How To Apply For An American Express Black Centurion Card
Published 9/18/08 (Modified 2/24/14)
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What's the deal with status symbols these days? While I'd like to think that I'm perfectly immune from the need to walk around and carry lofty symbols of wealth, power, and status on my shoulders, sheepishly, I must admit that I'm not. I don't occasionally wear designer clothes or don expensive apparel brands solely for the quality threads, or dream of buying a BMW or Mercedes sports sedan for crash test safety reasons alone. After all, there's something about rarity, uniqueness, and exclusiveness that beckons each of us at some point in our lives. Whether it's the elite acknowledgment that one gets from being an alumni of a top tier Ivy League university, or whether it's membership into an ultra exclusive golf club usually reserved only for top celebrities and the rich and famous, I'm sure many of us secretly envy at times, those who are in this special inner circle.
Actually, the notion itself is quite silly really - the idea that simply because you possess something unique that very few other people have, or have VIP membership into some special organization, that you are somehow better off than others or worthy of admiration. But it's simply human nature I suppose. We all innately appreciate the attention and envy of others, whether we truly want to admit it or not. Don't believe it? All you have to do is observe the rise and popularity of television shows like MTV's Super Sweet 16 to see how the desire to be envied and praised is very much part of our society's psyche and celebrity culture. If it were not for our humanistic lust for all things that glitter and our natural attraction to the glitz and glamor of all that surrounds the rich and powerful, we wouldn't have such things as paparazzis and celebrity magazines. It's because we as a society desperately seek to emulate the rich and beautiful that there are such things as status symbol cars and multi-million dollar mega mansions.
Thus there should be little surprise that there are even such things as one-of-a-kind credit cards that only a select few have the luxury of possessing. Whether it makes any real sense for anyone to go gaga over something as mundane as a limited edition credit card is up for debate, but it's something that's been glorified in the rising hip-hop culture and permeating our English vernacular, calling attention to itself.
What Is the Black Centurion Card From American Express?
The American Express Black Centurion Card (simply referred to as the Black Card by some) sprung out of an urban rumor in the early 1990's about a super secret black credit card available only to a select group of rich and powerful celebrities. While the reality was that no such card existed, American Express ultimately played off the whispers and capitalized on the rumors, quietly creating the Amex Black Card. Its exclusivity compounded the rumors over time, leading to more and more outlandish claims about the benefits and perks offered to the holder. Perhaps you've seen the almost mythical Black Card touted in hip hop music videos or heard it referenced in other facets of pop culture, but you rarely see it out in the open. The card is definitely not widely available and unless you hang around or work with celebrities, famous people, or wealthy individuals, it's unlikely you will ever see one in your lifetime.
The Black Centurion credit card from American Express is definitely a rarity in the marketplace and in some circles, is considered an impact statement. First of all, the card is almost entirely black, which instantly gives it a look that's different from all the credit cards out there, and secondly, it's not even made of ordinary plastic like most credit cards, but rather of a special aluminum, titanium mix, giving it a different feel altogether. There have been suggestions that the titanium composition of the Black Centurion Card even triggers metal detectors at airports, but obviously this hassle is easily circumvented by transporting the card or wallet via its own plastic container through the X-ray conveyor belt scanner.
While the card imposes a hefty annual fee, for those who can easily afford it, the Black Card offers a juicy wealth of exclusive card benefits, like special concierge services, exclusive travel benefits and perks, enhanced credit card rewards, frequent flier airline miles, cashback credit card bonuses, and the ability to harness almost unlimited spending power. Perhaps I'm blowing the card a bit out of proportion and making the card bigger than what it really is, but the card is definitely not for your ordinary credit card spender - it's meant for whales and high rollers who spend a lot - in the tune of more than $250,000 a year. But one thing to keep in mind is that due to the status implications the card seems to convey, mere possession and use of the Black Card may cause the cardholder to unnecessarily stand out awkwardly in ordinary situations. Using the Black Card from American Express in an inappropriate situation may be like showing up at a family reunion in your flashy, gas-guzzling red Lamborghini sports car while your relatives and family members quietly chug into the parking lot with their fuel efficient Honda Civics. Of course, not everyone will recognize the Black Card and many may see it as no big deal - just one of many random credit card choices out there.
How Can I Apply For The American Express Black Centurion Credit Card?
If you are wondering to yourself, how does one actually go about requesting official information or submitting an application for the ultra exclusive Black Centurion card, you're likely going to be out of luck. Membership into the Black Card club is by exclusive invitation only, based on either your celebrity reputation or your proven ability to be a big credit card spender. However, there are affirmative steps you can take to satisfy the qualification requirements to trigger a personal credit card invite. To qualify for such an invitation based on proven financial ability, you'll not only have to prove yourself to be a high credit card spender, but you'll also need to have an exceptional FICO credit score and credit report history, along with a hefty personal balance sheet of verifiable monetary assets. Here are the basic requirements to get an American Express Black Centurion Card application invite based on your potential purchasing power:
1) You Must Be An Existing American Express Credit Card Holder - The American Express Black Centurion Card is currently only available to select holders of American Express credit cards. Although it does not matter which Amex card type you have (whether Blue, Blue Cash, Blue Sky, Green, Gold, or Platinum), because of the high spending requirements to qualify, you will want a card with a very high credit limit. As such, those who qualify for the Black Centurion Card tend to be former holders of Amex Platinum cards, which offer the highest credit limits of all Amex card types. If you are not already an existing American Express credit card holder, you will need to apply for one of the following high credit limit cards and start racking up significant purchases in a short period of time:
- American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card - You get 10,000 instant points after your first purchase. Earn rewards with no preset limit.
- American Express Preferred Rewards Green Card - Get 5,000 instant bonus points and earn shopping and travel rewards with every purchase, with no preset limit.
- The Platinum Credit Card from American Express - Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points after spending at least $2,000 within the first 3 months of card membership. Get access to American Express' personal concierge service and earn reward points with no pre-set spending limit.
- Business Green Rewards Card From Amex Open - Earn 5,000 instant bonus points with your first purchase. Earn rewards with every purchase with no preset spending limit.
2) You Will Need To Spend At Least $250,000 A Year On Your American Express Credit Card - If this amount is too much for you, you probably shouldn't even think about trying to obtain a Black Card to begin with. With the hefty start up and annual maintenance fees, this card will only truly benefit those individuals who spend a significant amount of money on entertainment, on airline travel expenses, and on expensive hotel stays. This may seem like an impossible amount, but for those of you who run your own small business or frequently have large amounts of reimbursable business expenses to pay for, the high expenditure requirement is quite do-able. For those who have employees, paying a payroll management company via credit card and having them in turn pay the employees via check is another great way to charge everything onto your American Express card. Especially for those people like myself who use credit card rewards for Google ads and spend significant sums of money on online advertising through Google Adsense and other internet marketing programs, the $250,000 a year spending requirement is not out of the realm of possibility.
A major problem that many wannabe Black Centurion Card seekers have in reaching the $250,000 annual spending limit requirement on their existing Amex cards is that their current monthly credit card limit simply isn't high enough to allow them to spend that much. To reach $250,000 a year, a cardholder would need to have a credit spending limit of approximately $21,000 a month give or take a few hundred dollars ($250,000 divided by 12 months). The solution to the insufficient credit limit hurdle is quite simple. Simply submit a check or online prepayment amount at the start of each month to American Express to cover your credit card expenditures for the month. For example, even if your actual credit card limit is only $10,000 or less, simply by submitting card payment of something like $11,000 in excess of the limit up to the magical $21,000 requirement will allow you to reach your desired $250,000 for the year. Of course, the assumption is that you will actually spend at least $21,000 minimum per month.
Once you have successfully spent over $250,000 a year on your American Express credit card, you may wish to contact American Express directly if they haven't already contacted you with a Black Centurion card invitation. While there is a common misconception that you can't actually solicit Amex for such an invite, truth be told, if you satisfy their financial spending requirements, the company will probably be more than happy to welcome you into their exclusive credit card club.
3) You Must Be Able To Afford The Black Card's High Annual Credit Card Fees - Once you are approved for the American Express Black Centurion card, you will need to pay the setup charges and subsequent annual maintenance fees. While earlier charter members enjoy substantially lower fees, currently for new members, there is a one time $5,000 initiation fee for the primary card holder and an upfront annual fee of $2,500, for a total of $7,500 due at the end of the first billing cycle. Clearly, the Black Centurion card isn't for ordinary middle class working folks who don't have thousands of disposable income dollars to throw around like Monopoly play money.
What Are the Best Features and Benefits of The Amex Black Centurion Card, and Are They Worth The Significant Annual Maintenance Fees?
The American Express Black Card is available in both personal and business form, but the vast majority of holders will likely find its benefits and credit card perks to be highly business-oriented, particularly in the area of business client entertainment as well as airline and hotel travel. For those who wish to apply for the business credit card version as an individual, keep in mind that it is perfectly legitimate and acceptable for individuals operating as a sole proprietorship business unto themselves to apply for a business card using their own names as the name of their business. As a small business owner, it's what I personally do when I apply for business credit cards.
While the detailed specifics and the terms and conditions of your program will vary somewhat depending on whether you carry the personal or business version of the Black Centurion Card, the features and benefits of the Black Card are essentially the same. The Black Centurion offers the card holder exclusive and automatic upgrades with a wide selection of airline carriers, hotel resorts, and cruise ship travel programs. But the greatest and most touted benefit is the Black Centurion Card's concierge service and personal shopper program, which helps cardholders find anything they desire in the area of fine dining, personal and business shopping, and travel related bookings for things like airline tickets, hotel reservations, and rental car arrangements.
1) Personal Concierge Services - Those who can afford the financial rigors and high expenditure requirements of the Amex Black Card are likely accustomed to personalized service and attention, and the Black Card program is happy to oblige with its personal concierge service for cardholders. Via the services of an outsourced concierge provider called Circles, American Express provides personalized VIP attention for both its Platinum and Centurion Black credit card customers. However, compared to regular Platinum card carriers, Black Centurion members receive more dedicated and prompt attention, and are understandably given access to a more highly trained and qualified staff of concierge representatives.
Having a dedicated and attentive personal concierge allows cardholders to outsource the time and effort of purchasing airline tickets, making hotel arrangements, booking rental cars, planning vacation trips, making dinner reservations, haggling for concert tickets, and researching prices. The actual success rate that the personal concierge agent has in securing exactly what you are looking for is somewhat debatable, but presumably due to the prestige and financial clout of the Black Centurion credit card program, it stands to reason that the company likely has greater access to exclusive deals and arrangements with the top restaurants, concert shows, and sporting venues than ordinary individuals.
The personal concierge service is probably the most commonly used and most invaluable Black Centurion Card benefit for many. While some people point out that the concierge agents are not always the best at locating what the cardholder is seeking, there's no denying that this is still a very convenient luxury to have at one's disposal. Not only does the cardholder have access to the personal concierge service, but the cardholder's family members, personal assistants, and secretaries have access to this card perk as well.
2) Airline Travel Upgrades - If you are a frequent personal or business traveler, you will definitely appreciate the automatic airline upgrades offered by the Black Centurion card. What this means is that if you purchase a regular economy class ticket on one of participating airlines, you are automatically upgraded to elite status - usually this means getting bumped up to business or first class based on seat availability. With business and first class seats usually being triple or quadruple the cost of ordinary coach class seats, it's not hard to see why this is such a potentially invaluable card benefit. With automatic upgrades into the following elite airline and hotel travel programs, cardholders enjoy such perks as dedicated check-ins, priority boardings, extra airline mileage earning opportunities, and bonus hotel stay earnings:
- Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Gold Medallion
- US Airways Dividend Miles Platinum Preferred
- Virgin Atlantic Airways Flying Club Gold
- Priority Pass Membership
- Hilton HHonors Gold
Black Centurion cardholders also get access to Continental Airlines President's Lounge, Delta's Crown Room Club, and Northwest Airline's World Club as well as exclusive and complimentary access to Priority Pass' over 500 VIP airport lounges. Automatic elite car rental upgrades with popular car rental companies like Hertz and Avis are also complimentary and available to cardholders.
The American Express Black Card also provides members with a companion airfare program that offers cardholders free guest airline tickets when the Black Card is used to purchase tickets. Currently, you can request up to 4 complimentary companion airline tickets a year. Of course, there may be a few airfare restrictions and blackout dates.
3) Hotel and Resort Lodging Upgrades - Along with automatic airline travel upgrades to elite status, the Black Card also offers automatic hotel lodging upgrades at all participating hotels and luxury resorts. Through partnerships with over 500 worldwide luxury hotels and resorts, chances are you will likely enjoy elite upgraded status at most premium hotels and resorts like the Starwood Group (Le Meridien, Four Points, Westin, Aloft, Sheraton, Element, St. Regis, and W Hotels), Ritz-Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Hilton, Leading Hotels of the World, Amanresorts, and Centurion Villas.
Unfortunately, a few of the greatest and most coveted Black Centurion Card perks of past years have since been eliminated from the program. Until a few years ago, Hyatt's Diamond Elite Status and Starwood's Preferred Guest Platinum status were automatically offered to cardholders. However, Hyatt Hotel has since left the program and the Starwood Platinum status privilege is no longer offered to card members - a great disappointment and upset to many cardholders as the Starwood frequent guest suite upgrade program was indeed one of the best around. Now, cardholders will no longer qualify for automatic free Starwood Preferred Platinum status, but will receive Starwood Preferred Gold status instead, which offers substantially less upgrade opportunities for members.
4) Retail Shopping and Entertainment Benefits - More likely than not, American Express Black Centurion Card members are likely prolific shoppers, whether for personal reasons, or for business purposes. Coupled with the dedicated and personalized concierge service, card members can solicit the services of personal shoppers and price researchers to help them locate any product or custom merchandise they desire. For those who enjoy frequenting luxury boutiques and high end retailers like Bulgari, Escada, Gucci, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, personal shoppers are available at such retailers for VIP attention. In some circumstances, entire stores may be reserved for your personal shopping pleasure so you can bypass lines and avoid crowds. For those who desire reservations at exclusive restaurants, tickets for hard to find entertainment shows and sporting events like the Super Bowl, your Black Card concierge is there to help you secure such coveted tickets. American Express has deals and exclusive arrangements with hundreds and thousands of restaurants to reserve tables for card members. With the Black Card, you will have greater access to so-called Gold Card events and premium luxury seating at concerts and events not ordinarily available to the general public.
Members also get automatic subscriptions to "Black Ink" magazine, an ultra exclusive publication that caters to the materialistic fancies of like minded wealthy clientele discussing such indulgences like luxury performance vehicles and exclusive dream vacation destinations. On occasion, as yet another complimentary benefit for coveted Black Card holders, American Express sends out free gift cards worth in excess of $500-$1000 to a variety of exclusive high end retailers. Amex has also been known to send out to Black Card customers, such gifts like expensive digital cameras and high end women's jewelry.
Is The American Express Black Centurion Credit Card Worth The Hefty $7,500 Initiation Fee (One Time $5,000 Plus The $2,500 Annual Fee)?
First of all, if you are even asking yourself if the Black Card is worth the cost, this card's likely not for you. Remember, to even qualify for an exclusive invite or to even satisfy the financial requirements to request membership, existing American Express card members need to spend at least $250,000 a year worth of credit card purchases. If your business or personal situation allows this type of high spending, chances are, a comparatively small $7,500 fee is unlikely to even register as a blip on your financial radar. Keep in mind, the American Express Black Centurion card is all about exclusivity and rarity. It's a coveted financial item and the ultimate status symbol because it is only held by a limited number of wealthy individuals. The card should be regarded as a personal branding tool for those who can indeed afford the cost of carrying it. The automatic travel upgrades and complimentary perks and credit card rewards are certainly appreciated by card carriers, but it's probably the exclusivity and status symbol of the Black Card that cardholders who can afford it covet the most. For ordinary consumers who do not have thousands and millions of dollars to throw around, the Black Centurion Card is a symbol of great excess waste and unnecessary decadence, but for the higher income types, it's akin to driving around an expensive luxury sports car - it's an attention getter for many.
But speaking from a cost benefit analysis perspective, are the benefits of the Black Centurion Card worth the one time $5,000 initial setup fee and the subsequent $2,500 fee year after year? After speaking to a few actual Black Card carriers and picking their brains a bit about what they find so useful and indispensable about the card, I have to conclude that the card is indeed worth the hefty annual fee, but only if you are a heavy business traveler or one who frequently engages in airline travel and hotel stays. The Amex Black Card is primarily business oriented and most of the airline and travel perks are geared towards upgrading existing travel accommodations into more comfortable elite offerings. For busy business types, the airline and hotel upgrades over the course of a year may very well cover the cost of the annual fee alone.
For those who primarily use the personal concierge services of the card for shopping research and entertainment reservation purposes, the cost benefit of the annual fee is more debatable as the cost is a bit harder to quantify. While American Express tends to provide better customer service for its cardholders than that of other credit card issuers, I think the concierge services is likely only useful in certain circumstances. For example, purchasing airline tickets is a breeze online and I find I can probably do a better job myself with a few keystrokes online than any concierge representative who isn't as skilled at bargain hunting and deal finding. But for busy business types who have little time for mundane things like shopping research and price comparison, having a personal concierge at one's beck and call certainly may be worth the cost of card membership.