Ultimate Prestige: Getting The American Express Black Card
The history of the Amex Black Card is quite unusual. Before 1999, it didn’t even actually exist!
Per Doug Smith, American Express Europe’s director at the time: “Rumors were going around that American Express had an ultra-exclusive black card for our elite customers. At the time, these rumors were false. However, we decided to capitalize on the idea”. Thus, the American Express Black Card was born in 1999.
What Is The Importance Of The Black Card?
For those who travel extensively and want to max out convenience when jetting about, the Black Card is ideal. You won’t find a stronger list of perks and benefits with any other card in existence today. While it may appear to be nothing more than a status symbol, digging deeper opens a world of opportunity.
However, prestige isn’t easy to attain. Below, we dig into the methods to obtain this secretive card. We also explore the costs associated with card ownership and the benefits it provides. Finally, we explore three alternative card options for those looking for something a little different.
How To Get The American Express Black Card
You’re more than welcome to sift through the extensive terms and conditions of the Black Card. American Express is required by law to provide this information publicly. However, you won’t find the application online.
The requirements necessary to obtain a Black Card are not publicly official, either. However, based on the reports, some card owners have noted, three standard American Express Black Card requirements include:
- Utilization of other American Express cards
- Remaining an active cardholder (for a year minimum)
- Charge a ridiculous amount each year (think over a quarter-million dollars)
Utilize Other American Express Cards
Having other American Express cards serves to put you on the financial service company’s radar. If American Express can see a track record of loyalty of consistent card uses, your chances of invitation will surely improve.
Remain An Active Cardholder
Many who practice tactics like credit card churning will keep a card for introductory bonuses, then move on. Eventually, while the card may not be canceled, it may be marked as inactive. American Express is notorious for substantial introductory bonuses as well. As a result, their cards are most commonly used for travel reward churning purposes.
While this is an effective strategy for free travel, it doesn’t bode well for one of the main factors that contribute to Black Card eligibility. Remain active with your card(s), especially American Express-branded cards.
Charge A Ridiculous Amount Each Year
This is perfect for business owners, large and small. One of the most common indicators that trigger Black Card invitations is extensive purchase histories. From several reports, spending on credit cards to the tune of $250,000 or more each year is typically looked at.
While this may seem excessive, another potential trigger point for card invitations is an annual income of over $1 million.
The Cost Of Having A Black Card
The American Express Black Card, or Centurion Card, comes at a cost, as should be expected. If you happen to be one of the lucky few invited to apply for the Black Card, it’s only the beginning. There are extensive associated fees, annual charges, and more associated with the use of this card.
Currently, the Black American Express Card’s initiation fee is a hefty $10,000. This is followed by a $5,000 annual fee to keep the card in good standing. Yes, this is extremely expensive. Paying over $10,000 just to get a card may seem insane.
To be honest, if numbers such as this come at a shock to you, you likely aren’t ready for the responsibilities that come with Centurion Card ownership. However, to reach that level, we recommend taking the necessary steps to improve credit scores. Here are a few resources we offer about this topic:
- Improve Personal Credit Score, Impact Business Credit Score
- What Is A Business Credit Score? Business Effects and More
- The Complete Guide to Business Credit
Having a healthy credit score (personal or business) in no way guarantees a Black Card invitation. However, it’s near impossible to be recommended for a Black Card if you lack a strong credit score.
APR of Black Card
It’s imperative to note that the American Express Black Card isn’t a credit card. On the contrary, it is technically a charge card. What this means is that the balance on the Black Card needs to be paid in full each month. Essentially, there’s no APR associated with this card.
Benefits of the American Express Black Card
There are extensive benefits associated with the Black Card. These benefits, in many cases, more than pay for the exorbitant cost and fees. Some of these benefits include:
- When swiping the Centurion Card, you earn plenty of American Express Membership Rewards points. These points can be utilized for lodging, flights, and more.
- Black Card membership comes with a complimentary membership to CLEAR. You’ve likely seen CLEAR kiosks in airports around the world. This service uses biometrics for even faster security screening through airports, venues, and stadiums. If TSA PreCheck is still too slow, CLEAR is for you, and the Black Card can get you there.
- Are you looking for floor seats for that Post Malone concert? What about getting a Louis Vuitton store to yourself to shop in peace? Maybe you want a short-notice reservation at a Michelin-star experience?
Whatever the case may be, with the Black Card’s around-the-clock Concierge program, no request is deemed too unreasonable. From simple call reminders to celebrity meet-and-greets, they make it happen, at any hour of the day or night.
- Do you often find yourself at LAX airport? If so, Black Card membership comes with an impressive perk made for you. Cardmembers receive free membership to the LAX Private Suite. This typically costs close to $5,000 per year on its own.
- If you live and breathe by elite hotel status, you’re going to love the Black Card. Cardholders automatically get top tier status across many major hotel brands. This includes Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite, Hilton Honors Diamond, and IHG Priority Platinum Elite.
In addition, this includes membership to the exclusive Centurion Hotel Program. This program provides extensive benefits across many global luxury hotel chains.
- The travel benefits aren’t limited to hotels. With the Centurion Card, you also receive elite status with many airlines and rental car services. From Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion Status to Elite status with Avis and Hertz, benefits are ample. In fact, with the Centurion Auto program, you receive first-priority access to exotic and luxury vehicle rentals.
There are plenty of other associated benefits with the American Express Black Card. These benefits extend well past travel only. For the full list of available benefits, we recommend this article.
Black Card Alternatives
If you aren’t sold on your potential for acceptance for the Black Card, never fear. Several other ultra-luxury alternatives can still exceed your needs.
One benefit of alternative cards is that they work like traditional credit cards, not charge cards. In addition, their associated fees are typically far lower than the fees on the Black Card. Below are three popular alternatives.
American Express Platinum Card
The Platinum Card from American Express has many of the features that are attractive to the Black Card. Immediate travel perks include airport lounge access, $200 in credit for Uber and airline fees, and elite status across several hotel chains.
Also, if you sign up for the Platinum Card, aim to spend $5,000 in the first three months. By doing so, you receive a 60,000 point initial bonus. Typically, applicants need relatively good credit for approval. The annual fee for this card is $550, still high, but a good discount from the Black Card’s annual fee.
Find out more about the Platinum Card from American Express on the official page.
Mastercard Black Card
The Mastercard Black Card has a similar naming structure to the American Express option. However, despite this, there are plenty of differences between the two cards. One of them is Mastercard’s rewards system. Cardholders of their Black Card receive points equal to 2 percent on airfare and 1.5 percent on other purchases.
Additional perks include $100 airline fee credits and $100 Global Entry application credit. This card also has an around-the-clock concierge service, though, and comes with occasional gifts. Also metal, the card boasts a lower $495 annual fee. It also acts as a credit card, not a charge card, and has a 16.49 percent variable APR.
Find out more about the Mastercard Black Card from their official page.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card is another extremely popular “elite” status card offering. They offer extensive point rewards, including 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in three months. Additionally, cardholders earn 10 points per dollar via Lyft, 3 points per dollar on travel and dining, and one point on every other dollar.
One of the strongest bonuses to this metal card is that, when you’re prepared for travel, points can be redeemed at a 1:1 ratio. This works for over a dozen airline and hotel partners. Other opportunities include $300 in travel credit, Global Entry credit, Priority Pass membership, and more, at a $550 annual fee.
Discover more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card from their official page.
Our Final Thoughts on the Black Card
American Express’ Black Card is one of the most coveted, elusive symbols of luxury that exists today. It provides far more elite rewards than any other card.
If you’re lucky enough to become a member and have the means to do so, jump on the opportunity. Between the perks, concierge services, reward opportunities, and travel bonuses, it more than pays for itself.
Meet the criteria but haven’t received an invitation? One reliable way to increase chances of invitation is to apply for the American Express Platinum Card. It is also a strong card if, in the end, you decide that the rewards with the Black Card don’t offset the cost.
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.