Not many rewards credit card are secretive – issuers make card member benefits, the details of rewards programs, interest rates for purchases and balance transfers, as well as total carrying costs readily available to the masses. But one credit card breaks that common mold. Rumors surrounding the American Express Centurion Rewards card, also known as the AMEX Black card, surface far more than accurate data about how the card works and to whom it is offered. This review provides a detailed look into the mysterious AMEX Black credit card, assumptions and misinformation aside.
The American Express Centurion Rewards credit card may be the only one in history that had a presence in the market before it actually existed. Whispers of a secretive credit card made available to only the financial elite – those with big bank accounts and even bigger spending habits – swirled around like wildfire. Everyone wanted the coveted Black card as a sign of status among friends and colleagues. The problem? It didn’t exist.
In response to numerous inquiries regarding the non-existant card, American Express delighted questioning consumers by creating an invitation-only program available only to highly qualified applicants. The American Express Centurion rewards credit card was born, and has been sought after since its establishment in 1999.
Black Card Basics
As an invitation-only program, AMEX Black card holders do not go through an application process to see if they qualify for membership. Instead, American Express evaluates potential card members by reviewing spending habits on current American Express cards, total reported income and in some cases, total net worth. While the details regarding the criteria for acceptance into the Centurion card member class are not listed anywhere on the American Express cite, data leads one to believe that spending of no less than $250,000 each year and an income or net worth high enough to support that level of spending is the starting point for an invitation. Some suggest that being a heavy spender with American Express for a minimum of one year is also a requirement, although there is no specific language in the card member agreement that makes this fact.
The American Express Centurion rewards credit card offers similar incentives for ongoing use as do other American Express credit cards. Rewards accumulate at a rate of one point per each dollar spent, with no listed limit on earnings. With typical AMEX membership rewards, redemption can be used for the following:
- Statement credits
- Retailer gift cards
While these rewards categories are fairly common not only among American Express but from other competing card issuers, Centurion card members are given additional rewards and perks that boost them to a truly elite status.
American Express Centurion rewards can be used for points transfers to specific partners, including airline frequent flyers programs and frequent stay programs through luxury hotels. The ability to transfer points from the Centurion coffers to frequent flyer or frequent stay programs gives card members a much faster way to reach top tier status, thus earning free flights, free stays and other perks not available to regular travel or rewards credit card members. In addition, Centurion card members gain access to certain airport lounges and clubs, priority boarding and seating programs, fine hotels and resorts programs, cruise privileges, and luxury destination programs, all at no cost. A $200 airline reimbursement is also available each year the card is maintained.
An incredibly valuable benefit afforded American Express Centurion rewards card members is the dedicated concierge. Card members have access to a 24/7 concierge line that provides benefits not common to other rewards credit cards. Perks include reminder calls before important dates, such as anniversaries or birthdays, personal shoppers at high-end retailers, assistance with making travel arrangements and the ability to secure pricey tickets to sold-out sport or entertainment events. While other American Express card members have access to a concierge services that is similar, Black card members are given priority each and every time.
The Cost to be a Black Card Member
One of the only revealing pieces of information readily available to those interested in becoming an American Express Centurion rewards credit card member is the cost associated with the card – arguable the highest among all rewards credit cards. Card members who are invited to accept the Black card are assessed a $7,500 set-up fee to start, followed up by an annual fee that averages $2,500, making the initial cost of simply accepting the card $10,000. The annual fee changes based on the country in which the card member lives, but the invitation fee remains steady for all new card members.
While the upfront and ongoing fees for the American Express Centurion rewards credit card may seem stark, the value of the ongoing rewards and the elite status the card brings are far greater for most card members. Additionally, no other fees are charged for using the card, such as foreign transactions fees or redemption fees. Card members are not assessed an interest rate for purchases, balance transfer or cash advance transactions because any balance charged on the card must be paid in full at the end of each billing cycle. Any late payment that exceeds 60 days is assessed a $37 fee or 2.99% of the outstanding balance, whichever is greater. Card members are not restricted by a set credit limit each month.
The American Express Centurion rewards credit card is not something most everyday credit card users have an opportunity to experience. The lofty qualifications in terms of income, net worth and annual spending make most ineligible for the card; even if you believe you meet these requirements, American Express does not allow individuals to apply for or explicitly request a Black card membership. Instead, a thorough evaluation process is done in house, and invitations to accept a new Centurion card are sent directly to qualified card members.
If you are fortunate enough to receive an invitation, the Centurion card is far from free. The initial $10,000 fee and annual $2,500 membership charge can be well worth it if a high level of spending is maintained throughout the year. Rewards translate quickly to elite status among major airlines, hotels and resorts, and the added bonus of the dedicated concierge service may wipe away any concern over the Black card’s fees.