New Amex Centurion (Black Card) Benefits

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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 to the Centurion card ($500,000+ to request a Business Centurion card).

The card’s annual fee is going up to $5000 per year in April 2020 and the card is losing 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 which has a more reasonable $550 annual fee. (See rates and fees.)

For instance, the Platinum card comes with:

  • Airport lounge access: American Express Centurion lounges, Delta lounges (when flying Delta same day), Priority Pass, Plaza Premium lounges, Escape lounges, Airspace lounges
  • Elite status: Hilton Gold, Marriott Gold, National Car Rental Executive
  • 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
  • TSA or Global Entry statement credit

The Centurion card gets you all of this plus:

american express centurion lounge hong kong sit down dining
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’

nyc2cal reports that 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. The new American Express® Green Card comes with a CLEAR membership benefit. 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.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express click here.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

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  1. Keeping fingers crossed that this means discounted (or credited) CLEAR is coming to Plat and/or Gold card too.

  2. They are doubling the annual fee to $5k and dropping the $200 airline credit and boingo-Gogo benefits. 🙁

  3. I’m still waiting for my Sperbank 24kt gold Visa infinite for $100000 . I wonder it I could keep reporting it lost and get free replacements.

  4. Clear is a pointless intrusive of your privacy.

    I will never understand why somebody willingly give up biometric info to a private company, paying money for it, all for a time saver of 1min, in 1% of the airport security check.

  5. Isn’t Equinox Destination membership worth $3,000 a year by itself? That seems like a very valuable addition if you live or work close to an Equinox club and would otherwise buy your own membership.

  6. @Chris: You can’t board a lot of international flights without facial recognition.
    Besides, it’s not just these companies that have all your data, it’s all the black hats that have hacked those companies that have it too.

    You could of course , live off the grid and use cryptocurrency to have food and water delivered to you by drones operated by smart contracts.
    Wow, I just found something more boring than a week in The Maldives!

  7. I had Clear and gave it up. It is just too annoying that instead of actually having a Clear line, they vet you and then escort you to the front of the line and have you cut in ahead of the other TSA Precheck passengers. If you enjoy butting in line and bearing the wrath of those poor souls who are now being pushed back so you can take their place, then Clear is for you. If there was a Clear line and you didn’t have to jump the queue, then I could see the value but for me, I felt to much like I was behaving in a DYKWIA manner.

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