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The American Express Centurion Card, colloquially known as the Black Card, has a certain legendary status although I have tended to believe the personal card isn’t worth the high cost. There’s a $7500 initiation fee and a $2500 annual fee, so you pay $10,000 in your first year for the privilege. The small business Centurion Card, at least, is likely to be a business expense that may be deductible.
Historically it’s taken around $250,000 – $350,000 in spend in a year across American Express products to be able to request an invitation by phone to the Centurion card ($500,000+ to request a Business Centurion card).
The card’s annual fee went up to $5000 per year in April 2020 and the card lost its $200 annual airline fee credit. So they’re going to need strong benefits to compensate.
Most of the benefits of the Black Card are really similar to those of the Platinum Card® from American Express.
For instance, the Platinum card comes with:
- Airport lounge access: American Express Centurion lounges, Delta lounges (when flying Delta same day), Priority Pass (registration required), Plaza Premium lounges, Escape lounges, Airspace lounges
- Elite status: Hilton Gold, Marriott Gold, National Car Rental Executive, registration required
- Hotel and concierge: American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts privileges on stays at participating hotels booked at the Fine Hotels and Resorts rate, plus concierge service.
- Discounted premium cabin interational airfare: Savings on some itineraries and carriers can be hundreds of dollars
- $200 airline fee credit which has become more restrictive in the last year, opt-in required
- TSA or Global Entry statement credit
The Centurion card gets you all of this plus:
- Delta Platinum status
- Hilton Diamond and IHG Rewards Club Platinum status
- Better Fine Hotels and Resorts benefits
- Set-aside seating and champagne in Centurion lounges, and the Hong Kong lounge has a dedicated sit-down dining service
Centurion Cardmember Dining Room, American Express Centurion Lounge Hong Kong
Now with the Black Card you’re really paying for prestige and exclusivity. It was cool when Kanye West dropped references to it in 2004. But that was… 2004.
I went to the malls and I balled too hard/ ‘Oh my god is that a black card?’/ I turned around and replied, ‘Why, yes/ But I prefer the term African-American Express’
American Express has added several new Centurion Card benefits.
- Complimentary CLEAR membership both for the cardmember and for family members
- $1,000 Saks credit per year, so 10x the Platinum card benefit
- Equinox Destination Access Membership
- The Private Suite at LAX membership (cardmembers still pay per visit)
Of these I really only see value in the Saks credit, though I wonder whether it’ll replace surprise and delight gifts and gift cards from other merchants.
CLEAR usually isn’t necessary when you have PreCheck but at some airports during peak times the ability to cut to the front of the PreCheck line can be useful. I have to imagine that the sudden American Express-CLEAR partnership is a result of the Delta contract extension since Delta owns a piece of CLEAR.
The Private Suite celebrity terminal at LAX terminal offers discrete security and tarmac transfers. The Private Suite benefit sounds prestigious but doesn’t really add much, and is probably more American Express getting paid to market the terminal to cardholders. Members receive lower per visit pricing than non-members, and can pre-order meals, have their car cleaned while they’re gone, and receive complimentary spa services. However it’s cheaper to access via United Airlines or the American Airlines partnership.
It’s the unpublished benefits of the card though that can make a difference. The Centurion Card was said to have saved a man’s life when it stopped a bullet.