The Most Prestigious Credit Card
Officially released in 1999, the American Express Centurion card comes with a strict set of criteria as well as its own mythologies dating back as far as the 1980s. However, perhaps in response to these rumors, American Express brought out their black Centurion credit card, which was named after their trademark symbol of a centurion’s head. Crafted out of titanium instead of plastic, the Centurion card has been dubbed “the black card.” In order to have this invitation-only card and receive its exclusive benefits, you have to have deep pockets to finance a hefty yearly minimum amount usage as well as thousands of dollars in membership fees per year.
The Centurion card is an elite status symbol reserved for the rich and/or famous. There is no APR applicable to this prestigious credit card, but that is only because Amex cards are technically considered to be charge cards rather than credit cards, meaning the balance must be paid off in full at the end of every month.
Who Has the Black Card?
With rumors of only 17,000 of these cards in existence, the criteria set forth to own the black card is kept under wraps; although, it is clear in order to own a card, you must be invited to do so. The criteria is not disclosed publically, in America, requirements include having a minimum annual spending habit of $250,000, having an exceptional credit history, and possessing huge financial assets. Only 1% of Platinum cardholders (next highest status) are invited to be a part of the black card club. Certain requirements may be waived for celebrities and public figures.
The Centurion card has two types of accounts: for personal and business use. According to rumors, an Australian has to pay an annual fee of $4300. In the United States, cardholders have to pay a $5,000 initiation fee and an annual $2,500 to keep the card active. Due to the high price tag and exorbitant demands for annual spending (rumored minimum is $250,000,000), black cards are available in Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Europe, the Middle East and North America.
Of course the Centurion card is a status symbol for the rich and famous, but the card does come with plenty of perks. In addition to exclusive invitations to red carpet events and premier seats at sporting events, Centurion cardholders receive elite benefits from travel to shopping to a subscription to a members-only publication.
With this card, you have access to a 24-hour travel agent and concierge service. Moreover, carrying a Centurion card will give you access to free first class upgrades on participating airlines, companion tickets for international flight (with purchase of a regular price ticket) and luxury hotel discounts with an occasional offers for free nights. Participating hotels include chains such as Mandarin Oriental, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Leading Hotels of the World and Amanresorts. Black card members are automatically enrolled in USAirways Platinum Preferred, American Airlines Admirals Club, Delta Platinum, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and Continental Gold. Should a card member need to rent a car, there’s automatic enrollment in Hertz Rent-A-Car #1 Club Gold member as well as in Avis’ President’s Club. Should there be a layover, Centurion members can wait in style in any of the members only flight clubs.
Spending more than $250,000 per year can be a chore. So Centurion card holders have access to personal shoppers at high-end retail stores like Neiman Marcus, Gucci, Tiffanys and Escada. Sony also grants access to Cierge personal shopping. In addition to exclusive in-person shopping assistants, each member is assigned a concierge that will enrich the online shopping experience by expediting orders or finding the near impossible items.
In 2004, American Express began sending black card members a no name magazine, and since 2007 it has been aptly named Black Ink. This magazine is available only to US personal cardholders. Centurion is the name of the publication sent to cardholders everyone else and is published in Munich, Germany by Journal International GmbH.
Rental Cars and Other Driving Perks
Black card members are already enrolled in two different car rental clubs, but when it comes to renting a car, the perks don’t stop there. If you tastes are more exquisite, the card will help get a deal on a high-end BMW, Lexus or Mercedes. Still not good enough? This card gives you access Bentleys, Ferraris Lamborghinis and Teslas.
For card members that want the ultimate joy ride, there’s access to the Bridgestone Winter Driving School on icy roads and the Land Rover Experience for off-roading. For those wanting to keep it simple and stick to the pavement, the black card will get you deal on a Formula One rental.
Those looking to purchase a new car also have special offers from Jaguar and Telsa, with more on the way. American Express has collaborated with Zag.com for exclusive discounts and upgrades.
Other prestigious credit cards:
There are some other prestigious credit cards that are only available to the high-rollers of the world, and although these are by no means poor relations to the American Express Centurion, they perhaps lack some of the Centurion’s aura. They certainly lack such a mammoth annual fee.
- The Visa Infinite is an invitation-only credit card, which means if you’re thinking of trying your luck with an application, don’t bother; like the Centurion card, Visa has to approach you.
- The Visa Black Card, with a positively petty annual fee of just US $495.
- The MasterCard World Insignia is another prestigious credit card affording all the privileges you might expect from an above-platinum credit card.
- The Diners Club Carte Blanche is offered by the oldest credit card company in existence.
- The Coutts World Card was around long before the black card, and is only available to customers of the UK bank who have at least $US 1 million in their Coutts’ account. This is where the Queen of England banks.