The Truth About the American Express Centurion Card (“Black Card”): Almost Useless

The Points Guy paid $10,000 to become an American Express Centurion card cardmember.

  • $7500 one-time initiation fee
  • $2500 annual fee

There is no signup bonus.

It takes around $250,000 – $350,000 in spend in a year across American Express products to be able to request an invitation to the Centurion card ($500,000+ to request a Business Centurion card).

And the card is basically just an American Express Platinum card with a few add-on benefits.

Here are demographics of Platinum and centurion cardholders.

Like the Platinum card, Centurion cardmembers receive:

  • Lounge access. Both Platinum and Centurion members get access to Delta lounges (when flying Delta same day, but no free guests); Centurion lounge access (Centurion members get better champagne than Platinum members and reserved tables); Priority Pass Select.
  • Starwood status. Both Platinum and Centurion members receive Gold status.
  • Hilton status. Platinum members receive Gold status, Centurion members Diamond, but there’s not much of a material difference in published benefits between the two status levels.
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts bookings. Luxury hotel reservations with throw-ins like breakfast, upgrades, and late checkout. Centurion members generally get an extra throw-in benefit.

Unique Centurion elite status benefits are:

Both card products get an airline fee credit, Global Entry application fee reimbursement, and concierge services. The Centurion concierge can be a designated person, rather than luck of the draw with Platinum, but it’s the same company and not a true high end concierge service (and is often considered to lag mid-tier services like Bluefish).

With the personal (but not business) Black Card you may receive luxury gifts — such as gift cards for luxury retailers who want to introduce themselves to you.

Ultimately you’re paying $7500 upfront plus an incremental $2000 a year over the Platinum Card for Delta Platinum elite status. That won’t be close to worth it for most people — save the money, use some of it for paid domestic first class (your upgrade percentage is higher that way anyway), if you must.

With the Centurion card you used to get:

  • Starwood Platinum
  • Hyatt Diamond
  • US Airways Platinum

Now with the Black Card you’re really paying for prestige and exclusivity. It was cool when Kanye West dropped references to it in 2004. But that was… 2004.

I went to the malls and I balled too hard/ ‘Oh my god is that a black card?’/ I turned around and replied, ‘Why, yes/ But I prefer the term African-American Express’

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. First of all Centurion Amex card holders are not supposed to not have any limits on their cards !!
    This is what we were promised when we signed up. In fact we Centurion Card holders were promised a lot of things by paying that huge Membership fee!

    It has become quite apparent, particularity in the last five years that the promises made to cardholders are no longer valid.
    One just has to read the newspapers to know that Amex has financial problems big time!

    I have always paid my accounts in full by the due date, in fact I was always made clear to me that my Amex Statement must be paid in full by the due date. It clearly states this on the card Statement. However, lately, in the last several years I have been getting what I consider to be harassing calls from Amex asking when I am going to pay my account, usually about two weeks before it is due.

    Recently I booked a 25th Wedding Anniversary Cruise. I had a lot of Amex Reward Points sitting unused due to the fact That Amex dropped the Travellers Cheque(Rewards) program. I decided to use those points towards airfare. I was advised by Centurion Travel that the Rewards Point Redemption would be immediate and the airfare credit would show up immediately on my statement. Cardholder Services said something slightly different . I was told by Card Services that the redemption would take a few days,. I was told repeatedly, that it would only take a few days at the most for the Redemption to come through. I was assured that there would be no problems putting through the Reward Redemption.
    The airline tickets were charged immediately to my to my card, but low and behold no Reward Redemption 7 days later.
    The excuses of why the Redemption did not go through are very imaginative to say the least, Welcome to Amex!!!
    My statement date closes on the 7th day of every month, meaning that I now had to pay additionally for airline tickets that were supposed to be covered under the Amex Rewards program.

    There is absolutely no way it should have taken 7 days to process any Point Redemption!!.

    This is absolutely unacceptable to me.

    My experience with Amex overall is that if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

    I and my family have been promised a lot over the years by Centurion Travel ,Centurion Concierge, and Card Services. More often than not we have been disappointed for one reason or another:
    Car Services that were booked through Amex don’t show up to pick us up upon Disembarkation of cruise ships: 3 or more times.
    Carey Limo not showing up in NYC to pick us up at least 3 times.
    Carey Limo charging me for services we did not receive at least 3 times.
    Being Promised an autograph by Sidney Crosby, booking a hotel for that reason, only to find out a half hour before the hockey game this was never going to happen!! A very disappointed son, who as his mother I had to look into his face to explain that Amex Screwed up big time, and promised us something they were never going to deliver !
    Regularly, not receiving a follows up on my emails or telephone reservation requests from Centurion Concierge.
    Regularly being disconnected, most often by Centurion Concierge.
    Calling from Overseas many times , and feeling frustrated so many times that the agent did not want to help(“because it is night time in Toronto, and the Toronto Office is closed, I am just basically an answering service”), being told I would have to wait for the next morning when Toronto Offices Opened, and or till the Booking agent showed up for their shift.

    I could go on and on.

    Being falsely told by Amex Card services that it did not matter if the redemption did not go through, before my statement date ended. being told I would not have to pay for the almost $16,000 dollars in airfare charges even if the redemption went through after the statement was rendered. The truth is by waiting for a point Redemption to come thorough you are jeopardizing you credit rating should you listen to Card Services and not pay your credit Card statement in full on the due date. You would also find your self paying interest on the full balance that was due at the time the statement was rendered, not just interest on the unpaid amount.
    I asked to get this agents comments in writing via email, he refused, I asked to speak to a supervisor the agent refused to put me through to a supervisor.

    It is clear to me that Centurion Cardholders are being mislead, by card service agents who have no true concept what it means to pay a statement Balance in full by the due date!

    Finally being told a Rewards Redemption was immediate or at the very least would take several days is incorrect as I have experience first hand. It has taken me 7 days, and now I have a huge unwanted and unnecessary credit of $16,000 dollars on my account.!

    Wondering why, and have been for quite some time, Why Centurion Card Still exists with Amex??

    Absolutely wondering why I even bother to complain to Amex? They really don’t care. The “we are there to help and make your dreams come true” just does not exist.
    I have been a Cardholder since 1996, and this steady decline in service just has to be addressed.

    Don’t bother with the Amex Centurion Card, you won’t get what you were promised, and will eventually and unnecessarily end up disappointed somehow somewhere.
    Besides, less and less businesses are taking Amex at all. So where are you going to actually be able to use the card? These businesses also have their major complaints about Amex too!

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