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The Centurion Card from American Express offers white-glove service to a select, chosen few. Better known as the Black Card, you'll need a personal invitation from AmEx to apply, and if approved, you'll be on the hook for a one-time $10,000 initiation fee on top of a $5,000 annual fee. Terms apply.
The card is so exclusive that AmEx’s response — telling NerdWallet that it is their long-standing policy not to share details about Centurion Card membership — echoes the first rule of “Fight Club.” But we can share what we do know.
Tailored to those who value services and benefits over rewards, the Black Card will earn holders one Membership Rewards point per $1 spent on all purchases, with no bonus categories. There's also no bonus offer — that we're aware of — and the card is issued in both personal and business varieties. Terms apply.
Beyond travel benefits such as top-tier elite status with several partners, you're signing up for prestige. So imagine the admiration when you offer to pick up the tab for your friends' overpriced food and drinks and smack down this sexy hunk of black metal on the table. You can probably already hear the "oohh's" and "aahh's."
Is all that worth the gut punch to your wallet from the initiation and annual fees? If you have to ask, you probably can't get the Black Card anyway.
Here are five things you should know about the Black Card.
» MORE: Difference between credit cards and charge cards
1. Complimentary elite status
American Express offers Centurion Card members elite-tier status in several partner loyalty programs, including:
Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion Status — unlimited complimentary upgrades (space dependent), an annual Choice Benefit selection and other perks.
Hilton Honors Diamond Status — room upgrades (space dependent), executive lounge access, a daily food and beverage credit and a 100% bonus on points earned for stays.
Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status — room upgrades (space dependent), free Wi-Fi, 25% bonus on points earned for stays, and priority late checkout.
IHG Rewards Club Platinum Elite Status — no blackout dates for rewards stays and a 60% bonus on points earned for stays.
Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President's Circle — guaranteed upgrades on all rentals.
Sixt Advantage Circle Diamond — invitation-only status including guaranteed upgrades, lounge access and VIP service.
These elite statuses can be great for earning piles of points and securing hotel rooms, rental cars or airline seat upgrades. If used efficiently, that could amount to thousands of dollars worth of benefits per year.
For similar benefits, the closest comparison is The Platinum Card® from American Express. You'd earn the same status with Marriott, lower tier statuses with when you enroll with Hilton (Gold), Hertz (Gold) and Sixt (Platinum), and no status with Delta and IHG. The higher-tier statuses offered through the Centurion Card have the potential to be significantly more valuable.
» MORE: A beginner's guide to hotel elite status
2. Airport lounge access
The Black Card offers members access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection, consisting of more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries, including:
The American Express Centurion® Lounge.
Priority Pass Lounges (Select membership, when you enroll).
Delta Sky Club (only when flying Delta).
Plaza Premium Lounges.
Cardholders are eligible to bring immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and children under 18) or up to two companions into these lounges. You must present your valid Centurion Card and a photo ID for entry. Access to Priority Pass Lounges requires separate enrollment in that program, and you'll have to show your dedicated Priority Pass card to get in.
While this sounds exclusive, it's the same benefit as granted to anyone who holds The Platinum Card® from American Express and pays a comparatively more palatable $695 annual fee. Terms apply.
» MORE: Airport lounge access via credit card is nice, but know the limits
3. Inadequate rewards earning potential
Every purchase on the Black Card earns one Membership Rewards point per dollar. There are no bonus categories, and no welcome bonus is offered on the card — that we know of. That is an abysmal earnings rate considering the fees associated with the card. But again, most cardholders will use the Black Card for ancillary benefits and clout; it's not built to be a rewards-earning machine.
By comparison, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers 5 points per dollar spent on flights and hotels booked through American Express Travel and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases. In addition, you can also earn the following bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Even lower down the AmEx chain, the American Express® Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar spent on restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines. It also comes with a rewarding bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
But like The Platinum Card® from American Express, holding the Black Card unlocks a bevy of AmEx transfer partners you can send points to for enhanced value.
Full list of AmEx transfer partners
Full list of AmEx transfer partners
Aer Lingus (1:1 ratio).
AeroMexico (1:1.6 ratio).
Air Canada. (1:1 ratio).
Air France/KLM (1:1 ratio).
ANA (1:1 ratio).
Asia Miles (1:1 ratio).
Avianca (1:1 ratio).
British Airways (1:1 ratio).
Cathay Pacific (1:1 ratio)
Delta Air Lines (1:1 ratio).
Emirates (1:1 ratio).
Etihad Airways (1:1 ratio).
Hawaiian Airlines (1:1 ratio).
Iberia Plus (1:1 ratio).
JetBlue Airways (2.5:2 ratio).
Qantas (1:1 ratio).
Singapore Airlines (1:1 ratio).
Virgin Atlantic Airways (1:1 ratio).
Choice Hotels (1:1 ratio).
Hilton Hotels & Resorts (1:2 ratio).
Marriott Hotels & Resorts (1:1 ratio).
For details on transfer ratios, see AmEx's website.
4. Access to a dedicated concierge
Black Card members gain 24/7 access to the American Express Concierge, who can help you land last-minute reservations or tickets to a sold-out show, send flowers or gifts around the holidays, or assist during an emergency.
To access the concierge, call the number on the back of your card. The service is free, and any products they purchase on your behalf (tickets, flowers, etc.) will get charged to your card.
While other AmEx cards offer access to the concierge, Centurion Card members can request the same dedicated concierge each time they call, allowing for a more personalized experience.
» MORE: American Express Platinum Concierge: What to Know
5. Purchase protection and extended warranty
Like many other American Express cards, the Centurion Card comes with purchase protection, which covers damaged, stolen or lost purchases in the U.S. for up to 90 days after purchase. Terms apply. The purchase protection coverage amounts and limitations vary between cards. However, the marketing material for the Card says you will be reimbursed for the amount charged to your account (with no limit mentioned). Terms apply.
If the purchase protection does cover items up to the full purchase price, that would make it the best coverage offered by any AmEx card.
The Centurion Card also comes with extended warranty protection. This extends any original manufacturer warranty for a period equal to the duration of the original warranty (for warranties greater than five years) and up to one additional year on warranties of five years or less. Terms apply.
» MORE: The guide to AmEx purchase protection on travel cards
All information about The Centurion Card from American Express has been collected independently by Nerdwallet.
To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.