait||US$4,000 for Titanium-based Centurion. Issued by American Express Middle East (Bahrain) (Same applies for Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar)|
|Saudi Arabia||ر.س 11,250 (US$3,000) (unlimited)|
|International Dollar Currency Card (IDC)||US$4,000 plus one-time fee of US$4,000|
|International Euro Currency Card (IEC)||€4,000 (US$4,520) plus one-time fee of €4,000 (US$4,520)|
|Israel||US$2,043 (~₪8,000), where payments can be made either in ILS or in US$.|
|Taiwan||NT$160,000 (US$4,839) plus one-time fee of NT$160,000 (US$4,839) Note: minimum annual income (NT$3,500,000)|
|Lebanon||ل.ل 3,000 (US$3,000)|
|United Arab Emirates||DH 11,000 (US$3,000)|
|Sweden||kr 30,000 (US$3,557) plus one-time fee of 3557|
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 Dot & Vic's, 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 amenities, including Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status.
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. (In Australia, the insurance covers all trips, even if paid with another method or frequent flyer miles).
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 (US$1.36 million). The card has no preset limit in theory. In practice the authorization is decided upon past payment and spending patterns; the largest purchase ever made on one was US$170 million for Amedeo Modigliani's "Nu couché" painting purchased at a Christie's auction house by Liu Yiqian. It was suggested that the reason for funding the purchase through the credit card was to circumvent Chinese money laws that restrict the transfer of money by citizens out of the country to just $50,000.
The benefits offered to Centurion cardmembers are vast, but they appear to be based on the benefits offered to American Express Platinum cardholders, but with many enhancements.
Centurion Card members, like Platinum Card members, get complimentary access to the American Express Centurion Lounges at several US airports. However, at busy times, Centurion members have access to areas reserved for them. There are also drink options at the bar that are exclusive to Centurion members. As of 2015, they have a Champagne option of Veuve Clicquot and a single malt scotch by Balvenie.
Several original Centurion program benefits have been discontinued, including:
- Continental Airlines benefits, which ceased in October 2011
- Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum elite benefits, downgraded to Gold (from January 2006, same as Platinum card)
- Hyatt Diamond Elite benefits
- American Airlines Admirals Club benefits, which ceased on March 21, 2014
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. 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:
In popular culture
In season 5, episode 13 of Gilmore Girls, Rory makes a coy remark toward Logan Huntzberger, the son of Mitchum Huntzberger, a successful newspaper magnate, about him possessing an American Express black card and uses it as a symbol for his level of wealth.
Mentions of the Centurion Card are common in the rap genre, used by successful artists with large fortunes. Possession of such a card is illustrative of a luxurious life and exclusive social group of success and fame. Kanye West references using a black card in his song "Last Call" on his debut album The College Dropout. Cyhi the Prynce 'can't wait to get his' in Kanye West's "The Morning". In both of these lines, the black card is also used as a metaphor for race in addition to it being a show of wealth.
Lady Gaga makes a reference to her black card in "Donatella" (2013, ARTPOP).
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