The American Express Black Card (Centurion Card) has a certain mystique but in my view the benefits aren’t worth the high cost. The personal card has a $5000 annual fee and you pay a $7500 initiation fee as well in your first year as a cardmember.
In addition to standard Platinum card benefits (although it lost the $200 annual airline fee credit last year), the Black card comes with Delta Platinum, Hilton Diamond, and IHG Rewards Platinum status. There’s dedicated seating in airport Centurion lounges and the Hong Kong lounge has a dedicated sit-down dining service (currently closed).
New in the last year is complimentary CLEAR membership, an Equinox Destination Access Membership, and a $1,000 annual Saks.
A new Centurion business cardmember was excited for her new card, despite the high upfront cost. Amex even sent her a welcome gift. But it’s that gift that turned the whole experience sour.
I don’t want to sound whiny or ungrateful but I’m a new Biz Centurion member [paid $15K USD for first year] and as a welcome present I get a guy’s wallet?
I mentioned it to my rep and they said that’s what the marketing department sends. What about us girls? Sigh.
BTW has nothing to do with the gift sent, but it seemed sexist a bit.
Here’s a look at the Tom Ford wallet that American Express sends to Centurion customers. They’re frequently for sale online, going for about $150 at auction.
Not all Black Card customers are men. American Express knows this, though they know that historically their customer base for travel-focused cards is male and older. They launched their Everyday lineup of cards aimed more at women.
Small business owners, travelers, and those flying first class aren’t all older white men. And people who aren’t those things may be sensitive about it, because the world can make them feel out of place or like they’re challenging convention to begin with.
Some might argue that the Tom Ford wallet is unisex and with designer this-or-that who is even to say? But it seems like sending out a wallet to a new female Black Card cardmember is a marketing fail. After all 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’
In other words, the marketing narrative matters most of all, which is why it’s so important to get this right.
Marketing is all about knowing who your customers are, and figuring out how to find more people like that. It’s why it matters that marketing staff understand your customer base, and not just have models predicting the characteristics describing who the median customer is. Especially at the high-end, high-touch, send something… a little more personalized. Indeed, maybe a personalized welcome note to someone forking over $10,000 or more up front for a credit card?