Amex Black Card Members Are Being Sent $500 Gift Cards, Just For Being Rich

The American Express Black Card (Centurion Card) has a $5000 annual fee and you pay a $7500 initiation fee your first year as a cardmember, too. It comes with standard Platinum card benefits (sans the $200 annual airline fee credit), plus Delta Platinum, Hilton Diamond, and IHG Rewards Platinum status. New in the last year is complimentary CLEAR membership, an Equinox Destination Access Membership, and a $1,000 annual Saks credit.

They also send occasional gifts. Here’s the Tom Ford wallet Centurion cardmembers receive.

Personal Centurion cardmembers are reporting a new gift they’re receiving: a $500 gift card to use at furniture, art and jewelry marketplace 1stDibs.com.

With the Black Card you’re really paying for prestige and exclusivity. It was cool when Kanye West dropped references to it in 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’

Now it’s just an expensive card with some travel status. However the cardmember base is valuable to market to. They tend to be high net worth individuals with the kind of discretionary spend they might drop at a site like this. So giving them $500 credit and encouraging them to use it is a marketing expense. Here cardmembers are the product (being marketed to by 1s Dibs) rather than the customer. But if they’ve got something a cardmember likes for around $500 there ya go.

It does underscore, though, that if you’re rich and don’t need it people will literally give you money, but if you’re poor there’s no value proposition in doing so.

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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Comments

  1. Any idea who funds promotions like this? I assume AMEX gets some benefit by keeping cardmembers around paying that annual fee and using the card, but as you say, 1stDibs gets (rich) eyeballs on their product too.

  2. They probably didn’t get no stimi so Amex is doing their best to keep them happy

  3. Daniel is right. The interesting thing would be to know how much of the cost is borne by Amex and how much by iDibs.

  4. I would be shocked if AMEX paid anything for this. The cost of the promo is almost surely borne by 1stdibs alone. The interesting question is how much of a marketing fee AMEX may have received from 1stDibs to put this in front of Centurion cardholders. I suspect there are innumerable services and retailers who would be happy to give away product to Centurion cardholders with their significant level of income and spend. AMEX would want to filter that demand somehow, and one way is to charge a high price for that privilege.

  5. Yawn, I imagine that most of this cost, and not unlikely all of it, is picked up by the merchant. Many companies like this are valued with reference to active customer base, and they are happy to pay handsomely for customer referrals, and high margins in any case make it worthwhile. Who wouldn’t want to have customers so loose with their money and so undiscerning of value that they pay Amex for the privilege of having this card?

    But like most things at Amex, this is the illusion of value, rather than value. Hard to believe stuff like this has resonance with cardholders, although in the finance biz these people who happily pay excessive fees for little value are known colloquially as “dumb money.” The same sort of people who were happy to pay a Goldman Sachs stockbroker a full commission for the pleasure of taking their trades that they could execute by most brokers for free. Another obsolete product from a quickly obsoleting company.

  6. I wonder how many Black Card holders there are (I know this is a highly guarded secret).

    A couple of years ago, I got a $100 giftcard from Frontgate courtesy of my BB+ (either that or my then-SPG Business Amex). Got a couple of really nice beach towels for my honey moon. Haven’t bought anything from their since (but we love looking at the catalog they send 4 times a year!).

  7. If you actually value a full access equinox membership the Centurion card is only marginally more expensive than a Platinum card.

  8. Have any of you looked at the prices of items on this website? A $500 gift card is like finding a coupon code for 5-10% off a purchase. This is far from a handout.

  9. This is 100% about customer retention.
    People pay $10,000 to “join” the black card and then $5,000 a year, because of the prestige but also because of the valuable travel perks.
    Now that they can’t travel, those perks are meaningless – and $5,000 is $5,000 – so people are cancelling.
    Amex have been arranging marketing perks like this constantly while the world’s been on lockdown, to persuade people to sit it out and not cancel.

  10. 1stDibs knows they’re not going to spend exactly $500 on the site. It merely gets them in the door to spend a lot more. It’s very similar to the $10 monthly dining credits Amex throws our way for us lowly Platinum card holders. After fees + tip, there’s no way we’re only spending $10.

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