The American Express Black Card is Amex’s top charge card and possibly the most prestigious credit card in the world. There was a series of rumors during the 1980s and 1990s about a secret black Amex card with no spending limit. American Express executives heard the rumors and decided to capitalize on them. The result was the Black Card (formally known as the Centurion Card), which was first released in 1999.

Furthermore, the Centurion Card is an invitation-only card, meaning that one cannot simply apply for it. American Express has six-figure annual spending requirements just to be considered for an invitation. Exact amounts are unknown, but Platinum cardholders can hit the requirement using any other Amex charge or credit card.

Plus, the Centurion Card has a one-time initiation fee of $10,000 and an annual fee of $5,000. That means cardholders must pay American Express $15,000 just to acquire the card. For comparison, the personal Platinum Card has a relatively paltry $550 annual fee and the Business Platinum Card has a $595 annual fee.

 

Earning

Despite its crazy annual fee, the Centurion Card earns one Membership Rewards (MR) point per dollar for all purchases.

Moreover, Amex does not offer a sign-up bonus for the Centurion Card. That’s because there is no way to apply for it outright. The only way to acquire the Centurion Card is via invitation. Unfortunately, Amex does not offer Centurion cardholders any bonuses.

 

Burning

The American Express Black Card has the same redemption options as every other MR point-earning card.

Transfer Partners

American Express has more transfer partners than any of its competitors:

Hotels
  • Choice Privileges
  • Hilton (1 MR = 2 Hilton Honors Points)
  • Marriott
Airlines
  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromexico (5 MR = 8 Premier Points)
  • Air Canada
  • Air Italia Millemiglia
  • Asia Miles / Cathay Pacific
  • Avianca Lifemiles
  • British Airways
  • Delta Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Guest
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia
  • JetBlue (5 MR = 4 TrueBlue Points)
  • KLM Flying Blue / Air France
  • Nippon Airways
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic

Other Options

Redeeming for travel on amextravel.com, as well as gift cards, merchandise, and statement credits is not recommended. Cardholders will earn less than one cent per point (CPP) using these options.

 

Perks

The American Express Centurion Card offers perks like no other. As reported by The Points Guy (H/T), the Black Card offers all the perks that the Platinum Cards offer plus the following:

Centurion Auto Program

Car lovers rejoice! This perk gives cardholders luxurious car-related opportunities including test-driving opportunities, premium car purchases, and luxury rentals.

This is a unique perk for Centurion cardholders that I wish was present on more cards. There are a lot of car lovers out there who travel, and this benefit would provide loads of value for them.

Centurion Hotel Program

Centurion cardholders have another hotel program offered to them besides Fine Hotels & Resorts. American Express calls it the Centurion Hotel Program. Cardholders will get the following benefits when staying at a select list of luxury hotels:

  • 12 PM check-in (when available)
  • Daily breakfast for two people
  • Guaranteed 4pm checkout
  • In-room Wi-Fi (at most properties)
  • Room upgrade at time of booking (when available)
  • Special amenity unique to each property, such as a $100 credit to use on site or a complimentary hotel transfer
  • Additional Centurion benefit of $100 or $200 in food and beverage or spa credit (on paid stays of two nights or more)

CLEAR Membership

Cardholders will also receive complimentary CLEAR membership for them and their family members. However, the Centurion Card also comes with Global Entry and Pre-TSA membership. That makes this perk redundant for some cardholders. But at least they get more options to pick a program to use.

Delta Platinum Medallion Status

Delta has a long-standing partnership with American Express. Centurion cardholders benefit from the partnership with Delta Platinum Medallion Status. This level of status comes with the following:

  • Boarding complimentary upgrades
  • Bonus of 4 miles per dollar spent
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority wait listing
  • Waived award reissue fees
  • Your pick of Choice Benefits

This perk is exclusive to the Centurion Card. However, non-Centurion cardholders can earn it by paying for Delta flights.

Equinox Gym Membership

This perk provides membership to Equinox, a high-end gym franchise based in New York City.

Hilton Honors Diamond Elite Status

Hilton Diamond Elite Status is the hotel chain’s top level of status. Diamond Status offers many perks including free room upgrades (up to a Suite), complimentary Executive Lounge access, and milestone bonuses.

However, travelers can get Diamond Status by having the Hilton Aspire Card. This is by far the easiest way to acquire this top level of status without breaking the bank. The Aspire Card has a $450 annual fee (NOT waived the first year). But even more can be realized if used it correctly.

IHG Platinum Elite Status

IHG is not the most luxurious hotel chain, but the Centurion Card offers complimentary Platinum Elite Status. Platinum Status earns you complimentary room upgrades (up to a Preferred Room), a 50% points bonus, and 72-hour guaranteed availability.

Applying for the Chase IHG Premier Card is the easiest way to obtain Platinum Status. That’s because the card offers it as a perk. The IHG Card has an $89 annual fee and some nice ways to earn more points.

Membership to The Private Suite at LAX

This perk provides security and tarmac transfers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). While it sounds prestigious, its not a perk that many Centurion cardholders would use.

Relais & Châteaux 5C

Centurion cardholders will receive Elite Status in the Relais and Chateaux 5C collection of luxury hotels and resorts. They will receive room upgrades, concierge services, a VIP welcome, and a unique perk at each property.

Cardholders can receive this status with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. All they have to do is stay at a Relais or Chateaux 5C hotel twice.

Saks Fifth Avenue Credit

Centurion cardholders will receive a $1,000 credit to Saks Fifth Avenue each year. This is 10 times the amount given on the personal Platinum Card. But the amount makes sense because the Platinum Card’s annual fee is a little more than 10% of that of the Centurion Card.

 

Similar Cards

Most people should look at this section if they want the Centurion Card. That’s because the cards mentioned can be obtained with a normal application and cost much less per year.

American Express Platinum Card

The American Express Platinum Card is the next-best option to the Centurion Card. It’s a much better and less expensive alternative at “just” $550 per year (NOT waived the first year).

Plus, Amex offers a sign-up bonus for the Platinum Card. Amex’s public sign-up bonus is worth 60,000 MR points. It can be earned after spending $5,000 within the first three months.

The Platinum Card also earns 5x MR points on Airfare booked directly with the airline or through amextravel.com. Like the Centurion Card, it also earns just one point for non-bonus spend. Both cards have the same redemption options and most of the same perks.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is another alternative to the Centurion Card. This card is Chase’s top credit card for most people (the elusive JP Morgan Palladium Card is nearly identical except that it’s invitation-only). The Reserve has a $550 annual fee (NOT waived the first year).

Plus, Chase is offering a sign-up bonus worth 50,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points for the Reserve. It can be earned after spending $4,000 within the first three months. Moreover, the Reserve also earns 3x UR points on Dining and General Travel and one point per dollar on non-bonus spend.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve does not have the amount of perks that the Centurion Card has. However, it does have several useful perks. The Reserve’s $300 annual General Travel credit is the most famous and eminent. Furthermore, the Reserve comes with Lyft Pink membership, Door Dash Dash Pass, and a $60 annual Door Dash credit. It also comes with various travel insurances and primary car rental insurance. These insurances are some of the best in the industry, especially after Citi dropped so many benefits from their cards.

 

Final Draw

Most people will never receive an invitation to get the American Express Black Card. Fortunately, there are many great alternatives that will save potential cardholders thousands in fees every year. The Centurion Card is known for its expansive list of perks. However, everything else about the card is pedestrian. This includes the earning structure, lack of sign-up bonus, and redemption methods.

Special Thanks to reader David Smity (H/T) for asking about the Centurion Card and why I have not compared it to the Platinum Card.