The Centurion ‘black’ card has a $2,500 annual fee and is invite-only, but you can get most of its benefits with the Amex Platinum

The business version of the Amex Centurion ‘black’ card. The Points Guy
  • The Amex Centurion “black” card makes other premium credit cards look downright affordable. With an initiation fee of $US7,500 and an annual fee of $US2,500, it’s for big spenders. Oh, and the annual fee is jumping to $US5,000 starting in April 2020.
  • It’s also invite-only; you can’t apply without permission from Amex.
  • The card offers some incredible benefits, like complimentary elite status across four hotel chains and with Delta, airport arrival services, and access to a concierge.
  • While some of these perks are exclusive to the Amex black card, you can enjoy many of them with the Platinum Card® from American Express and the Business Platinum® Card from American Express.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

Also known as the Centurion card, the American Express “black” card is so prestigious that you have to be invited to use it. Yes, you read that right – you can’t just apply for it and expect to get approved. You have to receive a private invitation from American Express.

So, how do you get an invite for a black card? While the requirements aren’t officially published, rumour has it that you have to be a high earner who has spent and paid off between $US350,000 and $US500,000 across all of your American Express accounts in a calendar year.

And once you’re approved for the card, there’s a $US7,500 initiation fee, and a $US2,500 annual fee. It makes premium credit cards like the Amex Platinum ($US550 annual fee) and the Amex Business Platinum ($US595) look downright affordable. Plus, as The Points Guy reports, the annual fee is increasing to $US5,000 starting in April 2020!

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

Benefits of the Amex black card

Aside from the status symbol that comes with simply carrying an Amex black card in your wallet, you can enjoy these perks by having one.

Hotel elite status

With a black card, you can lock in hotel elite status at four major hotel chains: Marriott, Hilton, Intercontinental Hotels Group, and Relais & Châteaux. Hotel elite status gets you sweet benefits like room upgrades, late checkouts, resort and spa credits, and free breakfast.

The Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum offer status with Hilton and Marriott, but not with IHG and Relais & Châteaux.

Read more:
Credit cards that get you hotel elite status just by having them in your wallet

Delta elite status

According to The Points Guy, the black card also offers cardholders Platinum Medallion elite status with Delta. You can’t get this benefit with any other credit card, and it offers you perks like complimentary upgrades and bonus miles.

Airport lounge access

There’s nothing better than knowing you have access to a comfortable airport lounge while you’re travelling, especially if you have a long layover. The Amex black card gets you free access to more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world, including Amex Centurion Lounges, Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta, and Priority Pass airport lounges. You can sit back and relax on the comfortable chairs while indulging in some good food and drinks.

The airport lounge access you get as a Centurion cardholder is virtually identical to the lounge access you get with the Amex Platinum and Amex Business Platinum.

Equinox membership

The Centurion card added several new perks in late 2019, along with the announcement that Amex would be raising the annual fee. One of the most valuable new benefits is Equinox Destination Access Membership, which lets Centurion cardholders use any of the 100-plus Equinox gym locations in the US, UK, and Canada. This membership costs $US300 per month plus a $US500 initiation fee, so it’s quite valuable if you’re a fan of the high-end fitness club chain.

Unsurprisingly, there’s no comparable benefit on the Platinum and Business Platinum cards.

Up to $US1,000 per year in Saks Fifth Avenue credits

The Amex Platinum offers up to $US100 in credits for Saks Fifth Avenue per year, so it’s only fitting that the Centurion has an even better version of this perk.

Starting in 2020, Centurion cardholders will get up to $US1,000 in credits for Saks purchases – divided into four credits of up to $US250 per quarter of the year. To get the credit, cardholders just have to make an eligible Saks purchase with their Centurion card, and they will be reimbursed up to the quarterly and annual limit in the form of a statement credit.

As a bonus, Saks stores will open their doors to Centurion cardholders outside of normal business hours – a pretty extravagant perk for those who want to make a power move or impress their non-Centurion-holding friends.

CLEAR membership

CLEAR is an expedited security membership (an alternative to TSA PreCheck), and you can use it at more than 30 airports and more than 20 sports and concert venues in the US.

The recently revamped American Express® Green Card offers a statement credit for up to $US100 toward CLEAR membership, which costs $US179, but with the Amex Centurion card you can get a statement credit for the full cost of membership when you use your card to buy it. Plus, you can get statement credits to cover adding up to three family members.

24/7 concierge service

An Amex black card gets you your own personal concierge whenever you’d like one. You can count on the round-the-clock concierge service to help you make travel plans or reservations at exclusive restaurants. This service can also get you tickets to just about any event and/or purchase gifts on your behalf.

Once again, the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum also offer concierge services. However, Centurion cardmembers are definitely the top priority for Amex concierge, and they get the best access to restaurant reservations and more.

International arrival service

If you travel abroad often, you’ll love the black card’s international arrival service. As long as you fly business or first class via American Express Travel, you’ll be assigned to your own personal guide who will make the immigration and customs process a breeze. This isn’t a benefit you can replicate with any other Amex card.

Another exclusive airport perk: Centurion cardholders get complimentary membership to The Private Suite at LAX, a private VIP terminal. But there’s a big catch: You have to pay each time you use it – and it costs up to $US3,000.

No spending limit

There are no preset spending limits with the black card, so you can easily buy big-ticket items that you may not necessarily be able to pay for with other credit cards. Keep in mind, however, that since the black card is technically a”charge card,” you must pay off your balances in full every month. (The Amex Platinum and Business Platinum are also charge cards.)

Other lifestyle perks

Beyond offering elite status with more travel partners, international arrival service, and the top tier of Amex concierge service, the black card stands out from the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum with its selection of wine-related benefits, such as consultations with a wine specialist and wine-buying offers.

Black cardholders also get several shopping perks, including special offers and VIP benefits with Net-a-Porter.

The Amex Platinum is more attainable, and offers many of the same perks

If you don’t get an invite for the American Express black card, don’t fret. As you can see, many of the benefits it offers are available on the Amex Platinum, which has a $US550 fee. You’ll get no preset spending limits, hotel elite status, complimentary access to airport lounges, and concierge services.

Read more:
Amex Platinum card review

If you’re a business user, the Amex Business Platinum is worth a look. It offers most of these benefits as well, and has a $US595 annual fee.

Read more:
Amex Business Platinum card review

Click here to learn more about the Amex Platinum.