Earlier this week I argued that the American Express Black Card was really just a very expensive Platinum card. The Platinum card gives you most of the perks of Centurion for much lower annual fee versus a $7500 initiation fee and $2500 annual fee for the Black Amex.
The key incremental benefits of the Centurion card are:
- Delta Platinum status
- IHG Rewards Club Platinum status
- Higher tier rental car status
- Additional benefit when making Fine Hotels and Resorts hotel booking
That has some value, I don’t think it’s worth twice the fee of the Platinum card let along 5 times as much (and over 20 times as much the first year).
The Platinum and Centurion cards both get you:
- 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.
The Points Guy explains why the card made sense for him. It comes down to:
- He’ll write off the fee as a business expense, so it’s a lower cost to him than to most
- It gets him unique content for his blog
- He thinks the card will get better in the future than it is today (and American Express folks have hinted at this to me as well).
Now, this isn’t a game changer but it’s also great that he’s bringing information to the table. I wrote that the Delta Platinum status of American Express Centurion members wouldn’t earn bonus miles for flying Delta like most Platinums do. That’s what American Express told their Centurion cardholders in their October 2014 card statements. Brian shares that he is, in fact, receiving the Platinum bonus for his flights.
The card makes sense for Brian, The Points Guy, with a lower effective cost to him than to most and a blog on which to write about the product.
While my post was prompted by his sharing that he had gotten the product, it wasn’t meant as a criticism. It works for him. My point is that it’s not a card that will pay off relative to its costs for most people who are in a position to get the product.
My advice is to get the Platinum card and save the $9500 in year one and $2000 each subsequent year. Take the savings and, if you’d like, invest that in paid domestic first class rather than hoping for upgrades on Delta. And if IHG Rewards Club Platinum status matters, get the $49 co-brand card from Chase that comes with that status.
Commenters who have the card offered explanation that:
- they aren’t paying the retail fee, either
- or that they would buy Hertz Platinum for $1500 anyway and a Platinum card for $450 so they might as well get both $2500 from American Express.
If their business is so valuable to American Express that they can get the card for free, or grandfathered at older rates (something I had been under the impression American Express had moved most Centurion cardholders off of), then it’s a different value calculation — one that works for The Points Guy, and works for their unique situation, but isn’t really relevant to the question of whether the card’s benefits over and above what’s offered by Platinum are worth the extra fees.
While I am open to the possibility that American Express’ notice to cardmembers about the end of their elite bonuses for flights was wrong, that doesn’t much change my conclusion: the Centurion card is a very expensive version of Platinum, and you need to ask yourself whether Delta Platinum, IHG Rewards Club Platinum, Hertz Platinum, and Avis Presidents Club are worth $2050 in incremental annual fees, let alone a $7500 initiation fee.