There’s no doubt that the American Express Centurion card is a status symbol. The exclusive and elusive Black Card is right up there with having your own plane, a pet white tiger or making it rain hundreds at the club. But although wealth is certainly a prerequisite to scoring a Centurion card, that’s not all it takes to snag one.
Part of the mystique around the Centurion card, which comes in both consumer and business versions, is that Amex is tight-lipped about the criteria to qualify for an invite. The details that are known are relatively thin. Only existing American Express Platinum cardholders can request an invitation to apply for the card and of those that do, only the biggest of the big spenders will be deemed eligible for the card. Reports vary wildly as to what, if any, the magical amount of spending is that will unlock the gates to Centurion ownership-but it’s likely to be at least several hundred thousand dollars per year.
So, what makes this card so great anyway?
“It offers the highest level of personalized service and exceptional experiences to our Members,” said an American Express Centurion spokesperson in an email to Sound Dollar.
The cost to own this card is pretty exceptional, too. There’s a $10,000 one-time “initiation” fee and a $5,000 annual fee. However in exchange for these princely sums, you’ll receive a long list of benefits, discounts and services that can far exceed the cost of ownership.
American Express Centurion Card basics
The benefits and perks that come with this card could fill a megayacht.
Fees, rewards and other key card attributes
- Annual fee: A $10,000 one-time “initiation” fee and a $5,000 annual fee.
- Authorized user annual fee: Each additional Centurion card costs $5,000. There’s a limit of two Centurion authorized user cards per account. Additional Amex Platinum cards will run $175 for the first three, then $175 per additional card after that. You can get additional Amex Gold cards through your Centurion account for $0.
- Welcome bonus: None.
- Rewards: 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent, 1.5 points per dollar for eligible purchases over $5,000.
- APR: As a card with no preset spending limit, the balance on the Centurion card must be paid in full each billing cycle. However, you may be allowed to carry a balance on some purchases via the Pay Over Time feature, in which case you will incur interest charges.
- No foreign transaction fees: Take the Centurion card with you on your international travels.
- Invite-only: Must be invited to apply and the criteria for an invite is not publicly available.
- Excellent credit required: This likely goes without saying, but this card is only for those with their finances in tip-top shape.
- Personal Centurion concierge: Centurion’s concierge staff is legendary for its white-glove service and stories abound online of over-the-top requests cardholders have asked their dedicated concierges to fulfill.
- TSA PreCheck or Global Entry: Get the application fee reimbursed for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry every four years plus an annual statement credit for CLEAR membership.
- Airport lounge access: Includes access to Centurion Lounges, The International American Express Lounges, Priority Pass lounges (enrollment required), Delta Sky Club lounges when traveling on Delta flights, Airspace Lounges, Escape Lounges and Plaza Premium Lounges.
- Airfare rebate: A 50% discount on Membership Rewards redemptions (only with the business Centurion) for paid airfare when booked through Centurion or Amex travel.
- Centurion International Arrival services: Access to VIP expedited arrival services at select international airports on first class and business class tickets bought with the Centurion Amex and with award tickets when you pay for your taxes and fees with the card.
- Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status: This status grants unlimited complimentary upgrades, waived same-day change fees for bags and tickets, priority boarding, priority waitlist, preferred rate on a CLEAR membership, and your selection of one Choice Benefit. Choice Benefits include a $200 travel voucher, 20,000 bonus miles, four regional upgrade certificates or gifting Silver Medallion status to a friend.
- Elite hotel status: Receive Hilton Honors Diamond status, Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, IHG Platinum Elite status and MeliaRewards Platinum status. These status levels all offer free internet access, room upgrades when available, and bonus points for eligible stays. Other perks include: Honors Diamond members get executive lounge access at eligible Hilton properties and/or a food and beverage credit. Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite members get points as a welcome gift at check-in, IHG Platinum Elite members receive a welcome amenity and discounts on reward nights and MeliaRewards Platinum members receive VIP access at brand hotels.
- Select hotel credits and upgrades: Stays booked through the Fine Hotels and Resorts program will get upgrades when available, breakfast for two and a resort credit of up to $200.
- Auto rental status: Elite status in rental car programs, including Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Status and Sixt Advantage Circle Diamond. Enrollment required.
- Shopping benefits: The consumer card offers perks including the Centurion Shopping Program, up to $1,000 in annual Saks Fifth Avenue credits, InCircle rewards, the Mr. Porter and Net-A-Porter shopping service and a complimentary Equinox Destination Access Membership potentially worth upwards of $2,000 per year.
- Travel and purchase protections: A full suite of insurances including auto rental coverage, delayed or missed trip protection, emergency medical and travel accident insurance, extended warranty coverage and lost baggage coverage.
American Express Centurion Card other details
American Express Centurion Card rewards
The American Express Centurion Card earns 1 Membership Rewards point per dollar spent and 1.5 points per dollar for eligible purchases over $5,000.
Rewards can be redeemed for travel booked through Amex travel. Airfare will receive a 50% rebate when booked with points this way if you have the business Centurion.
Other redemption options include transferring rewards to an Amex travel transfer partner, redeeming for a statement credit, gift cards or using points to make purchases with eligible partners like Ticketmaster and Amazon, although this last option typically yields less than a penny per point and is generally not recommended.
American Express Centurion Card rewards potential
Since the Amex Centurion is available only to those who have an income well above average, we will estimate that someone with $500,000 in annual spending on this credit card spends half of it on purchases under $5,000 each and the other half on big-ticket purchases of $5,000 or more. The $250,000 in purchases of $4,999 or less would earn 250,000 Membership Rewards. The other $250,000 in purchases of $5,000 or greater would earn 375,000 Membership Rewards for a total of 625,000 Membership Rewards points.
That would be worth about $6,250 if redeemed to book or upgrade flights through Amex Travel—and it may seem paltry for that high of a spend, but the main point of the Centurion card isn’t the rewards rate but the pride of ownership, along with elite statuses and valuable card perks worth thousands of dollars.
American Express Centurion Card APR details
The Centurion card is a card with no preset spending limit, and the balance must be paid in full each billing cycle, so there is no APR. However, those who choose to use the card’s Pay Over Time feature will be subject to an interest rate on those purchases of the prime rate plus 12.74%. Terms apply.
American Express Centurion Card benefits and perks
- The cachet of owning a hard-to-get card
- Thousands of dollars in value in elite statuses and discounts
- Top-notch dedicated concierge service
American Express Centurion Card drawbacks
- Sky-high initiation fee and ongoing annual fee
- You cannot apply for the card without an invitation
- Below-average rewards rate
Alternate premium credit cards
The Black Card is in a class of its own, but since it’s unattainable for most, here are some options to consider if you’re interested in a swank card with plush perks that you can apply for.
American Express Centurion Card vs. The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express is no slouch in the upscale credit card department. For an annual fee of $695, you’ll get a long list of benefits and credits that can benefit those willing to pay the price. For starters, you’ll earn 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar on flights booked through Amex Travel or directly with the airlines and 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotels booked on AmexTravel.com. All other spending earns 1 point per dollar. Terms apply.
Other perks and credits include the same extensive lounge access as the Centurion card, plus an annual $200 hotel credit when booking through the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program, an annual $200 airline incidental fee credit, an annual $200 Uber Cash credit, Gold status in both Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy hotel chains, premium car rental status and several other vendor credits as well as a long list of travel and purchase protections. Enrollment is required for many of these benefits. It may not be as hard to get as the Centurion card, but it comes with several of the same perks.
American Express Centurion Card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve
This $550-annual-fee card has a rich rewards structure of 10 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2025, 5 points per dollar on flights and 10 points per dollar on hotels and car rentals when purchasing travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3 points per dollar on other travel and dining and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for eligible travel or through Chase’s Pay Yourself Back program.
Plus, the card comes with an up to $300 annual reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year, Priority Pass lounge access (enrollment required), and a generous array of travel and purchase protections.
American Express Centurion Card vs. Alliant Cashback Visa
If you just want to earn generous and simple cash back on your spending, and don’t need all the extras, consider the Alliant Cashback Visa. This no-annual-fee card packs a big punch, earning up to 2.5% cash back with no categories to track on up to $10,000 in purchases each billing cycle with qualifying accounts. All other purchases earn 1.5%.
To qualify for this rewards rate, however, you’ll need to join the credit union, open an Alliant High-Rate Checking account, maintain an average daily balance of at least $1,000 and have at least one qualifying direct deposit per month. You’ll also need to opt in to receive electronic statements. Still, for a simple and generous rewards rate that beats most flat-rate cards on the market, it could be worth the hoops you have to jump through.
Should you get the American Express Centurion Card?
If your spending habits are well above average and you think you would make use of and enjoy the myriad of perks that come with owning a Black Card, then it may well be worth the cost of the initiation and the annual fee. Just keep in mind that the biggest “if” with this card will likely be if you can score an invite.