The Centurion Card from American Express Review: Secret Benefits of the Black Card [2020]

Are the benefits of the Centurion Card from American Express worth the high fees? Maybe, but only a select few will have the opportunity to find out.
Last updated May 19, 2020 | By Ben Walker

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If you’re interested in premium credit cards, you may know most of them have large annual fees attached. For premium perks and benefits, you’re expected to pay a premium price.

In the case of The Centurion Card from American Express, also known as the Amex Centurion Black Card, you’re expected to pay much more in fees than you would with any other comparable card currently available. It’s an extremely high-end card for high-income earners and comes with many exclusive perks — and it’s invite only.

If you’ve been wondering about this secretive card and what’s actually behind this status symbol, then keep reading this Centurion Card from American Express review.

Exclusive Rewards for an Exclusive Club

The Centurion Card from American Express

The Centurion Card from American Express

The Centurion Card from American Express

Benefits

  • Elite hotel and airline status
  • Airport lounge access
  • Credits for CLEAR, Saks Fifth Avenue, Equinox, and more
  • Metal card
  • Terms apply

Drawbacks

  • You must be invited to apply
  • Very high annual fee, plus initiation fee

In this Centurion Card from American Express review:

Who should get the Centurion Card from American Express?

There’s no doubt about it, the Centurion Card from American Express is meant for a particular category of people that not many of us fit into. You may be a frequent traveler, but do you also spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year?

The annual membership fee for the Centurion Black Card is $5000. For context, the annual fee on the Platinum Card from American Express, one of Amex’s best travel credit cards, is $550. Add in the $10,000 initiation fee for the Centurion Card and your first-year membership fees come to a whopping $15,000. That is some serious cash to fork over for membership into this exclusive club of cardholders.

If you’re invited, that is.

You may want to become an Amex Centurion cardholder, but there’s no online application form. Membership is by invitation only, which means Amex will contact you if they think you should have this coveted card.

On the positive side, Amex recently added a link on their Centurion Card login page for individuals interested in Centurion membership. If you click the link, you’ll be brought to a form where you can input your first and last name, a card number for your existing Amex card, and the four-digit security card for that card. There is no guarantee that submission of this form will lead to approval for the Black Card, but it doesn’t hurt to try if you think you meet the vague requirements.

There are no official requirements released by Amex, but reports suggest you’ll need the following to get an invite to become a Centurion member:

  • Be an Amex cardholder
  • Spend at least $250,000 annually on your Amex cards
  • Have an income of at least $1 million per year and/or a high net worth

Even if you meet those criteria and receive an invite, you may want to consider whether the card is worth it. Keep in mind The Centurion Card from American Express is a charge card and not a credit card. Charge cards have no pre-set spending limits, but you are required to pay your balance off every month.

If you don’t think you’ll pay off the balance on the card, then it wouldn’t be a good fit. Also, if you aren’t a big traveler, you won’t be able to take advantage of the many perks and benefits attached to this card. But the Black Card could be a great addition to your wallet if you want unique luxury travel perks and the benefit of no pre-set spending limits.

Card basics

Card type Travel
Card issuer American Express
Annual fee $5000
Welcome bonus None
Reward rate 1X points on all eligible purchases, plus 1.5X points on eligible purchases over $5,000
Recommended credit score Excellent
Foreign transaction fee None

Amex Centurion Card benefits and perks

The Amex Centurion Card has many built-in benefits and perks, including automatic status with a variety of hotel, airline, and car rental loyalty programs. There’s also airport lounge access, exclusive event access, shopping credits, and much more.

Hotels

  • Hotel statuses: Receive Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status, Hilton Honors Diamond status, and IHG Platinum Elite status. All three statuses include complimentary internet access, room upgrades, and bonus points for eligible stays. Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite members also receive a welcome gift of points at each eligible stay, whereas IHG Platinum Elite members receive a welcome amenity. Hilton Honors Diamond members receive executive lounge access at applicable Hilton properties.
  • Centurion Hotel Program: Amex Centurion cardholders can enjoy unique hotel benefits when staying at any properties within these hotel brands: Aman Resorts, Belmond, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, The Peninsula Hotels, Rosewood Hotels, The Hotel Waldorf-Astoria Corporation, Oetker Collection, and St. Regis Hotels & Resorts. Benefits may include complimentary breakfast for two, early check-in, late checkout, room upgrades, free internet, and a unique amenity gift at every hotel.
  • Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts: Amex Centurion cardholders can enjoy unique benefits at more than 1,000 participating luxury properties within the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program. This may include complimentary breakfast for two, room upgrades, early check-in, late checkout, free internet, and a unique amenity gift at every hotel.

Airlines, airports, and travel

  • Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion status: Platinum Medallion members in the Delta SkyMiles program receive unlimited complimentary upgrades, waived fees for bags and ticket changes, priority boarding, priority waitlist, and your selection of one Choice Benefit. Choice Benefits include a $200 travel voucher, $200 Tiffany & Co. gift card, 20,000 bonus miles, four regional upgrade certificates, and more.
  • Centurion International Arrival Services: Cardholders traveling in business or first class on international flights will be greeted by a personal guide who expedites you through customs and immigration. In some cases, your guide can also coordinate ground transportation for you. This service is available at more than 30 international airports for you and up to eight guests in your party.
  • 50% airline bonus: Receive 50% of your Membership Rewards points back as a statement credit when you redeem points for flights through Amex Travel or Centurion Travel Service.
  • Centurion Lounge access: Access Amex Centurion Lounges and other American Express Lounges in airports around the world. Centurion Lounges typically offer high-speed internet, fresh food, alcoholic beverages, and workspaces. Some lounges may also offer shower suites, luggage lockers, and/or conference rooms.
  • Priority Pass Select: Get free access to Priority Pass lounges around the world. Amenities may include complimentary refreshments, free Wi-Fi, massage rooms, and/or sleeping areas.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application credit: Receive a statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years for expedited screening when traveling.
  • CLEAR membership: Receive statement credit toward CLEAR memberships for you and up to three family members each year. CLEAR uses biometric (fingers and eyes) screening to move you to the front of the line at more than 65 airports, stadiums, and other venues throughout the U.S.
  • Private Suite at LAX membership: Receive an annual membership to PS at LAX. Members enjoy reduced rates on visits to this private terminal, along with quick and easy screenings on departure and arrival, luggage assistance, plenty of amenities, and a BMW escort to your plane.
  • International Airline Program: Book business class, first class, or premium economy through this program to save on airfare with more than 20 participating airlines.
  • Dedicated concierge service: Other credit cards may offer concierge services as well, but Centurion cardholders can request for one specific individual to be assigned as their personal concierge. Concierge requests may include gift ideas, getting tickets to events, making travel arrangements, and much more.
  • Travel insurance: Receive a variety of travel insurance coverages including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay insurance, and baggage delay insurance.
  • No foreign transaction fees: Amex Centurion Cards have no foreign transaction fees, so you don’t have to worry about using your card when you’re traveling abroad.

Rental cars and cruises

  • Cruise benefits: Cardmembers may receive cruise credit, additional amenities, and extra Membership Rewards points when booking cruises with Amex cruise partners through Amex Travel.
  • Centurion Auto Program: Access luxury and exotic car rentals, plus driving experiences. You can also purchase premium cars through this program.
  • Hertz President’s Circle: Receive complimentary Hertz Gold Plus Rewards President’s Circle status and additional Centurion benefits, including up to 20% off standard cars, a guaranteed one car class upgrade, priority service, free additional driver, complimentary one-way rental, free pick-up/drop-off, free child seats and ski racks, and more.
  • Avis President’s Club: Get an invite to the Avis Preferred President’s Club. President’s Club members receive a complimentary double upgrade, dedicated 24/7 assistance, 50% more rewards per dollar spent, and savings of up to 25% off base rates.
  • Rental car insurance/coverages: Automatically get primary rental car insurance coverage when you pay with your American Express Centurion Card and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver. Cardholders can also benefit from premium roadside assistance.

Wining, dining, and entertainment

  • Wine benefits: Access private wine tours in Napa; exclusive Napa Experience and/or Tuscany tour packages; a complimentary annual tasting experience for two; and a complimentary annual one-hour consultation with a wine-collecting specialist
  • Centurion Dining Program: Access to over 1,000 exclusive restaurants around the world.
  • Exclusive sales and events: Access to by-invitation-only events and VIP experiences, as well as other exclusive events. This may include the Kentucky Derby, Wimbledon, Coachella, Grand Prix de Monaco, and more.
  • The List: Access to a curated list of things to do and places to visit in cities around the world. Features may include restaurants, hotels, shopping, attractions, and more.

Shopping

  • Saks Fifth Avenue credits: Receive up to $250 in statement credits each quarter, or up to $1,000 per year when using your Amex Centurion Card on Saks Fifth Avenue purchases.
  • Centurion Shopping Program: Access exclusive offers on luxury brand products, shopping experiences, and unique events to meet fashion designers. You also gain access to NET-A-PORTER and MR PORTER shopping services.
  • InCircle: Receive InCircle rewards with a registered Amex Centurion card when you make eligible purchases at Bergdorf Goodman, Cusp, Horchow, Last Call, and Neiman Marcus. InCircle rewards can be redeemed for InCircle Point Cards.
  • Protections and warranties: Receive important protections and coverages, like price protection, return protection, and extended warranty.

Extras

  • Equinox membership: Receive a complimentary Equinox Destination Access Membership for access to more than 100 Equinox gym locations in the U.S., U.K., and Canada.
  • Holiday gift: Cardholders can receive special holiday gifts from Amex Gifts are typically valued at $200 or more and have included a Tiffany & Co. crystal decanter, complimentary nights at Four Seasons properties in Hawaii, and donations to charitable organizations.

Drawbacks to this card

  • Extremely high fees: For the first year of membership, you have to pay $15,000 in fees. Each year after that, it’s $5,000 per year. And if you want to add an authorized user, it’s $5,000 per user.
  • No welcome offer: You can expect generous welcome offers with most premium credit cards, but not with the Amex Centurion Card. With this card, there’s no welcome offer at all.
  • Low earning rate: You can earn 1X points on all eligible purchases, plus 1.5X points on eligible purchases over $5,000. It’s not a special rewards rate in any way, as one point per dollar spent is usually seen as the bare minimum for rewards cards. The additional rewards for purchases over $5,000 make it slightly better.

Earning and redeeming American Express Membership Rewards

Best ways to earn and how to maximize your redemptions

The Centurion Card from American Express earns 1X points on all eligible purchases, plus 1.5X points on eligible purchases over $5,000. If you make frequent purchases of $5,000 or more, then it’s a decent earning rate.

Still, there are other credit cards available that can earn you more overall rewards without the $5,000 threshold. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card earns 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else. The earning potential is much higher with the Sapphire Reserve than the Centurion Card.

American Express transfer partners

Amex Membership Rewards points are valuable for multiple reasons: you can redeem them toward travel with Amex Travel or you can take advantage of more than 20 Amex transfer partners in the airline and hotel industries. Most Membership Rewards points will transfer at a 1:1 ratio.

Amex airline transfer partners include:

Amex hotel transfer partners include:

Centurion Card from American Express FAQs

Is the Centurion Card worth it?

The Amex Centurion Card is worth it for cardmembers who can take advantage of the many perks and benefits attached to it. Many of these benefits are travel-oriented, so luxury travelers may benefit the most. If you can’t take advantage of the many travel benefits, it may not be worth it for you to have this card even if you get the invite.

How hard is it to get a Centurion Card?

The Amex Centurion Card is acquired through invitation only. Invites are generally sent to existing Amex cardholders who spend at least $250,000 annually on their Amex cards and also earn over $1 million per year.

How many Amex Black Card holders are there?

There are no official reports of the number of Amex Centurion cardholders worldwide, but estimates would put that number at more than 100,000 around the world. In the U.S., it’s most likely over 20,000. So needless to say, it’s a pretty exclusive club.

What is the limit on the Amex Black Card?

The Amex Black Card is a charge card, which means there are no preset spending limits on it. This also means the balance has to be paid in full every month.

Can I have two Amex cards?

Yes, you can have two Amex cards. The unofficial Amex rule for credit card applications is that you can have up to five American Express cards open at the same time, including both personal cards and business cards.


Other cards to consider

The Centurion Card from American Express is on its own level when it comes to luxury travel benefits. It’s also largely on its own when it comes to the enormous annual and new member fees. To avoid these fees and still have access to valuable travel benefits, you might consider The Platinum Card from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.

The Amex Platinum Card shares many benefits with the Amex Centurion Card, including access to the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts Program, fee reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and access to Centurion and Priority Pass Select lounges. Yet, it has a much lower annual fee, offers a generous welcome offer, and you can receive up to a $200 Amex airline fee credit each year.

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, you get a flexible $300 annual travel credit that can be used for most travel purchases, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee reimbursement, and Priority Pass Select airport lounge access. Cardholders can also enjoy special benefits at over 1,000 properties within The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection.

Both of these credit cards offer similar benefits to the Amex Centurion Card, but they have lower annual fees, come with welcome offers, and allow you to earn bonus points in special categories. For most of us, these cards would be better options, especially because we wouldn’t have the option for the Amex Centurion Card anyway.

Exclusive Rewards for an Exclusive Club

The Centurion Card from American Express

The Centurion Card from American Express

The Centurion Card from American Express

Special Offer

Elite status for invite-only cardholders

See how these cards compare:

The Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card from American Express
  • 60,000 Membership Rewards point welcome offer
  • 5X points on eligible flights and hotels
  • $15 in free U.S. Uber rides each month ($20 in December)
  • $200 airline fee credit each year
  • Access to Centurion and Priority Pass airport lounges
  • Terms apply
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • 50,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 10X points on select streaming services (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
  • 5X points with Instacart (up to $3,000), and at gas stations (up to $1,500) from July 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020
  • 3X points on travel and at restaurants
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit in 2020 and 2021
  • Priority Pass airport lounge access